Turdas, 23rd Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205 & Fredas, 24th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
I snuck out of Rigmor’s room just after 6:00 AM. Neither she nor Sorella had not stirred all night.
I went to my room and wrote out yesterday’s journal entry. Soon after finishing that, there was a knock on my door.
I opened it to Cerys.
“Wulf, your presence is required in The Cabinet Room. It’s important.”
“I assume you mean the dining room?”
“Well, hardly anybody has their meals there, and it is used for lots of meetings. Hence, The Cabinet Room.”
“Okay, Cerys, let us make our way there immediately.”
When we entered The Cabinet Room, I was surprised to see only Malesam and Freathof present.
I walked up to them and could see the worry on their faces.
- Malesam: Aah! As you know, Casius has sent word and is now ready and waiting.
- Wulf: Yes, and we plan to leave as soon as possible.
- Malesam: Indeed, but something has come up. There is a slight problem that has taken us a bit by surprise, and we would like your opinion on the matter.
- Wulf: Why just us? Where are the others?
- Malesam: Freathof, and I thought it prudent to discuss it between ourselves before we involve the others.
- Wulf: A bit odd. Still, what is the problem?
- Malesam: Count Bruce de Medalius sent an envoy under a flag of truce to the barricades this morning.
- Freathof: Since the capture of his son, Ser Robere, we do indeed seem to have reached a stalemate. The Count of Leyawiin has personally taken control of the valley as predicted.
- Wulf: So, when do we parley?
- Freathof: I am afraid it is not so simple.
- Malesam: Count Bruce de Medalius is not to parley, but The Lord Chancellor, Martin Blackwell, will be his representative.
- Freathof: He is prepared to come to the castle alone, risking his safety to discuss terms.
- Wulf: Blackwell risks nothing! If we were to harm him or even hold him as a hostage, the other Counts would rightly side with the Emperor and demand the dissolution of House Ragnarsdottier. I would personally defend Blackwell against any such breach of parley! The sanctity of parley under a flag of truce would never be broken even by the most savage barbarians.
- Freathof: Of course, I stand corrected.
- Malesam: Whatever the terms are, Sethius must officially approve them. Refusing him would cause suspicions, and we can’t afford that. By capturing Ser Robere, we have significantly changed the parameters of the whole situation we find ourselves in, but we won’t know how to proceed unless we play along.
- Wulf: We are not ‘playing along’ but will hold parley because it is normal. I can’t think of any situation where somebody in our position would refuse to do so, can you?
- Malesam: No, I can’t. However, we could use this meeting to play for time. As far as they are concerned, they think the obvious. They think that we rescued our Countess and regained the initiative and are prepared for a lengthy siege, possibly in the hope of peace talks. Maybe Sethius is prepared to relent and offer a pardon if Rigmor marries Sir Robere. We just don’t know.
- Wulf: Any suggestion of marriage to Ser Robere will be rejected outright by Rigmor. She made the mistake of playing their game and regrets it. We are better than that, Malesam.
- Malesam: We have a slight minor issue. Blackwell wants to speak directly to the Countess.
- Wulf: Why is that an issue?
- Freathof: We fear Rigmor is not accustomed to negotiation at this level. Up until now, we worked our problems out together. We have not been in a situation where only one is in charge.
- Wulf: I still fail to see the issue. Are you worried Rigmor is incapable?
- Freathof: That is precisely our point. By protocol, Rigmor must discuss and negotiate the offered terms with him.
- Malesam: Blackwell regards Rigmor as but a mere child. As for the Count of Leyawiin, as long as Ser Robere is still alive, she’s still a potential daughter in law, and we should include this scenario in a possible settlement.
- Wulf: You still do not get it, do you? Using Rigmor’s betrothal as a bargaining chip reduces her value as a person. Even if we never intend to honour the engagement, lying like that is a significant blow to her values. You two try and justify this insult by insisting it is part of the responsibility of being a Countess. No, it isn’t! You two are getting sucked into the political game and forgetting the person behind the title. Neither of you understands the spirit and values of this extraordinary woman! A woman who has been in your presence for years. To even suggest Rigmor should discuss marriage to that bandit displays utter ignorance of how much his betrayal impacted her. Ser Robere wanted to kill Rigmor! Has that slipped your mind?
- Cerys: Father, is that what I am to you? Am I an object to be traded to the highest bidder or to cement an agreement?
- Malesam: No!
- Cerys: So, why do you treat Rigmor like an object to trade?
- Wulf: Malesam, do you know of the speech Rigmor gave to the Sons of Talos to get them to join our fight against The New Order?
- Malesam: Of course.
- Wulf: Do you think Blackwell would?
- Malesam: Everybody does.
- Wulf: Rigmor stands and delivers one of the most famous and documented speeches in recent history and then leads The Sons of Talos into battle. Would Blackwell think of her as a mere child?
- Malesam: Uh….
- Wulf: Rigmor successfully negotiated with Councillor Lleril Morvayn and Second Councillor Adril Arano for a trade agreement with Solstheim. Since this impacted Vittoria Vici, don’t you think Blackwell would be aware of it?
- Malesam: Well, yes. He would have known.
- Wulf: Not very childlike, is it, outbidding The East Empire Trading Company?
- Malesam: Ahh….
- Wulf: A leader of men and a peerless warrior who has faced far greater odds than the Count of Leyawiin can muster. A proven negotiator and popular Countess. Yet, you claim that Blackwell thinks Rigmor is a child without evidence. You have no idea what Blackwell thinks of Rigmor as he has never discussed her with you. However, he has discussed the Countess with me. History and Blackwell do not regard Rigmor as a mere child, but I suspect you do!
- Freathof: Guardian!
- Wulf: Yes, I am Rigmor’s Guardian, and therefore, I will say and do what is needed to protect her. I suggest we stick to known facts rather than guessing what others think!
- Malesam: If they were suspicious, Blackwell would not be bothering with small talk.
- Freathof: If he thought the Emperor was in danger for one moment, they would be attacking us with everything they have. Leyawiin, although a friend of Sethius, is ultimately expendable.
- Wulf: We have done nothing to threaten the Emperor. Even our march on Table Mountain is not a threat to the Emperor, and Blackwell will be well aware that I, at least, will be visiting that place. A threat to Morag is not a threat to the Emperor.
- Malesam: What Freathof and I think is Sethius wants Ser Robere released due to his friendship with Leyawiin. Blackwell has to do his bidding.
- Wulf: I supplied Blackwell with transcripts of my discussions with Ser Robere. He would have warned Sethius that Count Bruce de Medalius is after the Ruby Throne. I don’t think Sethius would be upset if we decimated the armies of Leyawiin and any other counties that side with them. Right now, I would think the advice from Blackwell to Sethius would be to sit tight and watch.
- Malesam: What we say and how we present ourselves will be the deciding factor for Blackwell. He will try and dominate Rigmor. He will probe and coerce. If Blackwell also wants to see that Ser Robere is alive and well, we will know that they don’t suspect our plan to attack Table Mountain.
- Wulf: What kind of idiotic logic is that? This visit is not just a negotiation but also a fact-gathering trip by Blackwell. Imagine if he went back and could not tell them if Ser Robere was still in one piece and breathing. The only conclusion to be made if he asks to see Ser Robere is that he is doing his duty. And as I said, Blackwell would expect me to move on Table Mountain because of who I am.
- Malesam: We do know that any offer made by Blackwell is binding. He is as true as his word, even if Sethius cannot be trusted.
- Wulf: Blackwell has limited ability to implement something Sethius reneges upon no matter his sincerity at the time of an offer.
- Freathof: They play their noble games and would forget all that has come to pass. No one wants to fight. Her pardon by right of combat would stand. Sethius would become popular as the Noble Houses favour Rigmor, shown by the trial’s verdict.
- Wulf: Tell me what you think I should do.
- Freathof: You must prepare Rigmor for the task at hand. You are best to council her as she will listen to you.
- Wulf: Perhaps if you both did a better job, she would listen to you?
- Cerys: Did we get to you before your morning coffee?
- Wulf: Cerys, I am kinder than I should be.
- Malesam: Prepare Rigmor as best you can. We need to get this over with as soon as possible. She also needs to dress accordingly. Remind her that this is a game we simply cannot lose. We must retain composure and make her response to any proposition believable. Ultimately, she must make it seem she will accept the offer on the table, but we must play for time. So, she could ‘consider’ the offer and let Blackwell know when she has sought counsel.
- Wulf: I will not tell Rigmor anything other than Blackwell’s desire to parley. Rigmor will know what to do, and if unsure about certain things, she will ask for my advice. That is all the preparation required.
- Freathof: Let’s hope she doesn’t falter. I know how fragile she can be.
- Wulf: Show some faith in Rigmor, Freathof!
Cerys came over and said, “Please, come with me, Wulf. I will inform Rigmor that you want to speak with her. I will take Sorella to my room to give you some privacy.”
When I walked past Olette, she whispered, “What a couple of silly old farts!”
As we made our way to Rigmor’s room, Cerys let her opinion be known.
“Wulf, you do not take it easy on those two, do you?”
“They have not been the advisors Rigmor needed. It was okay when I could balance out their bullshit. However, three years of them in her ear when she was emotionally vulnerable has hurt Rigmor.”
“I have never been able to stand up to father. He has firm opinions and is extremely forceful when defending them.”
“And that similarity between Malesam and me will inevitably cause some bickering. That is okay as long as the angst results in something productive.”
“Rigmor has proven many times that she is no child.”
“I think she will prove that once more with Blackwell. Maybe those two will finally realise how extraordinary Rigmor is.”
We reached one of the doors to Rigmor’s bedroom.
“Please wait here while I get permission for you to enter.”
Cerys knocked on the door, answered by a distant, “Come in.”
I stood patiently, as protocol demands, realising that there was a child in the room, so norms must be followed.
After a few seconds, Cerys opened the door.
“Wulf, Rigmor will see you now. Please, go in.”
“Thank you, Cerys.”
I entered Rigmor’s bedroom, and Sorella came running up to me. She was wearing the Netch Leather armour I commissioned Adrianne Avenicci to make for Olette.
“Wulf, look at what Olette gave me!”
