Loredas, 25th Sun’s Dawn, 4E 205
I was up at 5:30 AM and had prepared breakfast before Casius crawled out of his tent.
“Wulf, what is that wonderful smell?”
“Bacon, eggs and coffee. The essentials of life!”
“Ahh, where did you get those?”
“From Silverpeak Lodge, my house halfway up The Throat of the World. I collected the eggs from our chickens. We leave supplies outside where they are permanently frozen, so the bacon is fresh. Coffee I have started carrying everywhere.”
“Well, you had better wake the ladies if we are not going to rush breaking our fast.”
Rigmor popped her head out of her tent and said, “No need. Nobody can remain asleep once the smell of bacon reaches them! And Wulf, stop teleporting!”
“I only do it in emergencies!”
Half an hour later, we had scoffed down our food, powdered our noses and were ready to start the day’s trek.
- Casius: Sorella, you are with me.
- Sorella: Just remember that I have shorter legs!
- Wulf: Your armour will let you keep up.
- Casius: I will take point. Wulf, keep about ten paces behind. Rigmor, follow close behind Wulf.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: You do your roaming thing, Meeko. Run ahead if you want but not too far as something or somebody might sneak up from behind.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Casius: Rigmor, does Wulf always talk to Meeko?
- Rigmor: Of course. Meeko is not a dog, according to Wulf.
- Wulf: He would be the oldest in the world if he were a dog!
- Sorella: He helped me when I first lost my parents.
- Rigmor: Yes, he has a way of making sad children happy and lets them cry into his fur if they are really sad.
- Sorella: Casius, Wulf said you once gave Meeko rations from your saddlebag.
- Casius: Yes, I did. I knew he had been guarding Rigmor and Sigunn. I recognised him immediately when he came bounding towards me last night.
- Wulf: Any advice before we start, Casius?
- Casius: We will keep a steady pace and try not to falter. There should be no talking to conserve energy for the climb ahead.
- Wulf: Silence will help Meeko hear any trouble as well.
- Casius: I have placed provisions in safe places along the way. They will allow us to pause and gather our strength if anyone feels weak or needs to rest.
- Wulf: The dweomer I have placed on Rigmor’s and Sorella’s armour will allow them to run for days if need be. However, the thinner air can cause dizziness if you overexert yourself.
- Casius: Can you place a dweomer on my armour?
- Wulf: No, I don’t have the equipment here.
- Rigmor: And I forbid you to teleport again, you idiot!
- Casius: What is wrong with Wulf teleporting?
- Rigmor: It is a long story, but The Divines warned him not to until he is fully recovered from being dead for three years!
- Wulf: Almost dead is more accurate.
- Rigmor: Well, it is obvious your brain is not working.
- Wulf: But Rigmor…Yummy bacon!
- Sorella: Yeah, yummy bacon!
- Casius: Oh, just the thought of that yummy bacon is bliss!
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Okay, okay. Yummy bacon is worth risking your life to obtain!
- Casius: Let’s move out!
We had gone some distance before I beckoned Sorella to pass me and take up her agreed position.
We stopped at the edge of a cliff.
Down below was the Brena River. In the distance was Quintus’ camp. An Imperial Galleon was moored at its docks.
- Casius: There it is, the Brena River.
- Rigmor: By the gods, Casius, what a view!
- Casius: The last time I was there, the view wasn’t so good.
- Wulf: Rigmor, down below is where Casius first met your Father. Casius tried to defend many thousands of Redguard civilians fleeing from a Thalmor army. Defenceless Men, Woman and Children were systematically slaughtered despite Casius and his men’s heroic efforts. Then Ragnar arrived with his berserkers and slaughtered the murdering scum without mercy or pause. From that point on, Casius was Ragnar’s man body and soul.
- Sorella: No wonder my Dad never talks about wars.
- Rigmor: Oh my, that was down there?
- Casius: Yes, and I swore I would never get near the place ever again. But as Wulf said a few days ago, I am escorting Ragnar’s daughter and a real Son of Talos. That will make it more bearable, I think.
- Wulf: You are another person who has seen the worst traits of mortals yet retains the best.
- Casius: I chose to wear this armour as a reminder that a family continued to live, and I hope they prospered because of what we did that day.
- Rigmor: Through you, Casius, I get glimpses of my Dad.
- Casius: He, too, was a good person who dealt with the worse.
- Wulf: It is often said that old soldiers value peace and a simple life more than others.
- Rigmor: That is why, my dear Dragonborn, we shall have that farm one day.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko, you can live on the farm.
- Meeko: Woof? Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, Roskr and Hashire can also live on the farm.
- Sorella: Is Roskr still with you?
- Wulf: He sure is, and we still can’t remove his backpack without him crying about it.
- Sorella: Maybe Casius can talk to him. After all, he is the goat expert. Hahaha!
- Rigmor: Hahaha!
- Casius: If you ladies have finished?
- Wulf: I see one lady and one Countess.
- Rigmor: You won’t see anything if I punch you.
- Casius: Up ahead is a rest spot. We will spend some time there before we start our descent. We are near the river’s source as it cascades down into the valley. We follow that and cross to the south side at the bottom.
About half an hour later, we reached the small rest spot.
“Come, take the weight off your legs. We can afford a quick respite. Sorella, eat something, please. Build your strength for the descent.”
As Sorella and Casius sat eating and chatting, Rigmor said, “Come on, Dragonborn, I want to see the view.”
“Yes, Milady, as you command.”
I stood next to Rigmor as she enjoyed the view.
I asked her, “How are you doing, my love?”
“I’m good. Isn’t it amazing here, Wulf! You could almost imagine it was all a dream and that we’re, I dunno, tourists?”
“It is beautiful, magnificent, and gorgeous, and I love what I am seeing. The view isn’t bad either.”
“Ha de haha. I love you too but look, Wulf, really look.”
“I am, and it is marvellous.”
“I could see that you were enjoying this, I dunno, expedition. But since we reached this place, you seem disturbed.”
Rigmor walked over and sat on a rock.
I sat on another and tried to look cheerful for her.
She asked, “You are worried about something. Come on, Wulf, what is it?”
“I get the feeling the way my Father’s avatar spoke to me that we are being forced into a direction The Divines want. They have predicted how I will react and are confident of what choices I will make. But what if you disagree with my choice as I am positive it is us or nothing? Or what if my Dovah decides to choose for me and it is not what they want?”
“Is there something your father said that is worrying you the most?”
“Yes. Father said, ‘Have faith and trust in The Nine. Rigmor will need to know the truth, and both of you must decide as one. If your love for each other is true and the bond between you unbreakable, then anything is possible.’”
“Well, you told me straight away about the risk, according to Freathof. Silah explained why your Father could not give you a promise of absolute safety for me whilst in a temple. So, I know the truth, and we have chosen to have children.”
“But is the risk of your death at childbirth what he was referring to?”
“Oh, so there might be something else we have to choose together?”
“The word chosen is used for both titles ‘The Chosen Queen’ and ‘The Chosen One’. Who chooses? Have The Divines nominated you to be The Chosen Queen, and there is nothing we can do about it? According to Morag Sethius and what I believe about mortal free will, that is not the case.”
“Yes, you said you think that you get to choose.”
“But if that is right, then we haven’t decided as one. I have, by myself.”
“Ahh…so you might choose The Chosen Queen, but we have to decide together about The Chosen One.”
“If we conceive a child, it will carry Akatosh’s blessing. Perhaps we must choose if it keeps that blessing. If we say no, it will have the blessing somehow removed.”
“The Divines would have to explain to us what the consequences are of that decision if we are to make an informed one.”