“Who was that? Did somebody say something?”
“Rigmor guessed you would pretend not to see me.”
“Oh, I see a set of pearly white teeth in a sea of black. Is that you, Sorella?”
“Well, what do you think?”
“It fits you perfectly, and any bad guy would think twice before giving you any trouble.”
“That’s what I think as well.”
“That armour was very special to Olette. What did she say when she gave it to you?”
“She said I need it and deserve it. Olette cried a bit when I tried it on. She said she wished she could be twelve again and that I should not try and grow up too quickly.”
“I missed the last three years of Olette growing up.”
“Yes, we talked about that. Olette said it was like being an orphan again despite being surrounded by love from The Sentinels.”
“That armour is exceptional as I have placed a lot of spells on it. It will protect you better than just about any other armour you will ever see.”
“Why hasn’t somebody adopted Olette?”
“Maybe somebody you know will adopt her.”
“Shhh, we must keep it a secret till the right time.”
“I had better go with Cerys. She says you have to talk about grown-up stuff with Rigmor.”
“Make sure you have something to eat, Sorella. We will be walking for a couple of days up and down mountains.”
Rigmor was standing by her bed. I waited for Cerys and Sorella to exit before approaching her.
She asked, “Cerys said you want to talk?”
“The Lord Chancellor has asked for a parley. He wants to speak to you one on one.”
“Crap! That changes things.”
“You are so stupid I am supposed to tell you to make sure he doesn’t suspect we have any plans. Like you know, be very quiet now, Table Mountain. Shhh!”
“So, I act the best I can as a Countess without betraying us and making him suspicious?”
“Wow, and you said that without dribbling! Yes, Rigmor, that is the extent of it.”
“What can I expect from him?”
“What all parley like this aim for, which is a compromise. A solution to the problem.”
“What sort of compromise?”
“Freathof and Malesam guessed he would offer you a pardon if you married Ser Robere. You accept, the siege ends, and there is a glorious wedding. Then you and Ser Robere live happily ever after until he kills you and marries somebody more suitable.”
“Wulf, you seem upset.”
“Forgive me, Rigmor, but I told them you would never agree to even a fake acceptance. I detest how those supposed to love you think it is okay to reduce your life to a bargaining chip. I felt like punching them in the face after they dismissed love and happiness so that you can play this stupid fucking game!”
“Don’t worry, my silly Dragonborn. I am sick of that game as well. As for Blackwell, well, this is the type of thing I have been tutored in.”
“They keep underestimating you, Rigmor. They are worried Blackwell will run rings around you. I wonder if they know you at all?”
“They have not had an opportunity to see me in action.”
“Your record should be enough. Malesam, Freathof and Sigunn have constantly mistaken your free spirit and non-conformity for immaturity. They have ignored what you have accomplished and never taken advantage of your strengths. They have the concept of a perfect Countess in their heads and have tried to cut away all the bits that don’t fit. I left you with these people for over three years!”
“So, you three talked behind my back? Hahaha!”
“Be thankful. At least you did not have to listen to drivel.”
“Malesam and Freathof are hiding behind their cushions while they send you into the room?”
“For some unknown reason, they thought you would listen to me.”
“Come on. I’m not that bad, am I? On second thoughts, don’t answer that.”
“That is not what I think, Rigmor. I told them you would know what to do and maybe ask some questions. I never agreed to tell you what to do.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be ready for when Blackwell arrives. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with my hair, though, but I’ll make an effort.”
“Just more bullshit! I bet Blackwell has ten different suits all the same that he just rotates. Why should you look any different for him? I love your hair the way it is, and if you like it, then everybody else can take a flying leap.”
“So, what is their grand plan?”
“I have no idea how they thought of this but assume it took them hours of concentration. You are to consider any proposals and then tell Blackwell an answer will be forthcoming after consultation with your advisors.”
“The first strategy in parley, and they think this will fool Blackwell?”
“It is simple enough for you to implement. We can’t make things too complicated for our bonehead Countess!”
“Wulf, this might be the only time we have alone for ages.”
“Your advisors thought that Blackwell might be too clever and that you need some practice.”
“Practice with what?”
About an hour later, I told my contented lover, “Blackwell is probably here by now. Ahh, put something on, and Cerys will let you know when to make your grand entrance.”
“Wulf, I don’t think I am going to behave as they expect.”
“They expect a scared young girl who is afraid of Blackwell and will do nothing but follow basic procedure.”
“Well, we know better, don’t we?”
“Yes. And I can’t wait for you to show them how wrong they are.”
I entered The Cabinet Room then approached the advisors.
Malesam asked, “Aah! Guardian, Blackwell has arrived and is waiting. Is the Countess prepared?”
“Yes. Rigmor was out of practice with probing, so we practised that quite a bit.”
“It is the protocol that we enter before the Countess. Cerys will let Rigmor know when we are in position, and she has already informed Lydia.”
“Okay, let’s go!”
We entered The Throne Room. Blackwell was waiting with his back to us.
I took my place to the left of the throne.
Lydia came rushing in and stood right of the entrance arch.
I was proud of Rigmor when she appeared in her warrior gear and my favourite hairstyle. She was a seasoned warrior who takes shit from nobody! She was no scared girl.
When Rigmor sat, she looked my way. I could see the anger simmering in her eyes.
Captain Grimbold announced, “The Lord Chancellor, Martin Blackwell.”
Blackwell approached, and I have never seen a more challenging to read person. I am sure if you set him on fire, Blackwell’s expression would not change.
Blackwell stopped and stood with his hands on his hips. It was a posture of authority and one that Rigmor would not appreciate.
Blackwell started, “Countess Rigmor, may I thank you for accepting my request for an audience. I hope we can talk frankly and openly about this situation we have found ourselves in.”
I took a glance at Rigmor. Blackwell’s hands on hips were met with Rigmor’s crossed arms. A frank and open conversation is what he will get.
He continued, “I come here today in the hope this unfortunate set of circumstances can be swiftly overcome. The Emperor only wishes to find an amicable agreement from which we can all benefit. Thereby bringing about once again the peace we had, until recently, enjoyed. Therefore, I have a proposal….”
Rigmor stood. Her hands opened and closed a few times as if she was ready to draw her sword. I have seen her like this countless times, but I trusted it would be words, not her greatsword, that she would use to cut Blackwell down.
Rigmor yelled, “STOP!”
Blackwell did. Malesam almost fainted while I quietly chuckled.
Rigmor delivered her opening salvo, “Don’t think I don’t know why you are here, Lord Chancellor. The only reason you are here is to offer me nothing. The only reason you are here is that you think we will bow down to you. You think we are weak and will drop everything to please the Emperor who has, up until now, tried to kill us!”
Blackwell protested, “But I haven’t….”
Rigmor viciously replied, “I HAVEN’T FINISHED!”
Blackwell’s jaw snapped shut. Malesam looked like he was going to lose his breakfast. I looked at my beloved with unhidden pride.
Rigmor growled, “You come here as an errand boy who now serves a Bandit King who has usurped an Empire that belongs to the Mede Dynasty and the true Emperor, also your Emperor, Titus Mede II! A Bandit King at the beck and call of the real power behind the throne. A monster, a Daughter of Coldharbour, who wishes to take my land and tear us apart! I will wager your proposal will have me marrying the very same piece of crap you were sent here to, hopefully, set free. You expect me to comply because I fear you. Well, I don’t fear you! I do fear for Cyrodiil and The Empire. Therefore, I will fight you to the last man, to the very last breath, because it is right and just! I will fight you in the name of the one true Emperor, Titus Mede II because it is right and just.”
I looked at Captain Grimbold, and he had a massive grin on his face. Malesam was as pale as a corpse. I let my smile take over my face as this was brilliant.
“I have fought better armies than that Leyawiin rabble you have in the valley, and I dare you to come and fight me. If you can climb over the mountain of your dead to reach us, we will smash you down again with our shield walls. I declare Bruma a Free City again, and I revoke the Noble Decree. I revoke the White-Gold Agreement.”
Rigmor was trembling with rage, and I was ready to tackle her if she launched herself at Blackwell. Malesam looked like he wanted to crawl under something.
Rigmor’s tirade continued, “Any noble that brings themselves to the gates of Bruma in the act of war against my people will have their heads decorating the parapet of MY walls for the whole world to see, including that monster Morag Sethius if she dared show her face here. So, you go and tell ‘your’ Emperor if the Count of Leyawiin wants his son back alive, and he wants a lasting peace, to cease hostilities with immediate effect because if he wants to try it on with me….”
Rigmor’s voice left no room for doubt when she yelled, “I will leave a bloody trail paved with skulls all the way to the gates of the Imperial City!”
Rigmor walked away while giving Blackwell the angry stare I know so well.
I thought about it for a second, then clapped and yelled, “Well done, Countess!”
Rigmor let out a contented sigh. Malesam started to open and close his mouth like a fish out of water.
Finally, Malesam found his spine, some air and his voice and said, “I…erm.”
Blackwell rescued him from further embarrassment by saying, “No! Court Adviser Malesam, no need. I will, of course, relay the Countess’ proposal to the Emperor, but before I leave, I humbly ask if I can see Ser Robere in person.”
Malesam replied, “Of course, Lord Chancellor.”
Then Malesam addressed me, “Guardian, please escort the Lord Chancellor to the prisoner’s quarters. Freathof and I will…er, retire to The Cabinet Room.”
“Malesam, I am ‘Your Excellency, Viscount Wulf Septim.’”
“Your Excellency, please escort the Lord Chancellor to the prisoner’s quarters. Freathof, and I will retire to The Cabinet Room.”
“Certainly, Court Advisor Malesam. Please pass on my congratulations to the Countess for the best negotiation I have heard in a long time. You should all be very proud of her!”
I looked over at Lydia, grinning as she headed to The Cabinet Room.
I approached Blackwell and said, “This way Lord Chancellor. I believe we will find Ser Robere in jail. I have no idea where the prisoner’s quarters are.”
Blackwell replied, “After you.”
I took Blackwell to meet Ser Robere and was highly amused.
- Robere: Blackwell, have you come to free me? About time, I knew these rats would crumble…
- Blackwell: No, Ser Robere, I have come to make sure you are alive as part of the negotiations. Please behave in an orderly manner until the time comes for you to return home.
- Robere: This is a fucking joke, right? You tell these peasants to let me the fuck out of here or….
- Blackwell: Or you’ll what? Juggle some balls, dance like a clown, piss your pants?
- Robere: Fuck you, Blackwell! Wait till my father hears of this…He’s gonna….
- Blackwell: Shut up, you worthless little shit! We are in this mess in the first place because of you. Instead of being a good boy and getting yourself slain and dying a hero like a real noble knight, you threw away your weapon and rolled over at the first opportunity. You are an embarrassment. You are a foul-mouthed wretch. Five minutes with a hot iron would teach you some manners. If you dare utter one more sound, I swear I’ll have your tongue torn out of your mouth, right here, right now….
Blackwell turned to me and asked, “Thank you, Wulf. That is all I need for now. Is there anywhere we can talk privately?”
“We can talk in the hall. Apologies for the big smile but today has been highly entertaining.”
As I walked past Ser Robere, I said, “You still called us peasants, which makes you the stupidest person I have ever met.”
Once out in the hallway, we stopped to talk.
Blackwell asked, “What am I going to tell the Emperor? I certainly believe we can come to some arrangement but, I’ll think you will agree that I cannot repeat to him what the Countess… stated.”
“You can summarise it, Blackwell. Free City again. White-Gold Agreement and Noble Decree revoked. Skulls all the way to the Imperial City if hostilities escalate. I liked that bit! Notice she did not threaten the Emperor at any stage.”
“Not directly. What I took from that display, no, angry outburst, and under the circumstances perfectly understandable, was what would happen if the Emperor continued hostilities. For now, Bruma is remaining in a defensive position and will not resort to aggression unless provoked.”
“Rigmor made her position quite clear, don’t you think?”
“I could live with the fact Bruma wants to return to its former Free City status. I would do everything in my power to make sure the Emperor was not swayed to betray any settlement agreed, but….”
“But another also has the ear of your Emperor. Do you want to know something she said when we had that little meeting just after Rigmor was arrested? She offered to snap her husband’s neck like a twig and take up with me as Emperor and her as The Chosen Queen. That is what this is all about, Blackwell. The politics is a minor background to the more significant struggle between The Divines, and her Daddy, her husband, Molag Bal. While you and your Emperor are concentrating on Bruma, Morag is plotting the death of you all. She is the threat Blackwell, not Rigmor.
Not only that, and I don’t know if your spy network has picked it up yet, she has been colluding with the Akaviri to invade Tamriel. Meanwhile, Imperial naval vessels delivered kidnapped Tamriel citizens to the vampiric Akaviri as food. Evidence of that collusion and ‘food gathering’ has been handed to Her Majesty, High Queen Elisif, along with a captured Akaviri war vessel. In no time, proof of the conspiracy will find its way to that annoyingly efficient Khajiit emissary, Baa’Ren-Dar. I have no doubt it will soon be in the hands of the Senior Council in exile. What happens if they demand Sethius’ resignation Blackwell, what then?”
“Oh, trust me, Wulf, I still have the ear of the Emperor. He is my only concern. Any charges of collusion will be dealt with if and when they come. Whether I think Rigmor is right or wrong makes no difference as I serve the Ruby Throne. It is nothing personal. As I said, I am quite fond of the girl, even more so now.”
“That ‘angry outburst’ was rather impressive, wasn’t it? She would have been a timid, meek clone of a Cyrodiil noble if her advisers got their way. They are not fit to judge her capabilities, Blackwell. Let the real Rigmor loose, and she is capable of virtually anything.”
“Hahaha! She moved me. You make sure you take good care of her, Wulf. I would hate if anything were to happen to her.”
“You have no idea of the forces that would descend on those who harmed her, Blackwell. I am not boasting but stating a fact. I killed more than 90% of Ser Robere’s forces using a fraction of my power yesterday. As a learned man, I am sure you know what Reman, Tiber and Pelinal were all capable of when enraged. So yes, you would hate it if anything happened to her, especially if you were anywhere near the cause.
You know little of what happened during the New Order invasion apart from the official story. Rigmor and I did not just stop an invasion of Tamriel. We stopped Malacath from becoming a living God-King and slaughtering every mortal on Nirn. I went into Oblivion to confront him and free Rigmor. That is what I will do to protect her, Blackwell. That is how important she is to me and, once again, to the survival of mortals on Nirn.
Rigmor helped me defeat Alduin. She was with me when we brought down the King of Evermor. She fought the hundreds of Daedra that spewed through the Oblivion Gate while I traversed The Scuttling Void to close it.
Rigmor has helped me save the lives of the scum that attacks Bruma on many occasions.
We have kept this little war to a minimum to reduce casualties to civilians and damage to infrastructure. If I wanted the Ruby Throne, I would take it, and there is nothing you could do to stop me. However, I would prefer to concentrate on the real issue, which is Morag Sethius and Molag Bal.”
“Emperor Titus Mede II was constantly talking about Wulf and The Sentinels. Therefore, I am well aware of what you have done and are capable of doing.”
“What are you going to tell Sethius?”
“What I shall do is explain that she, Bruma, is prepared to release Ser Robere under the condition we agree to a temporary non-aggression pact pending further negotiation on our future relations.”
“You are providing us with a delay Blackwell as well as reporting on an agreement not fully discussed under parley. Is that not breaking your own rules?”
“Not at all as Count Bruce de Medalius is more of a threat to the Emperor than Rigmor of Bruma. Morag Sethius knows it well. It is a shame Rigmor got caught up in the power struggle. Morag Sethius will be more inclined to deal with them first and prefer Ser Robere reside here, permanently. It will be interesting to see what she says about it all. Plus, it will give you the time you need to get to Table Mountain.”
“Even without spies, you would know that would be my objective. After all, I am Champion of The Divines. You also know, I hope, that if we fail to stop Morag at Table Mountain, then it will be Molag Bal taking care of Leyawiin, Cyrodiil, Tamriel, all of Nirn!”
“My loyalties lie with whosoever sits upon the Ruby Throne. The last time I looked, Morag Sethius was not the Emperor. I do not concern myself with gods at war. From my perspective, Morag is just another threat to Sethius’ life and the Empire’s stability. The next time we meet, we may come to some more meaningful and long-lasting settlement. Until then, I bid you farewell.”
“I look forward to our next meeting Blackwell. At least with you, I do not have to play the game.”
“I shall continue to serve the Emperor, so be warned if you want to relieve me of my duties to him and pledge allegiance to another, know this. Whosoever takes off the head that wears the crown reigns supreme. I hope I have made myself clear. Good day.”
I walked into The Cabinet Room and was surprised to see all but Yngol present. I suppose he has said his goodbyes to Sorella and keeps an eye on our defences.
I sat with Sorella, Freathof and Cerys to my right.
Meeko positioned himself behind Sorella.
Lydia sat next to me.
Malesam and Rigmor sat on the right with Sigunn at the end. Olette stood in her spot.
- Sigunn: Wulf, what did Blackwell say? Does he suspect anything? Oh Rigmor, why couldn’t you have just played along?
- Rigmor: Pffft!
- Malesam: I’m sure an outburst like that would probably….
- Sorella: It would probably have been heard in Skyrim! Hahahaha!
- Rigmor: Yeah! Hahahaha!
- Malesam: What’s done is done. We can only adjust to our situation. Whatever our situation now is. Guardian, how was the Chancellor? Did he give away any clues to his possible intentions?
- Wulf: Lady Sigunn, there was no plan worth playing along with. Freathof and Malesam expected me to give Rigmor insufficient strategies for dealing with the master of politics. Strategies that she already knew anyway.
- Malesam: I have been playing this game far longer than you, Guardian!
- Wulf: My name is Wulf, and you are an amateur at the game compared to Blackwell!
I was being harsh once more, and it was not what I intended.
I quietly asked, “Lady Sigunn, may I please speak freely, as I must get some things off my chest before talking about Blackwell?”
“Of course, but no swearing, please.”
“Thank you, Lady Sigunn.”
I stood, then said, “I have been rather sharp with some of you in several meetings, both in a group and privately. I do not intend to belittle any of you or beat my chest, but sometimes a bit of forcefulness will embed a lesson otherwise forgotten.
You have all continuously underestimated Rigmor’s capabilities and even my own. You instruct her as if she is fresh out of the bassinet and not one the most capable, if not the most capable, individuals you will ever meet.
That is bad enough, but then you compound it by trying to force Rigmor into what she will never be, namely, a meek lady of the court whose brilliance is smothered by protocol. Rigmor should not have to watch her language. She should not have to care about selecting the correct fork out of four in front of her at an official banquet or holding her hand a particular way when eating a delicacy. All I see in Cyrodiil nobility are people behaving ‘civilised’ whilst deciding where to stab for the most effect! I am sickened by the whole charade.
You have turned Rigmor into a commodity, into a piece of flesh whose value to Bruma is based on what noble husband she can catch. You have constantly talked about that obscenity as if it is the most natural thing in the world and it is not. You might as well shackle Rigmor and sell her off at a slavers market!
You presented weak-kneed noble sons to such a strong-willed and free spirit and then expected Rigmor to be pleased! You shoved the idea of her having to find a noble husband down her throat and told her to forget all about love and mutual respect. Instead of showing restraint when I was lost for three years, you increased the pressure on Rigmor. Hence, she looked, and Ser Robere was the best she could find because he pretended to understand her.
None of you demonstrates an understanding of what this has done to Rigmor. None of you knows the pressure of expectation placed upon her by The Divines. Rigmor was broken, and we spent our time on Roscrea and the ship glueing the real Rigmor back together. Then, as soon as we entered the gates to Bruma, Rigmor fell apart again.
I understand a lot of this was misguided and genuinely what you thought best. I know you all love her dearly. I wish you had looked and listened to her with more care. If you had done so, I would not have had to listen to her crying and see her despair like she was that young girl alone in the dark once again.
I love Rigmor with all my heart and have done so even before we physically met. She has loved me all that time and with the same intensity. Our love is a thing of wonder to not only us but the many gods who know us.