“So, do we get to choose if our child is the one to stop the wars and pestilence? Do we have to agree that our child will carry that burden?”
“Oh! I can see why that would worry you.”
“You have difficulty accepting the burden placed on you. Would you accept our child being burdened with such responsibilities?”
“I would need to decide based on what we are told.”
“This is all speculation, but it is logical, and that is why I worry.”
“We will deal with it if and when it happens, my dear Wulf.”
“I hope The Nine do not lose faith in me as mine in them is being sorely tested.”
“Hey, we always find a way no matter the problem.”
Casius called for us, and we rejoined him and Sorella.
A while later, Meeko snarled, and I noticed a ransacked carriage and dead civilians in the distance. I used zoom-vision to have a closer look.
I yelled out, “There must be raiders, bandits or whatever you call them around here. Slow down while I summon some help. Sorella, do not leave my side if we are attacked.”
I summoned two Dremora Lords.
When we were near the ransacked carriage, both Dremora Lords and Meeko detected the enemy and ran to engage. Rigmor and Casius joined them. I shouted Slow Time and made sure Sorella was beside me.
Soon, a dozen bandits lay dead. Sorella did not have to kill any of them.
- Sorella: Who are those tall people with the horns?
- Wulf: They are Dremora Lords from Oblivion. Many of the Daedric Princes use them as soldiers. When I summon them, their laws say they must obey and defend me. I don’t force them to do so.
- Sorella: Are they evil?
- Wulf: They are neither good nor evil as such. They may be ordered to commit evil, which they would do because they have never been allowed to exercise free will. The occasional one will realise they don’t have to obey their superiors, but that is a dangerous thing for them to do. Many will find pleasure in committing evil acts.
- Sorella: And you went all blurry during the fight.
- Wulf: I used a special kind of magic called The Thu’um or The Voice. One of its spells let me move much faster than those around me. Therefore, I looked like I was moving fast to you, but everybody else was moving very slowly to me.
- Rigmor: When Wulf talks while using that spell, he sounds squeaky. Like if a mouse could talk.
- Sorella: Thank you, everybody. I did not have to kill.
- Rigmor: We don’t want you to kill anybody, Sorella. It is not something a twelve-year-old should experience.
- Sorella: Meeko is like all three of you. He is charming and kind but can kill efficiently.
- Wulf: And he dislikes it as much as we three.
- Casius: It has been years since I saw you wield a sword, Rigmor. It seems the quiet life of a Countess has not dulled your skill.
- Rigmor: Wulf said the same, and I find it strange as I hadn’t even done my sword forms for years.
- Wulf: I have never encountered better with the greatsword.
- Casius: We still have a way to go, so let’s move on.
A couple of hours later, we reached another resting place.
Casius said, “Okay, let us rest up a bit. Sorella, take the weight off your legs. Please eat and drink something.”
Sorella and Casius made themselves comfortable on a log. I found a rock to place my backside on while Rigmor sat on a stump.
Rigmor whispered, “We might not get a chance for, you know, for some time.”
“Yeah, but I think I know of a way to accomplish my goal.”
“You are incorrigible!”
Rigmor stood before Casius and Sorella.
- Rigmor: Hey, it is just amazing here. Look at that waterfall and pool! Casius, can we please stay for a little longer?
- Casius: Of course, we don’t have far to go now. We can take our time.
- Rigmor: I might take the opportunity of bathing in the pool.
- Casius: I’m not sure that is a good idea, Rigmor. There are raiders in these hills.
- Rigmor: That’s okay. I will take Wulf with me, and he can watch my things, oh, and protect me.
- Casius: Well, if you must. Be careful as the water is icy cold.
- Sorella: Mum and Dad usually send me to the market with some spending money and instructions not to return for an hour or more.
- Casius: What was that, Sorella?
- Sorella: Nothing, Casius. I don’t want to destroy your innocence.
- Rigmor: Come on, Wulf. I need to freshen up, and you, Sorella, need to stop grinning if you don’t mind!
- Wulf: Meeko, stay here and guard Sorella. I will look after Rigmor.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: I don’t care what you think we plan on doing.
Rigmor and I ran to the waterfall and pool.
I stopped and stared at something I could not fathom. There was a Shrine of Mara in the oddest of places.
I strolled towards it and stopped, then stared at Lady Mara. My intuition told me something was not quite right about the statue.
“Hey, Wulf, it looks like this shrine has been attended to recently.”
“Rigmor, there is something strange about it. Please don’t approach it.”
“Well, you know more about these things than me, so I won’t.”
“The steps and circle are of Ayleid construction. There are Ayleid blocks strewn along the path. I wonder if there was a temple here when the Ayleid ruled this region. Before the majority of them turned to the Dark Lords.”
“Well, there could be ruins underneath us, but the entrance is lost with time.”
“Do you see the gold on the statue? In my experience, that is almost always scrapped off by those less enamoured of The Nine or desperate for money.”
“I did say it looks like it has been attended to recently.”
“True, I suppose the gold leaf can be redone by one skilled in the craft.”
“A pretty place like this was probably a popular choice for those getting married.”
“You see, you think of things that I would not. That is a perfectly logical reason for a Shrine of Mara to be here. If it were a popular place for knocking boots, it would be a shrine of Dibella.”
“Speaking of which, it is time to look after my stuff!”
I enjoyed watching Rigmor disrobe. It is not so easy to take off armour by yourself, but Rigmor can do anything when need beckons!
I watched her walk into the water, and then she said, “Brrr, Wulf. It’s freezing. I hope things don’t shrink too much!”
I was about to quickly undress and join her when a familiar voice spoke behind me.
“When you carry the load of others, as well as your own, The Nine shall help you carry your burden.”
I turned, and the older avatar of my Father stood to the right of the shrine with arms crossed.
I walked up to him.
“Father, this is an odd place to meet.”
“It is necessary.”
Rigmor yelled, “Wulf, are you joining me or not?”
“Rigmor cannot see you, can she?”
“But she does and calls out.”
“I am not you, Father. But Rigmor will persist so if you will excuse me for a moment.”
I yelled back, “Rigmor, please just do as I ask. Get out, get dressed and wait for me. Do not approach the shrine, and do not yell out or talk to me. I have to concentrate.”
Rigmor replied in a very disgruntled voice, “Okay, Wulf, but you better have a good reason for this weirdness!”
“Father, you know my major concern is the health of Rigmor.”
“She is in no danger from birthing a Dragonchild. She never was. However, there are always risks when bearing a child, which is natural. Mara can aid you both when the time comes. All Rigmor has to do is touch the shrine, and it will be so.”
“Are you saying that Rigmor is already with child?”
“Lady Mara can only bless what is already there to bless.”
“There is more to just helping Rigmor at childbirth, isn’t there? What do we agree to if Rigmor touches the shrine?”
“The Prophecy must be fulfilled. It is the will of The Nine.”
“You know I will never simply submit to what The Nine want without explanation. Therefore, tell me, what is the rest of Saint Alessia’s Prophecy?”
“A Dragonchild shall be born to reign over Tamriel in my name. She will be the first of many of her kind breaking the chains of despair. She will restore the light that shall burn brightly and purge the darkness from the land. Tamriel shall no longer be at the mercy of pestilence, war and decadence for eternity. Men and Mer shall be at peace and as one with the blessing of The Nine.”
“It will be fascinating to see how such a thing is to be achieved since the most powerful nation of Mer does not worship The Nine. As you are aware, most evil on Nirn has nothing to do with the will of gods. Therefore, the solution must address why mortals turn to evil. The Divines have been manipulating Rigmor and me, knowing well what our decisions on many matters would be.”