Yet, even when The Sentinels and I have provided irrefutable evidence of what Ser Robere is, what he has done to Rigmor and what he intended to do, you persist with objectifying her. So yes, I have been a bit short with some of you. But oh, how you have poked the dragon!
Rigmor and I will, once again, walk into danger together for the benefit of all who sit at this table. For the benefit of every other person on Nirn. I ask for no accolades, but I do ask you to show respect for the real nobility of Cyrodiil, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier!
Now, if you don’t mind, I will go and compose myself. I will return soon and continue with the matter at hand.”
As I made my way to my room, those at the table sat in stunned silence. But Olette forgot that she was supposed to be a silent statue once more. She yelled, “It’s about time somebody told them, Cap’n!”
I sat in the dark corner of my room and calmed myself. My Dovah had remained silent during my venting.
Rigmor entered, sat on my bed and patted the spot next to her. I obediently obeyed and sat where indicated.
“Wulf, everything you said was true, so feel no guilt. I have wanted to say those things but couldn’t. They would have dismissed a lot of it and then said, ‘You have the privileges of a Countess, but they come at a price’ crap.”
“I feel I may have gone too far. I did not intend to hurt anybody, especially Sigunn.”
“Mum will be okay. She was following the advice of those two and was as much out of place here as I was. Freathof and Malesam meant well. However, they could see I was uncomfortable but put it down to me wanting to ignore my duties and gallivant about. They never once asked what was wrong.”
“Rigmor, I know they meant well, but their responsibility was to ensure your happiness and safety and not force their idea of who you should be onto you. Their actions put you in danger and made you miserable. You didn’t even visit your favourite places from childhood.”
“Nothing I have experienced since crossing the border compares to that walk to Riften from Sethri’s farm and the simple act of browsing the marketplace. I have not even shopped in the Imperial City since you disappeared, and I used to love doing that.”
“Can you please go and see to your mother and any other I may have hurt. I will be there soon, and we must get on with what we need to do and find Casius. I wish to waste no more time on matters in the past when we are about to fight for our future. Hopefully, we will return soon, and I can sit and talk to each one for as long as they need.”
“We all understand what you said and why. Give it ten minutes or so, Wulf. Then we can finish the meeting, go for a nice pleasant walk with Sorella, and then kill that blood-sucking bitch!”
My beloved kissed me on the lips and left my room with a spring in her step.
I had not intended that outburst, but the comment from Sigunn about following the plan triggered the need.
After about ten minutes, I stopped pacing around my room and headed for the aborted meeting. When I entered, the three elders had thoughtful, introspective looks. The others had smiles.
I continued from where we had left off.
- Wulf: Blackwell knows about our excursion to Table Mountain. It was an obvious move, so do not worry about a leak or misstep giving it away. He has no intention of stopping it, and we haven’t heard anything from Serana, who is with Quintus, to indicate otherwise. Blackwell wants Morag dead. She is a danger to the Empire, so we are doing him a favour by killing her. We are not, as yet, doing anything treasonous.
- Malesam: What about the siege?
- Wulf: Even though there was no formal agreement, Blackwell has decided to accept the status of Free City and the revocation of the Noble Decree and White-Gold Agreement. He will tell his Emperor that there is a chance of Ser Robere being returned if all hostilities cease with no marriage to Rigmor offered.
- Freathof: Isn’t that breaking the rules?
- Wulf: Yes, it is, but Blackwell does that occasionally to protect the bum on the throne. What Rigmor did was brilliant, and she surprised Blackwell at his own game! Rigmor stated her position forcefully, made clear the consequences of further aggression and presented her non-negotiable offer, which he has accepted. She gave him no time to try and pry secrets or mess around with her head. While you were back here wondering what disaster would befall us, I was listening to Blackwell praise Rigmor and say to me, not for the first time, how much he likes and admires her. You should all be proud of what she did!
- Rigmor: What did Bobby say to him?
- Wulf: I wish you were there, Rigmor. Ser Robere tried a, ‘I am noble, they are but peasants!’ routine, and Blackwell called him a disgrace for not dying on the battlefield. Ser Robere threatened, and Blackwell told him to shut up, or he would have his tongue ripped out. I think Ser Robere finally realises he is at our mercy.
Sorella could sense the tension still in the air. She was also eager to start her adventure.
- Sorella: Hey Rigmor, remember when your Mom called Sethri an obnoxious elf?
- Rigmor: Oh yeah, hahaha! And he went everywhere in just his underpants. Hahaha.
- Wulf: Sometimes, he didn’t even bother wearing those!
- Sorella: Yeah, yuck! I didn’t even know what all those bits were called.
- Rigmor: Dangly bits.
- Sorella: Hahaha, yeah, and he used to like, like just…blow off, hahaha!
- Rigmor: Oh, my days, he stank so bad, hahaha.
- Malesam: Well, I never! How rude! You two would do well to pay attention and stop messing about.
- Sorella: Yanno, he used to sit on the porch blowing off and laughing to himself. Hahaha.
- Rigmor: Oh my, no way…Hahahaha!
- Sorella: My Mom used to say to me, ‘If he comes over here, he’s gonna get an arrow in his arse!’ Hahaha.
- Rigmor: Hahahaha!
- Malesam: Hahaha!
- Sigunn: Girls, stop it! Wulf is talking, and it’s important.
- Wulf: Thank you Sigunn. Hey Sorella, when Rigmor and I walked into a fishing village, all the locals stood outside their tavern. They told us they would lynch our friend if he did not stop stinking them out!
- Sorella: No way!
- Rigmor: Yeah way!
Sorella raspberried to demonstrate Sethri’s famous liquid fart.
Then Meeko let one go that was loud and very fragrant!
- Wulf: Phew, Meeko. We could have done without your contribution!
- Meeko: Grrr!
- Wulf: Yes, that would help protect Sorella from any bad guys.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: You have plenty in reserve, just in case. Good boy!
- Sorella: Hey, Wulf, didn’t Meeko and Sethri have farting contests?
- Wulf: Yes, but I think Meeko is immune to Sethri, so he always won.
- Sigunn: Wulf, you are as bad as the girls!
- Rigmor: It’s okay, Mum. We are just…just blowing off a bit of steam. Hahaha!
- Malesam: Hahahaha!
- Sorella: Hahaha!
- Sigunn: Hahahaha!
- Rigmor: Haha, aaaahhhh!
Sorella looked at me.
- Sorella: Hey, Wulf, is it time to go yet?
- Wulf: Yes, Sorella, it is time to go.
- Sorella: Hell yeah!
- Wulf: And Sorella, thanks for what you just did.
- Sorella: Thank you, Wulf, for being there for Rigmor and sticking up for her.
- Rigmor: If we sneak out the way we came in, we can follow the stream. It will take us straight into the forest.
- Sigunn: Please be careful, all of you.
- Wulf: Lady Sigunn, I will bring Rigmor home like I always have. Sorella will be well guarded and as safe as we can make her.
- Malesam: Farewell Guardian, Rigmor, Sorella. May the Gods be with you.
- Wulf: They always are, Malesam.
- Lydia: I will return to my post, but I also expect to be summoned when you reach Quintus’ camp.
- Wulf: You will get one. Can you please ask one of the mages to report to Quintus that we are on our way? Casius will have to wait for news as the airship will attract attention.
- Lydia: Will do.
I took one last look at the people who love Rigmor dearly. I owe it to them more than anybody else to keep Rigmor unharmed through the trials ahead.
I walked over to Olette.
“That was a generous thing that you did for Sorella.”
“I asked Celestine to fetch the armour from Silverpeak Lodge for me. Do you ever think we will go back there and be a big family once more?”
“I don’t know, Olette. We will just have to deal with things as they happen.”
“Will Sorella have to kill people?”
“I will try my hardest to make sure she doesn’t have to.”
“Please make it back, Cap’n.”
“I will try.”
As we walked through the Castle to the sewer entrance, I asked Rigmor, “Did you say goodbye to Sigunn this morning?”
“Yeah, while you three were having your secret strategy meeting.”
“How was she?”
“A lot calmer, but there were tears. She has always had great faith in you, Wulf, and bringing me back from Roscrea strengthened it even further.”
“You brought yourself home, Rigmor. I just unlocked that cage and tried to keep up.”
“Maybe I will get to rescue you one day?”
“You already have, many times.”
Sorella piped up, “Are you two going to kiss now?”
I replied, “We are about to enter the sewers, and they will destroy any desire to kiss anybody. It will be like Sethri without the funny noises. Are you ready, Sorella?”
“I will just pinch my nose shut!”
“You will still taste it!”
We entered the sewer, and true to her word, Sorella pinched her nose. I pointed to something floating and asked Rigmor, “Isn’t that what you had for lunch yesterday?”
My plan worked as Sorella had to release her nose in a fit of laughter. Then she got a whiff and started dry gagging. I wanted her to remember this adventure for the rest of her life.
We exited the sewer, and the sun was shining.
I turned to Rigmor and asked, “Follow the stream, you say?”
“Yeah, it will take us down into the forest. There’s a bridge it goes under, on the Orange Road. Once we’re past that, we should be safe.”
I told Sorella, “We will have a bit of fun as we go, but, sometimes, we have to be very serious and quiet, like when you are out hunting with your mother. We will tell you when. Stick close to Rigmor. However, if she gets into a swordfight, move further away. Use your bow to put an…?”
“Arrow in their head. Wulf, I have never had to, you know, kill a… a…person.”
Rigmor came and took Sorella by the hands, “It is not easy even if they are evil. Your love for others and sense of what is right will let you fire that arrow sure and true. Just like it will when you save those children in the Crystal House.”
As we started walking, I reflected on what Sorella had just said. So many children in my orphanage have learned to kill at a younger age than Sorella. I don’t think anything I do in my life will ever change that. I do not think The Divine planned it that way when creating Mundus and Nirn. It is not any god that causes such travesty. The free will of Man and Mer invents such evil. We do not need a god for that.
As we passed under the bridge, I asked Sorella, “Do you know why the Orange Road is different from all the other major roads in Cyrodiil?”
“Umm…hang on, I learned this at school….um….”
Rigmor whispered in her ear, then Sorella said, “It is the only one that does not connect to the Red Ring Road.”