“You have always had choices.”
“Rigmor and I will decide what is best for our daughter. For her to be Empress, the path would currently require war. Such things we shall consider and the desires of The Nine will not take precedence over parental concerns. Neither will Rigmor or I compromise our morals.”
I walked down to Rigmor, who was looking confused and concerned.
“Wulf, what is going on here? Who were you talking to?”
“What did he have to say?”
“Let us approach the shrine and see if Lady Mara will talk to us. Then I can try and explain.”
We approached the shrine, and Lady Mara’s voice filled the air, and her love embraced us.
“Rigmor, you are pregnant and carrying a girl child.”
“Special Child, explain to Rigmor what your father told you.”
“Rigmor, it is the desire of The Nine, and I assume Saint Alessia, that our daughter will one day be Empress. She will also bear a Dragonchild, as will subsequent generations. Similar to how the descendants of Saint Alessia had Dragonblood. I do not know how, but this line of our descendants will remove pestilence, war and decadence for eternity. Men and Mer will live in harmony.”
“She will cure the curse that doesn’t exist.”
“Yes, there is no curse. There never could be a curse of such magnitude placed upon Nirn by any god. That is why I have no idea how our daughter and the following generations are supposed to achieve this admirable and desirable outcome. As I said to my Father, the reasons for mortals turning to evil would have to be removed.”
“We have discussed that before. The removal of poverty and the fair distribution of food and wealth would be needed. That seems impossible.”
“The Divines think otherwise.”
Rigmor asked, “Lady Mara, would we be committed to this course of action if I touch the shrine?”
Lady Mara replied, “No, Rigmor. If you decide not to allow this burden upon your child, touching the shrine will remove the blessing of Lord Akatosh. She would no longer be a Dragonchild. No matter what you decide, touching the shrine will allow me to bless the unborn further and ensure she is formed properly and without defects. Normally there is nothing that will reduce the natural dangers of childbirth. However, I have taken it upon myself to intervene in this single instance. To the right of the shrine are two rings. They will function the same as your old ones, but they will also enable me, if worn during childbirth, to ensure you and your child’s safety. The blessings of healthy gestation and childbirth, as well as the rings, are a gift, no matter your decision.”
I asked, “If our daughter is not The Chosen One, what will happen?”
“You and Rigmor becoming the ideal path to The Chosen One was not part of Lord Akatosh’s original plans. However, fortune presented us with a couple whose love is immeasurable and lineages so unique that they became our focus. We have options if you refuse this burden, but none are sure of success. What did your Father tell you in the temple?”
“Father said, ‘Have faith and trust in The Nine. Rigmor will need to know the truth, and both of you must decide as one. If your love for each other is true and the bond between you unbreakable, then anything is possible.’”
“Special Child, your Father said that in a house of truth. You and Rigmor must decide if you think your bond is strong enough to help your daughter carry the burden.”
“What has this to do with the blackness that none of you can see past?”
“The Chosen One or one of their descendants will make a choice that determines what happens past that blackness.”
“Rigmor, I shall tell you my choice and why. I will not love you less if you disagree.”
“Our love is true and the bond unbreakable. That has been shown by how I found you through time and planes. So together, we would be able to achieve whatever is required. I told Father that we would allow nothing to override our rights as parents to choose what is best for our daughter. We will always have free will. You know I desire nothing more than to protect the mortals of Nirn, no matter if they are good, evil, poor, rich or their race. Therefore, I want our daughter to be The Chosen One, as that will provide the Alessian Prophecy with the best chance of succeeding.”
“Wulf, you know they have manoeuvred us into this decision will full expectation that we would accept this burden. If the possible consequences weren’t so frightening, I would be tempted to tell them to shove it for playing their games, no different than that of the Cyrodiil nobles. I am willing to kill and keep on killing to fight against the injustices of Sethius and Morag, even though I detest killing. Therefore, I will also accept this burden because, as I said to Blackwell, it is right and just. We can’t leave this to others, and The Divines know that for a certainty.”
Lady Mara instructed, “Rigmor, by touching the shrine, you and Wulf are accepting the burden of The Chosen One being your daughter.”
Rigmor touched the shrine. I felt a surge of Magicka, and Rigmor said, “WOW!”
Lady Mara announced, “It is done. Wear your rings and know The Nine are pleased with your choice. And Special Child, please talk to me when you need to. I promise, no mumbo jumbo.”
Lady Mara’s presence faded away.
“Wulf, let us try the rings on!”
I looked down at them. The rings were of a different design than our previous ones, and both had a large heart as the central stone.
Rigmor grabbed the gold one, laughing and said, “Black simply does not go with my favourite outfits!”
Rigmor placed her ring on her left hand, and it automatically adjusted to the correct size.
I did the same with mine then held my hand close to hers.
“Rigmor, they work the same as the old ones!”
“Lady Mara just told you that, or weren’t you listening, as per usual?”
“Well, it is time to continue on our journey into danger, but I am terrified!”
“Terrified of Morag and her cronies?”
“No, as they will be mild compared to Sigunn when she finds out your pregnant.”
“Well, you might survive if you quickly ask her to bless our wedding.”
“I don’t have to hide in Sovngarde?”
“Come on, my silly Dragonborn, before Sorella thinks we are like rabbits.”
“Oh, I wonder if we will ever have to pay bribe money to have happy Mummy and Daddy alone time?”
“Get going, you idiot!”
“No throwing your new ring into the sea!”
“Don’t get lost for three years!”
“Rigmor, how are you feeling? Are you alright?”
“Yes, and I know why you weep.”
“We are going to have a little girl, and she will be perfect and oh so beautiful and…and….”
Rigmor embraced me, and we wept tears of joy, enveloped by our peace and a love more powerful than anything else in existence.
We finally finished our happy cry session, and I kissed my beloved on the hand.
We made our way to the top.
As soon as Casius saw us, he said, “Ah, Rigmor and Wulf are back. Let’s move on! Come Sorella, Quintus’ encampment is not that far away.”
The last part was downhill, and everybody sped up when the camp came into view.
I hesitated at the front gate. I knew that as soon as we entered the compound, Rigmor and I would be also be entering chaos.
I opened the gates and saw Zan and some real Legionnaires. Most Imperial Legions had adopted a blue colouring to differentiate themselves from the bandits called The New Imperial Army.
Rigmor rushed past me to greet Zan.
Rigmor yelled, “ZAN!”
Zan turned around with a smile and braced themself for Rigmor’s hug.
Rigmor finally let go, which allowed Zan to breathe again.
“Rigmor, I am so happy to see you safe and well. You too, Wulf.”
Zan moved over to where Casius and Sorella were standing.
Sorella looked at me and was nervous. I smiled at her, which seemed to give her confidence.
- Wulf: Zan, this young lady is Sorella.
- Sorella: Um…Hi, Zan.
- Zan: Hey, Sorella, you stick close to me, and I’ll look after you. Okay?
- Sorella: Okay.
- Wulf: Casius, I will get a report from Serana, summon some of The Sentinels and then visit Quintus. I assume he is in the command tent over there.
- Casius: That is his usual haunt. A tent has been made available for Rigmor and yourself opposite it. I’ll need to rally my men and gather them around me. Once the battle commences, I’ll follow you at a distance. When you deem the area safe, signal, and the scout will tell me to bring Sorella to take the shot.
- Wulf: The standard signal I use with The Sentinels is my right arm vertical and twice waved.
- Casius: I will make sure all my men know it.
- Wulf: What will you do once Sorella has taken a successful shot?