We reached an Ayleid Well, and I asked Rigmor, “Which way now, Milady Cheater?”
“To the right and keep going until I say, Dragonbum.”
I did a quick salute and said, “Going to the right, Sir. I am hoping you will tell me to stop before I fall off a cliff, Sir.”
The two cheaters laughed, and we continued on our way. Rigmor chatted to Sorella as we went.
- Rigmor: Hey Sorella, how’s your Mom?
- Sorella: Oh, she’s cool. She wasn’t too happy about moving to Falkreath, though.
- Rigmor: Yeah, but it was for the best right?
- Sorella: My Dad opened a school there for all the kids. He said he was thinking about it, and when the Dragonbum opened his first one up for orphans, he did it for the ones with mums and dads in Falkreath. I made lots of friends, and it was a happy time.
- Rigmor: That sounds great.
- Sorella: Don’t get me wrong, I still love it in the mountains. It is all I ever knew. Angi, my Mom, still prefers to hunt to put meat on the table even though there is a shop. She takes me with her to keep my skills up, and the wolves won’t attack her if I am there.
- Rigmor: I have the same thing happen but with bears. I never did find out why that is.
- Sorella: Yeah, I heard that. Way cool, huh?
- Rigmor: Yeah, way cool!
- Sorella: Hey, Dragonbum, do you know what’s up with the wolves and the bears?
- Wulf: I do. You have both been blessed by Kyne, or Kynareth, as we now call her.
- Sorella: The Divine?
- Wulf: Yes. She has made you a Wolf-Friend, and I think she made Rigmor a Bear-Friend. It might just be that Rigmor growls like a bear when angry, so they think she is one.
- Sorella: That is even cooler!
- Rigmor: I do not growl!
- Meeko: Grrrr!
We all had a good laugh.
About three hours later, Rigmor stopped.
- Rigmor: Okay, Dragonbum, wait while I get my bearings.
- Wulf: Waiting and wondering how lost you have got us.
- Rigmor: I am not lost! Now, if we go straight ahead for another two hours or so, there used to be a little camp with a treehouse.
- Wulf: A treehouse that nobody has climbed up to or played in for how long?
- Rigmor: Yeah, it’s probably gone now. We used to play there when we were kids.
- Sorella: That’s totally cool. Can we check it out?
- Wulf: If it is still there and it looks safe, then sure, we can rest there for a little while.
- Sorella: You’re so the coolest!
- Wulf: See Rigmor, I am the coolest.
- Rigmor: Yeah, right. Pffft!
Even though banter was happening, both Rigmor and I felt safe doing so. When your life is in danger, you often get pretty good at picking up subtle hints that something is not quite right. Plus, we had Meeko, who never fails to warn us of danger.
- Rigmor: Sorella, don’t you feel scared, even just a little bit? Yanno, about all of this?
- Sorella: I try not to think about it. Mom always taught me to remain calm even amid chaos. She said, ‘Don’t let anyone know how you’re thinking. Keep your composure and trust that each shot is true.’
- Rigmor: I wish I were as brave as you. I get scared all the time.
- Sorella: Hehe, no way, you’ve got Wulf!
- Rigmor: Haha, yeah…my Guardian.
- Wulf: We all get scared, Sorella. I am always scared I will make the wrong choice, and people will get hurt. Nobody can be brave unless they are scared at first.
- Sorella: That is so right. My Dad told me that once.
- Wulf: So, is he the coolest?
- Sorella: Yeah!
- Wulf: Okay, I will be the second coolest, and Rigmor can be the one hundred and thirty-fifth coolest.
- Sorella: Rigmor is equal second as you are both together.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Sorella: Okay, Meeko, you are all equal second coolest.
Just under two hours later, and just after sunset, we came to the treehouse. It was dark enough for me to resort to night-vision.
Sorella waited while I checked the ladder. As soon as I said it looked okay, she scrambled up it saying, “This is so totally the coolest thing ever. I’m so gonna get my Dad to make one of these.”
I turned to Rigmor and said, “Okay, I think we will spend the night in the treehouse. I will allow a lantern while we eat the supplies I brought along, then you two can sleep while Meeko and I guard you.”
“Ahh, isn’t being stuck up a tree if a patrol finds us a bad thing?”
“Leyawiin or New Imperial troops can’t easily reach you two while I can leap down and take care of them. I doubt their patrols would be bigger than six to eight people.”
“You don’t want Sorella to have to kill, do you?”
“You know me well.”
“She’s doing okay, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she is doing great. She is a brave young girl.”
“It all seems like a game to her.”
“We have both been trying to make it that way, and it is for the best. Let us continue to make this an adventure and not a trip into danger.
“Do you miss the orphans?”
“Yes, very much so. Children have a sense of wonder that is contagious and a bottomless well of empathy. Their capacity for giving and receiving love is infinite.”
“Yeah. I hope our children, including the ‘Chosen One’, are just normal kids who love treehouses and watching frogs and swinging on gates.”
Sorella called down, “Hurry up, you two!”
We both climbed the rickety ladders and ended up on a platform many meters above the ground, which had survived the elements exceptionally well. We sat on benches.
I summoned Meeko rather than allow him to struggle up the ladders, which he could, but it was undignified.
- Sorella: Wulf, that is so cool you can make Meeko appear like that!
- Wulf: I can do it with my horse, Hashire, all of The Sentinels and even a certain Countess.
- Sorella: But you couldn’t make Rigmor appear when you were lost. Olette tried to explain to me how you were lost, but it was complicated.
- Wulf: When people die and go to an afterlife, they must pass through a place called The Void. Many evil people get stuck in The Void as no gods want them in the afterlife places they created. I was sort of dead, so I couldn’t go to my afterlife and got stuck in The Void.
- Sorella: Okay, that is less complicated!
- Wulf: You might learn more about those things one day. But right now, we are in an incredible treehouse!
- Sorella: I bet you used to come here all the time, Rigmor. Haha.
- Rigmor: I sure did. We used to come here for picnics by horse and carriage. I would hide up here with my friends, and if anyone came by, we would throw stones at them. Hahaha.
- Sorella: No!
- Rigmor: It was so funny. They would be looking around, and we would just keep quiet. We used to laugh to ourselves unless it was my Dad. He knew where we were, and he would pretend that he would chop the tree down. He would say, ‘Oh, look at this tree someone has left in the middle of the road. Humph! I’ll just have to chop it down to get those naughty squirrels!’
- Sorella: Haha.
- Rigmor: We would shout and scream. Hahahaha. Oh, those were the days.
- Wulf: Okay, time for something to eat. I have some salted roast pork, apple pie, a tart and drinking chocolate. I will warm everything up with a bit of Magicka.
- Sorella: Ah, what is chocolate?
- Rigmor: You have never tasted chocolate?
- Sorella: Nope!
- Rigmor: Oh, my, are you in for a surprise!
Meeko whined, and I said to him, “Yes, you can go hunt for your dinner.”
Meeko scrambled down the ladders, and I could hear him run into the darkness.
I prepared the food then sat next to Sorella as we ate.
Sorella was enjoying her hot chocolate when she asked about her parents.
- Sorella: Rigmor, I sometimes wonder about my real parents and what happened to them.
- Rigmor: Oh, Sorella.
- Sorella: You and Wulf were there, so do you know?
- Rigmor: Wulf….
- Sorella: You said they were gone. Gone where? Did they just leave me there? Didn’t they want me anymore?
- Wulf: My apologies, Sorella. I thought you understood what that meant! All this time, you have not known?
- Sorella: No, I haven’t known. Please, can you tell me?
- Wulf: The men who captured you, The New Order, killed your parents because they wanted to keep secrets. They didn’t want anybody to know they were there. Your parents were already dead when we found you. I am so sorry about your parents and sorry you didn’t know.
- Sorella: Are you sure? I know they were in prison with me. They would call out to me to say everything would be alright.
- Wulf: The New Order were cruel people, Sorella. We found your parents’ bodies and a written order for you to be killed as well. You were so small and quiet in your cell, but Rigmor saw you. We took you out of that horrible place and then to Angi’s cabin. I think she loved you from the moment she saw you.
- Sorella: I figured something terrible happened. Thanks for telling me.
Sorella’s parents were tortured to death, and they knew nothing. I had hoped at the time Sorella had not heard their screams. Rigmor looked over at me and could see the tears welling. The blubbering barbarian is back.
- Rigmor: Hey! Why don’t we play a game?
- Sorella: What, like ‘I spy’?
- Rigmor: Yeah, you go first!
- Sorella: Okay! I spy with my little eye…something beginning with…D.
- Rigmor: Oh, um…Daisy?
- Sorella: Come on, Rigmor…that is so lame.
- Rigmor: Cough, okay, let me guess…umm…Dragonborn?
- Sorella: Doh…How did you guess that? That was a hard one…Haha.
Sorella did a mighty yawn.
- Wulf: Okay, finish your hot chocolate and then it is time for sleep.
- Sorella: Ahh, Rigmor, I need to…you know.
- Wulf: Powder your nose?
- Rigmor: That is the polite way for a lady to say she needs to pee.
- Sorella: I need to powder my nose badly!
- Wulf: I will set up your bedrolls while you two are busy powdering your noses. Meeko is down below and will be your lookout.
Rigmor took the lantern and left with Sorella. They were almost silent as they climbed down the ladders and moved away into some bushes. Sorella was used to stalking prey with her mother and was adept at stealth. The dweomer on her armour aided those skills.
When they returned, they crawled onto their bedrolls and were soon asleep.
Meeko and I positioned ourselves on the lower level for the night.
When I stopped using night-vision, I was confident the darkness would hide any evidence of our presence.
I woke Sorella and Rigmor at about 6:00 AM. We were about to break our fast when Meeko growled to let us know somebody was approaching.
Sorella asked, “What is it?”
“Shh… I will have a look, okay.”
I climbed down one level and peered through the branches. Very loud New Imperials approached and demonstrated how unprofessional they were. Their childish banter gave us plenty of time to hear them and keep quiet. An actual Imperial squad would have been virtually silent throughout their patrol.
Amongst them was a pathfinder. He would soon follow clues and realise we were up the tree.
I climbed back up and whispered.
- Wulf: There are six of them. Five New Imperial idiots and a mercenary pathfinder.
- Rigmor: Will we take them on?
- Wulf: The pathfinder will discover where we are. Therefore, I have no choice but to take care of them. You and Sorella stay up here till I call you.
- Sorella: You will kill six bad guys by yourself?
- Rigmor: Wulf will be safe, don’t you worry.
- Wulf: Meeko, stay with the ladies.
I leapt down and said, “Count Bruce de Medalius shags sheep!”
The New Imperials drew their weapons and charged.
I Shouted Slow Time then disposed of all six in a few seconds.
I called up, “You can come down now.”
The others soon joined me.
I said, “Okay, we had better get going. We will eat some trail rations as we walk.”
Rigmor asked, “Are we going to hide the bodies?”
“No, that is a senseless waste of time. Each patrol will need to check in to several places along their route. The enemy will know this lot is missing soon enough.”
Sorella had stared at the bodies and then ran to a tree. There she started to retch violently. Rigmor and I ran over to her.
- Rigmor: Sorella, try to breathe deeply, okay. Don’t worry, as it will pass.
- Sorella: I’m sorry.
- Wulf: You haven’t seen dead people before, have you?
- Sorella: No. I hunt and help mum gut and butcher our kills, but this is different.
- Wulf: Well, you have nothing to be sorry about. But I apologise for not thinking and leaving them there for you to see.
Rigmor handed Sorella her canteen and a cup. Sorella stood, swilled her mouth and then turned to me.
- Sorella: Wulf, how can I kill somebody if I am like this from just seeing a dead person?
- Wulf: Did you hesitate the first time you killed an animal while hunting?
- Sorella: Yes, but then Mum explained the necessity and is what our gods intended. She explained that we were hunters no different than wolves or sabre cats.
- Wulf: Have you ever encountered a mother animal protecting its young?
- Sorella: Yes, and Mum says that is when they are their most dangerous. We always make sure our prey has no children, not because they are more dangerous but killing a mother would doom the young ones.
- Wulf: So, why are the mothers more dangerous?
- Sorella: The mothers are protecting the ones they love.
- Wulf: Even animals that do not eat people will kill people to protect those they love. That is why I had to kill these men. I had to protect you and Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Sometimes it is you or them, and you have no choice.
- Wulf: One day, you may have to kill a bad person to protect yourself or others. You might feel awful, but it is important to accept you had no choice.
- Rigmor: We can talk more about this later if you want, but we had better get going.
- Sorella: Okay, I’m ready.
- Wulf: Where to, Milady?
- Rigmor: We keep the Orange Road to our right. We should reach some Ayleid ruins in a few hours with a derelict Imperial fort to their left.
- Wulf: That would be the ruins of Lindai and Fort Coldcorn.
- Rigmor: Smart…bottom.
- Sorella: You were going to call Wulf a smartarse. It’s okay. That is not a forbidden swearword.
- Wulf: Rigmor, I know about Lindai as it is where The Hero of Kvatch obtained the Crown of Lindai. The crown was used to fool Lord Umbacano and cause his death.
- Rigmor: Oh, the false king from Evermor!
- Wulf: Yes, and Fort Coldcorn is where one of the swords on display in my museum comes from.
- Rigmor: Okay, well, we can rest when we get to the ruins.
The path we followed was pretty narrow, and there was plenty of tree coverage. With Meeko along, we would have plenty of warning. As long as we talked quietly, we would hear one of those amateur patrols before they heard us.
Sorella found she needed to discuss killing about an hour into the walk.
- Sorella: Rigmor, how many people have you killed?
- Rigmor: Now that is a good question. Why do you ask?
- Sorella: I dunno. I just wondered because of what happened back there. I think that Wulf has had to kill a lot of people.
- Rigmor: Wulf remembers nearly every person he kills. He doesn’t know why, but they are all stored in his head. Wulf can replay their deaths as if they just happened, which is a terrible burden for him to carry. He thinks it is so he keeps control and doesn’t kill when not needed.
- Sorella: He does not seem like he kills a lot of people. Wulf is always kind, and I saw him crying about my parents in the treehouse.
- Rigmor: Wulf is the kindest person I know. He has over one hundred orphans in his schools and was planning on building new ones before he came to Cyrodiil to help me. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely person? He kills to protect those who can’t fight.
- Sorella: Wulf shouldn’t be ashamed of being good at killing and how many he has had to kill.
- Rigmor: No, he shouldn’t be ashamed. Maybe one day, Wulf can stop having to kill bad people.
- Sorella: So, what about you? How many have you killed?
- Rigmor: Too many for me to count and remember, Sorella. But like Wulf, I only kill those who deserve it.
- Sorella: Tiny says he keeps an ear from each man he kills and puts them on a piece of string around his neck.
- Rigmor: Yeah, hah. He told me that once but I have never seen them though. Yuck! If he did that and got caught, it would be a death sentence for him. When I was with…with Bobby, he would sit crossed-legged on the floor and clean his fingernails with his dagger and stare at me. It gave me the creeps.
- Sorella: Yeah, I noticed that we were waiting to come to Bruma the other day. Grom just eats and drinks.
- Rigmor: Haha yeah! Gorm eats like a horse and drinks like a fish. He could never best me, though. Hahaha!
- Sorella: When Wulf was mad with everybody today, he mentioned Ser Robere. Is that Bobby?
- Rigmor: Yes, why do you ask?
- Sorella: Wulf seemed mad that you fell in love with Bobby. Is Wulf jealous of him?
- Rigmor: Wulf isn’t jealous but is very angry at what Bobby did to me. I thought I loved Bobby, but he was pretending so that he could steal Bruma from me. Bobby hurt me a lot, and that made Wulf mad. When Wulf first came to Cyrodiil to help me, he thought I no longer loved him because of Bobby. That made Wulf the saddest person you could imagine.
- Sorella: But you do love Wulf because he told everybody, and I knew back in Skyrim that you did.
- Rigmor: Well, you are the expert. What do you think?
- Sorella: You love Wulf very much.
- Rigmor: A lot more than that! Are you feeling better now?
- Sorella: Yeah, I’m all good.
Sometime later, I noticed a farm in the distance.
- Wulf: Rigmor, whose farm is that?
- Rigmor: It has been in Jonril Pindam’s family for generations.
- Wulf: We will spend time looking for a place to build our farm.
- Rigmor: I know, even if I am The Chosen Queen.
- Sorella: What? Who is a queen?
- Wulf: Rigmor might be, but she doesn’t like to talk about it.
- Sorella: That is so cool!
- Wulf: Rigmor is so royal that her blow offs smell like roses.
- Sorella: Hahahaha!
- Rigmor: You are treading on dangerous ground, Wulf!
- Wulf: Sorry, your Royal Grumpiness.
As Sorella fought a persistent giggling fit, we continued on our way.
The sky was overcast, and we were subjected to the occasional light shower. However, the weather and water could not dampen our spirits. Once again, we were away from Bruma, and the real Rigmor emerged. She was enjoying every second of our journey. I was right not to use Bostin and arrive at Quintus’ camp in hours.
We reached the ruins of Lindai.
“Rigmor, we have time to rest our legs.”
“Sure thing. Come on, Sorella, let’s sit and gossip!”
There was a fire pit, but I did not light it as we were neither cold nor needed the heat.
I sat on a very uncomfortable stone block.
- Wulf: How much further now, Rigmor?
- Rigmor: The shortest way is to keep going along this path until we reach the Black Road. However, if we went that way, we would be exposed and in the view of Fort Ash. If we double back, just a bit, we can take the dirt track to Odiil Farm. Crossing the fields there will bring us out behind Fort Ash and on top of the road. Once across, we can head west, keeping the road and Chorrol to our right. Once we reach an old Oblivion Gate, we should find Casius’ camp not too far from there.
- Wulf: So, without looking at my map, we should reach Casius’ camp not long after sunset.
- Sorella: Does that mean we would have been walking for half of today!
- Wulf: Yes. We could have gotten there faster, but Rigmor and I wanted to walk and relax. Once we get to Quintus’ camp next to Hammerfell, Rigmor and I will be swamped and unable to relax.
- Sorella: That is why Mum takes me hunting sometimes. Even though Dad is the Jarl, Mum is supposed to help, and she finds it frustrating. Mum is a different person when away from the noise and bustle of the city.
- Rigmor: Wulf has large estates, but we want to live on a small farm.
- Sorella: Dragonborn, can I ask you a question?
- Wulf: Of course, Sorella.
- Sorella: Dad didn’t know that you and Rigmor were still seeing each other after she came to Cyrodiil. Did you have to keep your love a secret because of expectations?
- Wulf: I could not come to Cyrodiil to protect Rigmor. If bad people knew we loved each other, they might have hurt Rigmor to hurt me. Plus, by keeping it a secret, the bad people were surprised when I turned up.
- Rigmor: The bad people did not have time to prepare for Wulf, The Dragonborn. They made mistakes in their rush to change plans because of him.
- Sorella: But when you got lost, expectations made Rigmor fall in love with Bobby. Is that right?
- Wulf: When you go to your Dad’s new school, are there a lot of rules?
- Sorella: Lots and lots!
- Wulf: Are there any of the rules that you think are silly?
- Sorella: I have to comb my hair, clean under my fingernails, wash my face. I have to write my letters a certain way, so they look like everybody else’s and are boring. I have to be polite to the teachers even when they are rude. I am not allowed to laugh if somebody blows off in class, even if it stinks so bad we have to open the door.
- Wulf: Okay, I bet you could go on forever about silly rules.
- Sorella: Yeah, I complain about them all the time and don’t understand why some of them are there.
- Wulf: Some of the rules are traditional. They do not help make the school or students better, but people are reluctant to change them or get rid of them. They say it has always been that way. Are you keeping up so far?
- Sorella: Yep.
- Wulf: When Rigmor came to Cyrodiil, there were silly rules about who she could marry because she is a Countess. Those rules do not exist in Skyrim. When I was no longer lost and came to Cyrodiil, poor Rigmor did not know if she should break the silly rules by choosing me over Bobby. Rigmor wouldn’t have been breaking the rules, but Bobby had confused her with his fake love. I was never mad with Rigmor for falling in love with Bobby. I am mad that silly rules told Rigmor what type of person she could marry, and Bobby took advantage of that.