- Casius: Once the task has been done, I will immediately exit the ruins with Sorella. Once outside, I will board Bostin with her and any wounded.
- Wulf: Bostin will fly here and then prepare to teleport to Falkreath. Sorella will be back with Angi within three hours of exiting Table Mountain. While here, any wounded aboard Bostin will be tended to by Masters of Restoration.
- Casius: Good luck, Rigmor and Wulf.
- Rigmor: Thank you for everything, Casius.
Sorella was still a bit unsure. The noise and bustle of the camp may have been the cause. I walked up to her.
- Wulf: Rigmor, Meeko, and I have had so much fun having you with us, Sorella. Now it is time for Casius, Zan and his Marines to protect you.
- Sorella: You guys made the trip here so much fun.
- Wulf: Make sure you do everything Casius tells you. What we are doing is very dangerous, and your life may depend on it.
- Sorella: I promise I will.
- Wulf: Soon, you will have a chance to help those children.
- Sorella: Take me to where the Glass House is, and I’ll hit that Crystal, Wulf! I won’t miss it!
- Wulf: I know Sorella. I know.
- Casius: Come, Sorella, let’s prepare you for the task at hand.
- Zan: Hey, Sorella, do you want to hear some stories of pirates on the high seas?
- Sorella: Yeah! You, Zan, are so the coolest!
- Wulf: Hey!
- Meeko: Grrr!
- Sorella: It’s okay. You three can now be equal third coolest, after Zan and my Dad.
- Wulf: Yummy bacon!
- Rigmor: Stop trying to bribe Sorella.
- Zan: Come on, Sorella, follow me. I will catch you later, Rigmor. You can come and see us anytime over by our fire.
- Rigmor: I will visit if I get the chance.
Sorella followed Zan and Casius, then she suddenly stopped and turned to face us.
- Sorella: I don’t want to let you and Rigmor down, Wulf.
- Rigmor: Hey! We know that. When Casius tells you it is time to go, don’t look back, okay! Wulf and I can look after ourselves so don’t you worry.
- Sorella: Yeah, I know.
- Rigmor: And guess what! You will be getting a ride home in an airship. How cool is that! When this is over, we’ll come and visit you and do some fun things together.
- Sorella: Bye for now, then.
- Wulf: Blessings of The Divines on you and your family, Sorella.
I said to Rigmor, “Serana is over near the fire. Let’s see what she has to say.”
- Wulf: It is good to see you, Serana.
- Serana: I have heard some disturbing things about a bipedal Dovah going wild and wiping out an army.
- Rigmor: That is my fault. I kinda provoked his dragon a bit.
- Wulf: No, Rigmor, it was not your fault. I should have been able to contain him, but my mortal half is still weak.
- Rigmor: His eyes turned black with flames in the middle! Cool, but scary.
- Serana: I am sure we will get the full story soon. Meantime, I have approached the entrance to Table Mountain as close as I dare. Invisibility is good against mortals, but some vampires can use heat-vision. It is useful when hunting prey.
- Wulf: What can you tell us.
- Serana: Common bandits, what the locals call Raiders, are at the bottom. There are quite a few, but you two and us Sentinels should be able to dispose of them without a pause.
- Wulf: Most likely, they act as mercenaries rather than hoping for a cut of any loot.
- Serana: The Raiders have provided a steady stream of civilians. I don’t know what they are being used for, labour, food, or both.
- Rigmor: They probably work them to death then devour them.
- Serana: The are many well-armed and armoured mercenaries at the top. They are the last line of defence whose task is to prevent entrance to the ruins.
- Wulf: Any idea where they hired them?
- Serana: I think most of them are survivors of The New Order.
- Wulf: Mmm…Sethius was pushing the boundaries having bandits suddenly become Imperial Legions. There would be uproar if he put enemy invaders from Alinor in Imperial uniforms. Still, the mercenaries will be paid with Empire gold.
- Serana: There are three types of vampires inside. The weakest are Vampiric Defilers. They are the type that you encountered in The Bloodlet Throne. They are barely above feral status and not Daywalkers. They cannot cause affliction. The next type is the Imperial Legionnaires from the failed invasion mixed in with others stranded on Akavir. It seems they have been named The Remnants. They are Daywalkers. Many are Spellswords. Remnant Blood Magic and fighting skills are far superior to those of the Vampiric Defilers, and they can cause affliction. The third and last type is the Tsaesci vampires. They are ancient and quite strong in Blood Magic and can also cause affliction. None of the vampire types possesses a fraction of the power that members of my family had and still have in the case of Valerica.
- Wulf: I will summon the rest of your squad, Celestine’s squad and Inigo. For the duration of the battle, I will summon the Mages from the College. They will stay aboard Bostin and provide piloting and Restoration skills.
- Serana: Are you going to be the Commander in Chief for the battle?
- Wulf: Yes, I will insist. Two squads of Sentinels accompanying Rigmor and me should make it to the ruins quickly and only leave a few troops for those following to eliminate.
- Serana: The Legionnaires here are top quality, and so are Casius’ marines. It should be an easy battle to the top, but who knows what number of vampires we will face inside.
- Rigmor: All the undead will be destroyed, Serana. Morag Sethius’ arse and my sword are destined to meet.
- Wulf: We will attack at first light. I will leave Serana to figure out the details, but once we reach the chamber where The Bridge of Sighs resides, The Sentinels will return here.
- Serana: That Bridge of Sighs is a complete mystery. Valerica has never heard of anything similar, and she has been practising necromancy for a thousand years. Celestine told me that the College of Winterhold has come up with zilch when researching it, and even The Explorers Guild is clueless.
- Wulf: If the predicted Oblivion Gate comes to pass and Molag Bal makes an appearance, I will be sure to say hello to him for you.
- Serana: When you hit him with Scourge, make sure it is a powerful blow to his balls!
- Wulf: If I get a chance. I might be too busy avoiding being stepped on to care where I hit him!
Serana walked over the fire to warm herself, which has been something she has enjoyed since becoming mortal.
I summoned the two Sentinel squads and Inigo.
“Inigo, I apologise for my Dovah’s abruptness. I promise we shall sit and have a good talk after this battle is over.”
“I understand, my friend. This place is full of people running around and barking orders left, right and centre. I imagine the chaos in your head is no different.”
Rigmor asked, “How is Mr Dragonfly?”
“Hello again, Rigmor. Mr Dragonfly is very excited. He enjoys large battles, such as the one in Evermor. Sometimes he is a bit strange when it comes to danger. He often says how much fun our two battles with Alduin were.”
“I look forward to having you by my side once more, Inigo.”
“I look forward to seeing you chop enemies in two with that greatsword of yours. I have missed that entertainment the last three years!”
Rigmor and I made our way over to Lydia.
“Lydia, just the person I need. I have some burdens to carry!”
“It seems that three years dead was not enough to grow a sense of humour, My Thane.”
Rigmor piped up and said, “Let me summarise what we plan; otherwise, Quintus will die of old age. Wulf says we will attack at first light. The Sentinels and us two at the front, both up the mountain and inside the ruins. Serana can brief you on the opposition. Once we enter the chamber containing the Bridge of Sighs, The Sentinels are to return here. The mages from the College will take care of Bostin and the wounded.”
I said, “Well done, Rigmor!”
“Yes, I know, now let’s go see Quintus!”
I could hear Lydia laughing as I followed Rigmor to the command tent.
I was not overly surprised to see Sethri also in attendance. Rigmor and I sat, then the discussion began.
- Quintus: Greetings Guardian General, Countess. At last, The Divines have answered my prayers.
- Wulf: You haven’t aged, General Quintus. I am glad to see some of you still trust The Nine. I hope you have been keeping well.
- Quintus: As well as can be expected. It has been a long time, and please call me Quintus.
- Wulf: And I insist on being called Wulf. It is a pity this reunion is not under more pleasant circumstances.
- Rigmor: And I like to be called Rigmor. The first to call me princess or make jokes about royalty will get my boot up their arse!
- Wulf: I would leave your boot there too long with Sethri.
- Rigmor: Yeah, lucky this meeting is in a tent with fresh air blowing through it.
- Quintus: The heroine of The Battle of Whiterun will never be mistaken for a soft princess.
- Rigmor: Ahh, thanks, I think.
- Quintus: Sethri has told me all there is to know about our task at hand. He has explained what evil has been plaguing our lands and the reason behind it.
- Wulf: I have fought much evil in many forms. What we face here is the worst! Innocent children are sacrificed for a Morag’s vanity, and citizens are provided to the Akaviri as food. I am keen to end it and get revenge on her and that enemy of The Divines, Molag Bal.
- Quintus: I couldn’t figure it out at first. Why would the Emperor, so-called, send me to this region? The Raiders we were meant to prevent were protected with immunity.
- Wulf: They are probably old friends of our Bandit King.
- Quintus: They come into Cyrodiil, and we prevent further excursions, but we are not allowed to follow them back to their base, which is at the very foot of Table Mountain. Morag Sethius informed me that crossing the border was irregular and could be seen as an act of war. The real reason is all too sinister and depraved. I thought they were slavers at first. Now it is clear. Their spoils mostly comprised of people. People that go into that mountain and never come out. What a fool I have been.
- Wulf: Quintus, how were you to know? You have no experience with the likes of Morag Sethius and Molag Bal. Most decent people don’t recognise this level of depravity till somebody points it out. You would think of a million other reasons before you concluded such evil exists.
- Quintus: Casius told me you were coming. My sword is yours to command.
- Wulf: You had better be prepared to fulfil that pledge wholeheartedly. There is nobody else on Nirn with my experience dealing with gods and their minions. I will not be second-guessed, or my orders questioned. Are you willing to hand the fate of your troops to me, Quintus?
- Quintus: Yes, Wulf. I believe The Divines sent you.
- Wulf: Yes, they did. Quintus, you will be helping not just The Empire but all mortals on Nirn. That usurper on the Ruby Throne is not yet our enemy, but his wife is. The Nine are with us, and we will prevail.
- Rigmor: What is up there, Sethri?
- Sethri: An army of leeches, Rigmor. At the foot of the mountain, there’s a considerable force of Raiders. They do the dirty work like rounding up people and sending them into ‘The Pits’. Further up, there is a small battalion of mercenaries defending the ruins.
- Rigmor: What are ‘The Pits’?
- Sethri: Some ancient Ayleid ruins are on the top of the mountain, but they lead deeper into the earth. To an ante-chamber where they keep the ‘Bridge of Sighs’. The Pits are winding catacombs where, as I said, the army of leeches are located, vampiric defilers. We now know they are Akaviri, human remnants. The people are harvested there. Not only that, the soul gem is protected by Tsaesci sergeants, led by General Oxi-Amaka. Oddly enough, he is the only one we can name as the others just have numbers.
- Wulf: You are a bit inaccurate there, Sethri. You really should have compared notes with Serana. After all, she was once a Daughter of Coldharbour and far more powerful than Morag Sethius.
- Quintus: Serana used to be a Daughter of Coldharbour?
- Wulf: Yes, it is a long story about her becoming mortal. But Serana says there are three types of vampires. The Vampiric Defilers are weak, cannot walk in sunlight and cannot cause affliction. They are mortals who caught Sanguinare Vampiris and are what I eliminated in The Bloodlet Throne. The tougher ones are The Remnants. They are Legionnaires left behind after the disastrous Imperial invasion of Akavir and those souls shipwrecked on the islands. They are more potent with weapons and Blood Magic than the Defilers and can cause affliction. The third type is the Tsaesci vampires. They are very ancient and powerful, and needless to say, they too can cause affliction.
- Casius: What do you know of General Oxi-Amaka?
- Wulf: Nothing. Oxi designates he is a Sword Master. His worth as a general is unknown to me, but the Akaviri have historically been excellent strategists. So far, the Oxi I have faced have lasted mere seconds when crossing swords.
- Rigmor: Wulf took the helmet off an Oxi to show me. He looked like a giant Argonian whose face lost a fight with a stone wall.
- Sethri: I’ll take your word for it. They are ugly enough with their helmets on!
- Wulf: How many do you think there are?
- Sethri: I lost count.
- Wulf: Large numbers of Akaviri tends to suggest they are forward troops. To scout around before the planned invasion and cause havoc behind the lines.
- Quintus: Waiting for the moment to come. The age of the serpent.
- Wulf: Historically, not all Akaviri are hostile. We even had a Tsaesci Emperor, and I was trained on Akavir! I am wondering if this is a splinter group like The New Order? That is useless speculation, so for now, let us concentrate on tomorrow.
- Quintus: You were trained on Akavir?
- Wulf: For six years, I think. Anyway, let’s get down to business, Quintus.
- Quintus: Yes, of course. When Casius arrived several days ago, we discussed the offensive. First, we had the problem of the river. I travelled to Anvil and persuaded the Count to allow me to build a pontoon. You saw it as you arrived. I told him it was prudent to have a forward warning post connected to the main camp. Or course, none of the nobles here in the Gold Coast know anything about the truth. I told him it was imperative and it would stop the slavers.
- Wulf: Even if the useless pieces of shit, I mean the nobles, were told the truth, it would just become another factor in their endless political game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the more enterprising ones hedge their bets and form a deal with Molag Bal himself.
- Sethri: You’re probably right, Wulf. I told you in Whiterun that I haven’t seen anything civilised in Cyrodiil.
- Rigmor: Hey, I’m civilised. I still prefer to chop people in half over playing politics!
- Sethri: My apologies, Rigmor. You are a shining light of civility amongst the perfumed prats!
- Rigmor: I try.
- Sethri: Quintus has been sending frequent patrols. We don’t think it has caused the enemy to become suspicious. Twenty troops go out, and ten troops come back.
- Quintus: Half of my troops are already on the Hammerfell side of the river. They are good soldiers, Wulf. They are loyal, and Casius’ arrival has bolstered morale. Many are from his old legion. Now you and Rigmor are here, and our soldiers are ready and await your command.
- Wulf: As you can see, I am not wearing Imperial armour. I am representing The Divines in this battle, and this armour was crafted for me by Lord Akatosh. The sword I wield was made by my Father, Tiber Septim.
- Rigmor: Wulf also has to repair his Guardian General armour after single-handedly destroying Ser Robere’s army.
- Quintus: We hear these things and doubt their authenticity as they seem like poor plots in cheap fiction.
- Wulf: They are accurate, Quintus. Unlike the bullshit Alessian Prophecy that I have no doubt Sethri repeated as told him by Freathof, one of Rigmor’s advisors.
- Sethri: As a matter of fact, Wulf, Azura has already informed me of its bullshit components. However, she insisted that its purpose was true.
- Rigmor: We learnt more of the prophecy on our walk from Bruma. Defeating Morag Sethius and Molag Bal is one small part of it, Sethius. The rest we shall disclose at an appropriate time.
- Wulf: It seems you and Casius are an excellent strategy team once again. I assume this map in front of me is a plan of their defences?
- Quintus: Yes, and as you can see, the raiders have a base camp at the foot of the mountain. We need to force our way through to access the rampart that leads to the top.