- Sorella: Nobody had better tell me who I can marry!
- Wulf: None of those silly rules about who you can marry currently exist in Skyrim, so I think you are safe from them.
- Sorella: Are you and Rigmor going to get married?
- Wulf: We would like to, although I haven’t done the asking bit yet. We have to finish the Crystal House stuff first and maybe a war afterwards. Then I would have to ask Sigunn, which might be even scarier than the other stuff!
- Sorella: Can I come when you do get married?
- Wulf: Of course. You would be an honoured guest and get a bigger slice of the wedding cake!
- Sorella: YES!
- Rigmor: Hahaha! Oh, my days, Sorella. You remind me of myself in so many ways. Yanno…when I saw you in that filthy cell, my blood ran cold. I was so angry! I knew we had to get you out of there.
- Wulf: Rigmor panicked, and I did not even have time to look for a key. I had to pick the lock as quick as I could. At first, you thought we had come to hurt you.
- Sorella: Well, Wulf, you were kind of big and scary at first.
- Rigmor: What kind of world is this that such evil can exist in people’s hearts?
- Wulf: Often, people blame the gods, but that is not fair. Without the gods, there would still be greedy people who want more than they have, leading to evil.
- Sorella: When I grow up, I’m gonna become a vampire hunter.
- Rigmor: That still gets to you, huh?
- Sorella: I still have nightmares sometimes, if that is what you mean.
- Rigmor: Sometimes, you just have to let things go.
- Wulf: One of my best friends, Sorella, was a vampire, and she would join you in hunting down the vampires that hurt you and the children in the Crystal House. You have to be careful not to hate all of something because of the actions of some. A vampire saved my life a few years ago and is an advisor to a very important person. The Dawnguard live in a big fort in Skyrim, and they have learnt only to hunt the evil vampires. When you are older, I am sure they would like to have such an expert marksman help them.
- Sorella: I understand, Wulf. You don’t kill all the dragons you see, do you?
- Wulf: No, I have some friend dragons. I also have some friends who are Snow Elves. They lived all over Skyrim till the Nords killed nearly every one of them for a few crimes of their predecessors.
- Sorella: I owe you guys my life and Angi, my Mom, she gave me a real home. I never had one of them before, and I have you guys to thank for that.
- Wulf: Your Mum saved Rigmor when she was severely injured. That is how it works sometimes. You do good for others and, unexpectedly, they return the favour.
- Sorella: Hey Rigmor, my Dad, he thinks of you like a long-lost daughter. So that kind of makes you my big sister, right?
- Rigmor: Yeah, I know. That is cool, huh?
- Sorella: Way cool!
- Wulf: Okay, you two sisters, let’s find that road. We will be close to the enemy soon, so no more talking until we have crossed it.
- Rigmor: Sure. Come on, Sorella, follow me and keep close and keep quiet.
- Sorella: Okay, Rigmor.
We doubled back a bit and found the alternate path.
We had been silent to Odiil Farm, and I know Sorella was aching to ask a question about her armour. I had seen her deliberately stepping on twigs and shuffling her feet through piles of leaves.
I used zoom-vision and heat-vision and could see nobody in the fields. I think the overcast weather and rain worked to our advantage.
Thankfully, we slowly walked through the farm and didn’t encounter anybody.
As soon as we finished crossing it, Sorella asked, “How come we make no noise? I am good at sneaking but never this quiet.”
“One of the spells, a dweomer, I placed on that armour makes you silent and also much harder to see. Even if the farmer had come outside, if we crouched down, he could walk a few feet from us and not see us.”
“That is cool! What other…umm….”
“Yeah, what other dweomer does it have?”
“When wearing it, you can breathe underwater and, if you want, swim on top of the water no matter how much stuff you are carrying. If you get hurt, the armour will automatically fix a lot of cuts and so on. It protects you against poison, fire, ice and electricity. It is tougher than nearly any other armour in the whole world. It makes your marksmanship even better and increases the damage from each arrow. The same if you used a knife or sword.”
“Is it worth much?”
“Moneywise, it is worth a fortune. But to Olette, it was one of her most prized possessions.”
Rigmor added, “Wulf had promised Olette to have it made for her and hunted the Netch that the leather came from. The blacksmith that made the armour is a very good friend of ours, and Olette was very excited to get measured for it.”
“Wulf, can I tell Rigmor?”
“If you want.”
“Wulf is going to adopt Olette. When you get married, she would be your daughter and sort of another big sister to me!”
“Wulf, you never mentioned this before?”
“I was thinking about it before I got lost. Over the last day, I could see that Olette was pleased that Sorella was adopted. She always has been happy for each child that finds a family. So, I decided that Olette deserves a family for real, not just dozens of people who regard her as their little sister.”
“You know, Sorella, Wulf would adopt every one of the children who come into his orphanage if he could.”
“Wulf would be a cool Dad.”
“Yeah, except for his bad jokes.”
“All Dads tell bad jokes.”
It was approaching sunset when we reached a well preserved Ayleid circle.
I exclaimed, “Isn’t this amazing! It is so well preserved.”
Sorella asked, “What is it?”
“Once, thousands of years ago, it would have had a statue of a god in the middle. Most likely one of the gods we call The Divines or The Nine.”
Rigmor explained, “You can see them all over the Imperial City. But they have been maintained by generations of specialised workers. This one has been sitting here in the elements and still looks new.”
“Wulf, what happened to the god from the middle?”
“Well, Sorella, this was made by the Ayleid people. Most Ayleid people changed from worshipping one type of god to another type. That is when the statue of the god was likely removed.”
“Sorella, Wulf knows a lot about gods and even speaks to them.”
“Yeah way! He even lived with gods for many years.”
“That is really, amazingly cool!”
“So, does that make me the coolest once more?”
I blew a raspberry at Rigmor then continued walking. Sorella’s giggles followed.
Just over an hour later, we came across the remains of an Oblivion Gate.
- Rigmor: Are your legs tired, Sorella?
- Sorella: Not much. This walk has been easier than climbing up and down the mountains near Falkreath.
- Rigmor: Well, my legs are tired, but we only have about one more hour before reaching Casius.
- Wulf: Sorella, have you ever climbed the nine thousand steps?
- Sorella: No, but I learnt about them at school and want to.
- Wulf: Rigmor got so tired climbing them with me, I had to piggyback her part of the way.
- Rigmor: Hey, I was still recovering from jumping off a cliff and going splat!
- Sorella: Is that when my Mum helped get you better?
- Rigmor: No, she helped me when I was shot with arrows. Wulf and a lady called Rose helped me that time. Rose was in the same prison where we found you, but she escaped by the time we got there.
- Sorella: Ah, why did you jump off a cliff?
- Wulf: Rigmor saw me, instantly fell in love, and then tried to get to me as fast as possible.
- Sorella: No way!
- Rigmor: Yeah, no way! I was trying to escape bad people with dogs who were chasing me.
- Sorella: Hey, is it true Casius herds goats from Hammerfell to Skyrim?
- Rigmor: Did your Dad tell you that? Oh, the gods.
- Sorella: Yeah, and he said that Casius gets lost all the time, and he has had to fetch him.
- Rigmor: Oh my…well when we meet him, don’t you go telling him that.
- Sorella: Ya, it’s true. When he first met Casius, Dad said he rescued him from a nomadic tribe who had eaten all his goats and had him working as a batman, fetching water from the well.
- Wulf: Probably had to empty their chamber pots as well!
- Rigmor: That’s so cute…oh my, I’m crying now. Your Dad and Casius are fearless soldiers who helped defeat the might of the Aldmeri Dominion here in Cyrodiil, not very far from here.
- Sorella: He never talks about that. He always changes the subject when I ask him about it.
- Wulf: Many retired soldiers do not want to talk about their wars. Sometimes they saw terrible things. Often they are afraid others won’t understand and judge them harshly.
- Rigmor: Then your Dad and Casius went on to help the people of Hammerfell. And then the people of Skyrim from a fate worse than death.
- Sorella: That is so totally cool.
- Wulf: Sorella, do you know what a General is?
- Sorella: Yeah, they tell many other soldiers what to do like when you were Guardian General in Skyrim.
- Wulf: That’s correct. Do you know who your Dad’s general was in Skyrim and Hammerfell?
- Sorella: No, because he never talks about those days.
- Wulf: His General was Ragnar, Rigmor’s Dad. He was a great hero as well.
- Sorella: No way!
- Wulf: Yeah way! Ragnar was also Casius’ General in Hammerfell.
- Rigmor: That is why Casius and your Dad helped us in Skyrim. They loved my Dad and promised to help me if I ever needed any.
- Sorella: My Mom told me horrible people killed your Dad. So, you had Wulf and Casius and my Dad to help you kill those people. My Dad said you kicked their arses.
- Rigmor: Yes, we did.
- Wulf: I got my foot stuck up their bum.
- Sorella: Hahahaha!
- Rigmor: Sorella, did you know Casius is a pirate?
- Sorella: WHOA!
- Rigmor: I’ve been on his ship.
- Sorella: No way!
- Rigmor: Yeah way! Do you know what, he is one of the kindest people I have ever met? Apart from your Dad, that is.
I had a sudden coughing fit which earned me one of ‘those stares’ from Rigmor. I just grinned and kept walking.
Meeko had been silent for almost the entire trek, but then he stopped and whined and wagged his tail.
“I can smell smoke. I think Meeko can smell Casius.”
Rigmor asked, “Why would he be happy to see Casius? They were hardly ever in the same place.”
“When Casius visited Sethri’s farm, I saw him give Meeko a good pat and scratch and some rations from his saddlebag.”
“Oh, so friends for life then!”
“Go on then, Meeko, go and scare Casius!”
Meeko darted ahead, Rigmor and Sorella ran after him laughing.
By the time I strolled into the camp, they were all sitting around a fire.
- Wulf: Greetings, Casius.
- Casius: Glad you could make it.
- Wulf: That is a superb set of armour. I guess it once belonged to a Blade Dancer?