- Wulf: The quicker we smash through, the fewer casualties from archers further up. The Sentinels, Rigmor and I will be at the forefront of the attack. I doubt there will be much for your men to mop up after my Thu’um and the Master Destruction Mages have ripped through their ranks. Oh, I will also invite a special guest that will infuriate any Mer that face us.
- Quintus: And who would that be?
- Wulf: An avatar of Shor, or Lorkhan to the Mer.
- Rigmor: He is very tall and muscular and uses The Voice.
- Sethri: Are you inviting your scaly friends to help, Wulf?
- Wulf: No, and for the same reason that I am minimising the use of College mages. In the unlikely event that we lose, retribution against our allies would be swift. The College of Winterhold would be destroyed. Dragons would once again be hunted. No, we shall win at Table Mountain and Bruma with the smallest force possible. That has been my aim.
- Quintus: I agree. This inter-county confrontation could so quickly turn into an Empire-wide civil war.
- Wulf: Serana said many of the Remnants are Spellswords. Have any other mages been sighted?
- Sethri: No.
- Quintus: At the top, the Ayleid ruins are protected by mercenaries. A company-sized unit mainly consisting of Elven renegades and a few Orcs. They have been there since I arrived. Probably remnants of the New Order. The Raiders also supply them.
- Wulf: The Orc mercenaries we fought on the way to the Silas’ tower were pretty good. But they haven’t faced The Sentinels before in force, so they are in for a shock.
- Sethri: Once we hit the Raider camp, we hope the mercs will think that one of Quintus’ patrols strayed too deep and ignore us.
- Wulf: Unless Quintus’ patrols shoot fireballs and use the Thu’um, they will know who is coming within seconds. They probably have strict orders to stay in a particular area, so I doubt we shall see them running at us as we battle the Raiders. It doesn’t matter. You are a mage, Sethri, and you know the more enemies that clump together, the more enemies that die together.
- Sethri: True enough, Wulf, true enough.
- Wulf: The College mages have made supplies of the affliction cure. Many of our troops may need it after the battle.
- Sethri: Yes, it has been distributed. It doesn’t work so well on the weapons, though, as it is not viscous enough to stay, and anything the mages tried adding to make it stickier stops it working.
- Wulf: We have enough troops to cut our way through. The cure was more critical than coating weapons.
- Quintus: I have stepped up patrols and forced some skirmishes lately so that our initial attack won’t seem too out of the ordinary. However, none of us considered the noise a Dragonborn and mages might make!
- Rigmor: It won’t be as much noise as Sethri makes. I bet they are still fumigating that tavern.
- Sethri: I wouldn’t know. Lifetime ban, remember, even after we saved their arses!
- Wulf: To be fair, Sethri, the Akaviri only attacked the town because I was there.
- Sethri: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it that way.
- Wulf: I think this battle to the ruins will involve Rigmor, The Sentinels and me virtually running to the summit and eliminating most of the enemy along the way. There should be plenty of troops to keep the pressure up and mop up any enemies we leave behind us.
- Quintus: Once inside the ruins, they’ll know we have arrived. Speed is of the essence.
- Wulf: They will have sentries who run inside and tell them of the attack. They will have plenty of time to prepare for us.
- Rigmor: Don’t feel bad about Wulf pointing our flaws in logic. It is one of his less endearing qualities.
- Wulf: Albatross!
- Rigmor: And that is his least endearing.
- Wulf: I will repeat this when we get to the top and before we enter the building. Once inside Table Mountain, split-second decisions will have to be made, and I am the only one with experience with any of this vampirism, magic, Daedric Lord, evil bitch business. No hesitation can occur. Anything I order must be done immediately and without discussion. That includes you, Milady.
- Rigmor: You expect me to run if you are in danger. Yeah right. Pffft! That ain’t gonna happen!
- Wulf: Rigmor, remember what you are carrying with you this time.
- Rigmor: Don’t you dare use that as an excuse to treat me like I’m fragile!
- Wulf: I am asking for the sake of the prophecy.
- Rigmor: I can’t promise, my Dragonborn. I don’t know if I could if it would be the last time that I saw you.
- Wulf: It is always a possibility, Rigmor. You know it is the right thing to do if such a thing occurs.
- Rigmor: I know. I think you just shocked the other two.
- Wulf: I am sorry. Such discussions should be held in private and not when discussing strategy.
- Sethri: Don’t you think I already knew, and besides, my Mistress has never stopped talking about how pleased she is about it. Just don’t forget Sethri on the wedding invites, okay.
- Wulf: Rigmor, we could stick him in a sealed room with windows.
- Rigmor: The stench would probably still get to us.
- Quintus: I saw the way you looked at each other when Rigmor came riding up during the Battle of Whiterun. Was it supposed to be a secret?
- Wulf: No, Quintus, but that is another long story.
- Quintus: Of Casius type length?
- Wulf: Longer.
- Quintus: There we go, another impossibility!
- Rigmor: Back to killing people. Is Morag Sethius in there? My sword and her anus are destined to meet.
- Sethri: She’s been there for a few days, Rigmor.
- Wulf: Rigmor, let me deal with her! Outside of that chamber, I would let you carve her up into tiny Morag pieces. Inside that chamber and close to the Bridge of Sighs, we have no idea of how powerful she may be. Therefore, you can call her names and threaten her, but you must not go near her, and I want a promise this time.
- Rigmor: Fine, I promise. But don’t make it quick, Wulf. I want to hear her scream!
- Quintus: Remind me never to get Rigmor angry!
- Wulf: Go on, Quintus, call her princess, I dare you!
- Quintus: We are all going in there full of hatred for creatures that can commit the atrocities outlined. That hatred extends to the Men and Mer that support them. No pity will be shown, no prisoners taken. I will not spare men from the battle to babysit any of the scum who surrender. They will be put to the sword.
- Wulf: Once upon a time, not so long ago, I might have objected to that. Now I agree with the sentiment.
- Rigmor: Good, Wulf. They are why I am here and not having a few drinks with you at the Tap&Tack.
- Wulf: I asked about the vampire affliction cure, Sethri, but what about potions such as cure disease and so on.
- Sethri: As it happens, I came across a few crates of such items carelessly left by the Anvil docks and ensured their distribution amongst the troops. Then I was informed that your College mages had already distributed far more potions of superior quality.
- Wulf: A sticky-fingered mage is always helpful to have around. So, thanks, Sethri, for your thoughtful, if unnecessary, pilfering. Can I ask you to stay with Casius and be ready to heal Sorella or any of those guarding her? The Bostin will take any wounded back down the mountain as long as you get them to it before it leaves with Sorella.
- Sethri: Will do.
The Runner from the front gate came up to the tent opening.
- Runner: General Quintus, there is an envoy here to see you.
- Sethri: Expecting visitors, Quintus?
- Quintus: No. Who is it, soldier?
- Runner: A Thalmor Justiciar and troops. He is asking for the Guardian General and Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier.
- Wulf: Soldier, tell them we will be there shortly. Also, tell the guards to knock arrows and be ready to fire. I hate surprise guests.
- Quintus: Do as the Guardian General says, soldier. He is in command now.
- Runner: Aye, Sir!
Rigmor growled, “Why wait? Kill the bastards now!”
“Come on, Rigmor. It will be interesting to see what they want. I would like to know how they knew we were here and the explanation for their impeccable timing.”
“I suppose. But they had better be civil!”
All four of us headed for the front gate.
As we walked past The Sentinels, I said, “Inigo, Celestine, with me. Sentinels, be prepared to eliminate the slime on my order.”
A Justiciar in costly glass armour sat astride his horse with all the arrogance he could muster. Two Thalmor officers flanked him. Many Thalmor troops were crossing the bridge and heading for Tabletop Mountain.
“Justiciar, tell your troops to halt on the other side of that bridge or I will reign death down on them.”
The Justiciar gave a hand signal, and one of his officers shouted the command in Aldmeri.
- Camaeus: The Last Dragonborn and the Princess of Tamriel. We have a dossier you, Milady, worthy of its own library.
- Wulf: Most of it filed under the section, ‘Torture techniques to be used on stubborn young Nordlings who scare you shitless.’
- Rigmor: What is it you want here, Justicar?
- Camaeus: Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Valeronin Camaeus of Lillandril, envoy of the Aldmeri Dominion and Commander in Chief of TESO, ahem…The Elven Special Operations. Some Elven criminals need to have swift justice exacted upon them.
- Wulf: I can three mounted criminals, and the rest are on foot.
- Camaeus: Yes, well, you see there are renegades, and former New Order traitors dug in on top of Table Mountain. I have been sent to offer my services as a goodwill gesture between the Empire and the Dominion.
- Rigmor: Yeah, right!
- Wulf: Thanks for your offer, but we have no defenceless children that need flogging or torturing, so your services are not required. Oh, most of us are Talos worshippers. Should we come along quietly or kill you all?
- Camaeus: Ahem.
Camaeus dismounted and was about to walk towards Rigmor. I moved in front of him and pointed my sword at his chest. Inigo drew his weapon, and Celestine prepared a spell.
- Wulf: Count, you have not asked permission to approach Rigmor. If you move another inch, I will skewer you with this beautiful sword made by Talos. It wouldn’t tickle.
- Camaeus: Dragonborn, may I approach the Countess to facilitate speech with a lesser volume required.
- Wulf: You will address me as General Septim. You will approach no closer than two yards from the Countess. Any aggression will be met with a swift demise on your part.
I stood to the side with my sword at the ready. Rigmor faced the Count with arms crossed.
- Camaeus: I don’t ask you to like us, Countess. I only ask for your trust.
- Rigmor: Trust! Your organisation is no better than The New Order. Wherever the Thalmor tread, they leave a trail of misery, torture and death. The only good thing Sethius did was to kick you out of Cyrodiil.
- Camaeus: I understand your hostility, and I don’t blame you, not for one moment. We, The Dominion, owe you a debt of gratitude for helping bring about the demise of The New Order.
- Wulf: Much more of this sincerity, Count, and I am going to vomit all over your shiny armour.
- Camaeus: I want to take this chance to personally apologise on our behalf for the suffering you endured at the hands of that traitor, the Thalmor General…
- Rigmor: DON’T YOU EVEN DARE MENTION HIS NAME!
- Camaeus: No, of course. How insensitive of me.
- Wulf: Do you feel better now, Rigmor? Have all your scars healed and the murder of your Father forgotten? I assume there are no more harsh feelings about the enslavement of Sigunn for four years. The need to dwell on your family being ripped apart has been removed. Why worry about a hero, Ragnar, having his name besmirched by fucking slime like this? I am sure the Count was sincere in his heartfelt apology.
- Rigmor: What your people did will never be forgiven, Justicar.
Camaeus moved away from Rigmor and approached Quintus. I sheathed my sword and gave a hand signal that told Inigo and Celestine to stand at ease.
- Camaeus: General Quintus, my Special Forces are at your disposal if you so wish it. I hope we can unite to bring about an end to the monster that resides within that mountain.
- Quintus: General Septim is in command here, Camaeus. It is his decision, not mine.
- Camaeus: Oh. I was not aware. My apologies, General Septim
- Wulf: Whatever you do, stop apologising.
- Camaeus: General Septim, might I, at the very least, be offered the courtesy of parley as to understand the situation? May I hand you this letter of introduction? It should suffice to prove my intentions are genuine.
Camaeus handed me the letter. I was impressed by the number and seniority of dignitaries who had signed it, but there were significant gaps. I handed it to Quintus.
- Wulf: Count, that is an impressive list of signatories, including the Council of Elders in exile, the High Justiciar of the Isles and diplomatic emissaries from Valenwood, Elsweyr and other territories. However, I doubt you provided them with the real reason for your presence here. I have my suspicions but would like to hear your explanation.
- Rigmor: Yes, Count. Tell us all what is in it for you.
- Camaeus: We only want to win the war. As I said, Countess, we owe a debt of gratitude, nothing more.
- Rigmor: Wulf, Quintus, you can’t trust this assclown. He’s a Justicar, a Thalmor!
- Camaeus: Ahem…it’s pronounced ‘Justiciar’.
- Wulf: I thought it was pronounced ‘assclown’.
- Quintus: Wulf, you failed Diplomacy School, didn’t you?
- Wulf: Rigmor, one of the signatories, is Baa’Ren-Dar.
- Rigmor: Whatever, I think I’ll just take a walk. The air around her has become unpleasant, to say the least.
Rigmor walked away, and Quintus turned towards me
He said, “Wulf, see if you can talk some sense into Rigmor.”
“Rigmor is talking sense, Quintus! Ten minutes ago, we finalised our plans, and there was no need for Thalmor assistance. Now you are suggesting we need them. I don’t trust Thalmor, Quintus, as they are never as they seem. The Count is to remain here till the Countess and I decide what to do.”
As Quintus walked away, I addressed Camaeus.
“Your presence here is not for the purpose the signatories believe. Gathering those signatures would have taken considerable time and effort. I estimate several weeks of effort at the least. Therefore, you had foreknowledge that we would be here. You and your troops have been hiding somewhere nearby, waiting for the order to proceed to this location. This whole thing stinks of much planning and preparation, and it would be best for you to come clean with me.”
As I walked away, I said to Inigo, “If he tries to enter the compound, kill him.”
“Without hesitation, my friend.”
I walked into the command tent and stood before Quintus.
“I am going to speak to Rigmor, and if we decide that Thalmor assistance is not desirable, we will kill every single one of them!”
“How did they know when to turn up here, Quintus? We do not need their assistance, and I think Camaeus possesses knowledge that threatens the completion of The Alessian Prophecy. I would also rather them dead than risk Rigmor to a Thalmor ambush! They are the reasons why I would kill them all without guilt or reservation. I told you that I wear this armour to represent The Nine, not just The Empire. You and your troops would play no part in their extermination. Must I also remind you, despite that piece of paper, they are illegally in Cyrodiil?”
“You possess some knowledge I do not. I cannot argue against whatever actions you deem necessary.”
I turned and headed for the tent assigned to Rigmor and me. When I entered, Rigmor was sitting on a bed. I could feel the turmoil of emotions through our rings. She, like me, did not expect Thalmor to make a tense situation even worse.
“Wulf, if you have come to convince me we need them, don’t waste your breath.”
“No, we do not need them. But we have to discuss why the Thalmor are here. Plus, I cannot ignore Baa’Ren-Dar’s signature, Rigmor.”
“I don’t trust them. Damn elves!”
“No…I didn’t mean it like that.
“I know you didn’t mean it, but their sudden appearance has rattled both of us.”
Rigmor stood and walked to the far end of the tent. The mixture of rage and immense sadness that flickered across her face mirrored the emotions pouring from our rings.
“Hate is all I feel for them! They murdered my Father in the worst way possible. He was denied a warrior’s death, and they paraded him around the street of Alinor while the people spat upon him, Wulf. They kicked and beat him, then they publicly hanged him for the world to see. He was all alone as there was no one there for him. They tore my family apart, enslaved my Mom and flogged me to within an inch of my life. They will always be my enemy, and I can never, ever forgive them!”