- Casius: Yes, it was gifted to me after saving his family at the Brema River.
- Rigmor: It is much better than the pirate outfit!
- Casius: Hey, I am pretty fond of that armour, especially the hat!
- Rigmor: Oh, I am sorry to hear that.
- Casius: I should have thrown you overboard for laughing at it! Anyway, did you run into any trouble on the way?
- Wulf: Just one enemy patrol. We had no choice but to deal with them.
- Casius: I took it you concealed the bodies?
- Wulf: It wasn’t worth the time or effort as they would have soon detected a missing patrol. That was almost twelve hours ago, so I doubt they have any idea where we are.
- Casius: Good, make yourselves at home. We’ll rest here for a while. We need to be adequately prepared to cross the mountain ridge.
- Wulf: How is General Quintus?
- Casius: Quintus is well. I didn’t even need to persuade him. My marines have been incorporated into his Legion, and they await our arrival.
- Wulf: Do you know anything about the enemy positions?
- Casius: Sethri has infiltrated the area and should have some information ready for us when we return to the Legion encampment on the border.
- Wulf: Blackwell, Sethius’ Advisor, told me he knows what we are doing. He is content to let us take care of Morag and Table Mountain as that is not an act against the Emperor. As far as he is concerned, we are helping the Emperor by removing his wife.
- Casius: When did he tell you this?
- Sorella: That little Blackwell man wet his pants after Rigmor yelled at him. You should have heard her! Swear words and everything!
- Wulf: This young lady who is also a sticky beak is Sorella, Yngol’s daughter and Rigmor’s little sister.
- Sorella: Sticky beak? I could have heard her from Skyrim!
- Casius: Welcome, Sorella. I have not seen you since you were a little girl. I bet you don’t remember me as it was quite some time ago. You are very brave coming all this way.
- Sorella: Hi Casius, Rigmor says that you know my Dad.
- Casius: Indeed, do you want to hear how I met him?
- Rigmor: Here we go.
- Sorella: He told me about that. He said he saved you from a Nomadic Tribe that had eaten all your goats.
- Casius: Did he now? Actually, it’s slightly different from that, not much, but do you want me to tell you the whole story?
- Sorella: Oh, would you, please?
- Casius: It’s a long story, let me see. It was a cold dark night. We had been attached to the Forth Legion patrolling the road between the Imperial City and Bravil. Then all of a sudden, a citizen comes running up to us, out of nowhere. ‘Quick!’ says he, ‘Come swiftly, they’re all dead!’ ‘Who is dead, good sir?’ asks I, but he runs off in the direction he came, and we followed as quickly as we could trying to peer into the darkness. Our torches ablaze, our hands sweating. We gripped tightly to the hilts of our swords, not knowing what danger could appear in the darkening gloom. Then we arrived at what appeared to be a chicken farm. There was carnage everywhere. Dead chickens and parts of dead chickens strewn left and right. We thought, what could have done this…this terrible crime. It was terrifying. ‘We have caught the culprit!’ says he, ‘Come this way!”. We drew our swords, expecting the worst, frightened for our lives…and slowly we moved forward, not knowing what was to befall us. Beads of sweat ran into our eyes from furrowed brows, and there it was. Indeed, the culprit was caught red-handed with some of the chickens still in his pockets. Your father, in the stocks. From then on, he was always known as ‘The Fox’.
- Sorella: Whoa! What happened then?
- Casius: I…I don’t know if I should tell you.
- Wulf: It is okay, Casius. Sorella is a fearless girl!
- Casius: Alright, Sorella, I think you need to know even though it was awful. They…they beat him with sticks and then let him go.
- Sorella: You’re kidding, right?
- Casius: No, no, it’s the truth. Make sure you ask him about it when you get home.
- Rigmor: Come on, Sorella, let’s get some sleep. We need to be well-rested. Did you eat?
- Sorella: I am full of those rations that Wulf gave us. Will you stay with me, in my tent?
- Rigmor: Sure. We had better go powder our noses first!
- Sorella: I’ll get the shovel and paper.
Sorella and Rigmor disappeared into the bushes to do some nose powdering.
- Casius: So, what did Yngol say about all this? I bet he wasn’t happy.
- Wulf: No, he wasn’t happy, but he knew Sorella needed to fulfil her part, and he had inside information we would ask for help with the siege.
- Casius: How’s the siege?
- Wulf: The New Imperials are nothing but common bandits. The Leyawiin guards were not much better. We wiped the field with them with three deaths and a few minor injuries on our side. In less than five minutes, we broke the siege and captured the foulest piece of shit on Nirn, also known as Ser Robere, the Count’s son.
- Casius: Now that was a gift from the gods. I take it they’re sitting in the valley twiddling their thumbs?
- Wulf: Yes, that is why Blackwell paid a visit. He is the best political mind in Tamriel, and Rigmor tore him to shreds. I have never been prouder of her.
- Casius: You will have to fill me in when walking tomorrow, Wulf. Not only about Rigmor’s tearing apart of Blackwell, but also how you routed an army in five minutes.
- Wulf: This whole nobility crap makes me want to heave.
- Casius: Welcome to civilisation Dragonborn, where brother sets upon brother, father against son. Children are used as pawns to buy power and influence.
- Wulf: Not just children, Casius. Rigmor’s advisors tried to reduce her to one of their polite ladies and measured her worth by what noble husband she could attract.
- Casius: Wouldn’t Rigmor have lost her title to whomever she married?
- Wulf: If they had a dick, yes. That is the stupidest law amongst many I have seen in Cyrodiil. Wait, it is the second stupidest after Rigmor was convicted of being a usurper because of Mede blood. Idiots!
Just then, Rigmor came walking over and handed me a red mountain flower. Then she leaned over and gave me a long kiss on the lips. Rigmor laughed, then said, “I found the flower near where we powdered our noses. They are never far away from us, are they? Goodnight Casius. Goodnight, my Dragonborn.”
“Goodnight, my beloved, and Sorella, you had better wipe that big grin off your face before the wind changes and you get stuck like that!”
Rigmor and Sorella walked to their tent, whispering and giggling.
- Casius: I assume the not-so-secret romance is not a secret at all. Zan told me, but I already knew in Skyrim. I suspected, but when you almost throttled me when I pushed Rigmor too far, I knew for sure.
- Wulf: You were being a complete bastard.
- Casius: Yes, but I was worried about what was at stake. Still, that is a poor excuse.
- Wulf: With The New Order, it was clear who the enemy was. Much better than this quagmire of shifting alliances.
- Casius: That could have gone against us. I dread to think about how things might be if we lost that battle. That was a bloody day.
- Wulf: The way Imperial Legionnaires and Stormcloaks fought side by side was both inspirational and sad. It was then I knew I had to deal with Ulfric quickly before more people died for his megalomania.
- Casius: After the battle, you had to say goodbye to Rigmor. I know there must have been unavoidable reasons and that it must have hurt both of you.
- Wulf: I was insane for most of a day, Casius. I was lost in a paradox of duty and love. I managed to drag myself out of the darkness but needed more help to get on my horse and continue with my duties.
- Casius: Anything else before I retire?
- Wulf: Yngol has asked that you forego leading your men into battle and personally guard Sorella. I promised I would not let her partake unless you agreed to this.
- Casius: If anybody else asked, even you, I would say no and insist that my place was with my men. But for that Old Fox, it shall be so. I’ll also have my marines place a ring of steel around us both.
- Wulf: I knew you would. When we have cleared the way, you are to bring Sorella. She is to take her shots, and when one hits, you are to remove her immediately. I will have Bostin moored outside the entrance to Table Mountain. You are not to wait for us but board Bostin immediately. A mage will fly you to Quintus’ camp, and from there, you will be in Falkreath in two hours. Sorella will be safe at home with Angi within three hours of doing what is needed.
- Casius: Where she belongs, where all little girls belong. Not here. The gods are foul beasts and should take their place amongst monsters and demons.
- Wulf: Our gods, The Nine, fight a continuous war against those who would enslave or kill all mortals. They sacrificed much to create all you see and continue to sacrifice for its protection. Yet you sit there and call them foul beasts! You know how it works in war, Casius. Sometimes people and even cities are sacrificed when strategy demands. Titus Mede II abandoned the Imperial City to the mercy of the Thalmor when strategy called for it! When The Divines were faced with a choice of putting a child in danger or letting Molag Bal turn Nirn into a living hell, what do you think the strategic choice is?
- Casius: I apologise.
- Wulf: You place the blame on the gods when most evil I have encountered has nothing to do with them at all. All of those children in my orphanages result from mortals being evil simply because that is their nature. Men and Mer need no god whispering in their ears to perform the foulest of deeds. Those who do obey gods still have free will. Morag could say no to Molag Bal, and unless in Coldharbour, he could do squat about it. I am not controlled by The Divines and do their bidding out of choice, and lucky for you, I have. Several times I have saved every man, woman and child on Nirn via guidance from The Divines and the gifts given to me by Lord Akatosh.
- Casius: I said I apologise. But from the layman’s perspective, the gods seem distant and callous.
- Wulf: What god caused the massacre at Brema River? What god caused the Great War or Skyrim Civil War. No god told the Nords to exterminate the Snow Elves or Ayleid. No god has told Count Bruce de Medalius and his son to declare war on Bruma.
- Casius: I did not intend to upset you.
- Wulf: Until mortals take responsibility for their actions, we will never have lasting peace.
- Casius: You had better get some rest. We leave at dawn.
- Wulf: As on your ship, Casius, I am but a junior in rank. You know the territory and the way. Bark orders like a drill sergeant, and I will immediately obey.
- Casius: Oh, I will certainly be doing that. Goodnight, Wulf.
- Wulf: Goodnight, Casius. I will be up a while writing but don’t worry. I will get plenty of sleep.
I finished writing some journal entries when I noticed Meeko had made a new friend.
“Meeko, I will be very disappointed if your little friend gets turned into a midnight snack or morning meal!”
“Okay, I shouldn’t have questioned your intentions and apologise. Will a scratch behind ear be sufficient compensation?”
Meeko enjoyed his ear scratch then I headed to my tent.
I know not what time I fell asleep.