“I know all this, Rigmor, because you still have nightmares and scream and call out for your Father. I have often held you and cried with you as you fall back to sleep. That happened almost nightly when you were with me in Skyrim. I always hoped that killing Aedriath might end them, but no, they still occur all these years after I choked him to death. I started taking it out on every Thalmor patrol I saw. I would goad them into attacking me so I would feel justified killing them and not feel guilty about the grin that followed. No Rigmor, I do not ask you ever to forgive them, for I never will.”
“I used to wake from those nightmares calling my Father’s name. When he didn’t answer, I called yours. You weren’t there anymore to help me for the last three years, Wulf. You were not there to rock me back to sleep!”
“So, my beloved, what are we going to do?”
“I can’t think straight and leave the decision to you.”
“I will tell you what I think, but the ultimate decision is yours.”
“Rigmor, I don’t know how or why the Thalmor have turned up at this precise moment. If you want me to, I will kill them all. But I think we should allow them to join us for three reasons. First, I want and need to know where they obtained information about our intentions. The second reason is for every arrow that thumps into a Thalmor, that is one less that may harm a Legionnaire, Marine, Sentinel or Sorella! The third is Baa’Ren-Dar’s signature. He would know the importance of his signature to us. If he believes we should accept Thalmor assistance, I don’t think that fact can be so easily dismissed.”
“I like the idea of them dying in the battle rather than our soldiers. I will not argue against your intuition, and Baa’Ren-Dar’s signature is important. So let them in, but don’t expect me to be civil.”
“Wait in the command tent. Inform Casius that we will allow assclown to parley. I will go fetch assclown.”
“I like that name. It just seemed suitable.”
As Rigmor headed for the command tent, I headed for the camp’s entrance, where I spoke to assclown.
“You may parley, Count. Enter the camp and turn left. Quintus and others await you in the command tent. I will be there shortly.”
As assclown headed for parley, Inigo said, “I am surprised you talked Rigmor around.”
“Rigmor likes the idea of using Thalmor as shields against enemy arrows.”
“Who would have guessed that slimy Thalmor have a worthwhile reason for living?”
‘You two can head to the fire and get some food and rest. I, on the other hand, have to put up with more bullshit.”
Legionnaires enjoyed light-hearted banter with The Sentinels as I walked past the fire. I would have loved to join them.
I entered the command tent to an atmosphere full of tension. So much so, only Quintus and Sethri felt comfortable enough to sit.
Quintus was in the middle of bringing assclown up to speed.
- Quintus: Here’s the map. As you can see, the mountain has at its foot a base camp manned by Redguard nomad raiders. Orcs and your Elven renegades guard the heights.
- Camaeus: I see, and the plan?
- Quintus: We attack the base camps simultaneously in a pincer movement. General Septim and the Countess will ascend the slopes and take control of the heights.
- Camaeus: I suggest my forces are to accompany the Countess, not only to take out the renegades but to offer some protection.
- Wulf: The Countess and I will be accompanied by two squads of Sentinels. I am sure The Dominion knows of their feats and capabilities. But even if they were not with us, I would never entrust her safety to Thalmor. Thus, your suggestion will be ignored due to its astounding stupidity and audacity.
- Camaeus: Countess, are you with child?
- Rigmor: What? How dare you!
- Wulf: Rigmor, please go to our tent. I will deal with the Count.
- Rigmor: I will, but you, Count Camaeus, had better keep your distance or I won’t be responsible for what happens to you! As soon as you’ve dealt with your ‘Elven Renegades’, I want you out of here. Do we understand each other?
Rigmor stormed out of the command tent, and I did not need our rings to feel the heat of her anger.
“Count Camaeus, you possess knowledge that only The Divines, Rigmor and I should possess. You had better have a good explanation if you wish to live.”
“My apologies, I assumed….”
“Meet me near the front gate so we can talk.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you, General Quintus, for your hospitality. If allowed, we will wait for the attack to begin and join you.”
As Camaeus headed for the gate, I turned to Quintus and Sethri.
“Yes, the Countess is with child. If a word of this leaves this tent, I will skin both of you alive. Since we only found out because Lady Mara told us a few hours ago, you can understand why a Thalmor knowing that fact is of concern. Do not mention Rigmor’s pregnancy to anybody!”
Sethri remarked, “There is a lot that Azura did not see, isn’t there?”
“As always, Sethri. But there was a large ripple in The Void, as even I could sense it.”
“General Quintus, have the troops muster for the attack to commence at 7:00 AM. That will stop any of the lesser vampires from venturing outside. It will also put the sun to our backs and into their eyes.”
“I will do so, General Septim.”
Camaeus had chosen a quiet corner away from the fire and laughing Sentinels.
“Okay, Camaeus, start explaining.”
“You and I both know what is going on here, Dragonborn. I assume you spoke to the priest.”
“Quite often, we have lived together on and off over the years.”
“Impossible! He appears like a ghostly apparition out of nowhere. And he can only walk amongst us for a short time! At first, it bothered me greatly. He told me of my destiny and how it was entwined with yours. That we will go on to become the harbingers of a new era for Men, Mer and the Beast races.”
“You say impossible without even knowing who he is. Do you believe him to be a god?”
“I believe so, or is a guiding voice for them. The Priest is the reason I am here at all.”
“I can assure you he is a god. Maybe one day you will find out which one.”
“He said you are unpredictable, and it worries the gods. And that if you were to deny them, other ways would need to be sought to fulfil the prophecy.”
“There are as many versions of The Alessian Prophecy as there are fleas on a dog. What do you know of it?”
“Did Rigmor touch the shrine?”
“Yes, and by doing so, we accepted the burden of being parents to The Chosen One. So yes, the gods had other ways of fulfilling the prophecy, but they are no longer needed unless Rigmor or our unborn child were to die.”
“I see. That is all I need to know.”
Camaeus turned and headed for the exit. I looked over, and Inigo and others did a hand signal asking if assistance was needed. I signalled no.
I followed Camaeus till he reached the exit.
Camaeus turned. I used night-vision as I needed to read his expressions as we spoke.
“We need to talk further, Camaeus. You don’t know as much as you think you do.”
“We are just pawns in a game not of our choosing, Dragonslayer. We are all servants of the great Lord Akatosh.”
“I am no pawn, Camaeus. I choose my path and decide which games to play.”
“I was chosen by The Priest to gather a force, a special force, and have been waiting years, biding my time, only for this moment.”
“It is a pity then that we don’t need you.”
“Do you think you can enter that mountain and prevail against the undead alone? What awaits you in there is beyond the realms of mortals. The only safe way through, to bring that little girl, the orphan bandit child, to do what must be done, is at the point of my ‘Silver Swords’.”
“Did I need them when I walked through Scuttling Void or The Ashpit? When I destroyed Morag’s brood in The Bloodlet Throne, did I need them? Did I need them when I destroyed the army attacking Bruma or the over one hundred Morag Tong in Solstheim? All these things I did solo, and when I am with The Sentinels, we are unstoppable. Your Silver Swords’ power is minuscule compared to mine when solo. Immeasurably inferior when I fight beside Rigmor and The Sentinels.
Beyond the realms of mortals, you say? How many times have you been in Oblivion? How many undead have you slain, and how many gods have you faced? I think, Count Camaeus, that my knowledge and experience of things beyond the realms of mortals far exceeds yours.
No, we do not need your ‘Silver Swords’ to defeat Morag Sethius and Molag Bal!”
“Even so, I am afraid that the Countess, no, Princess, will have to endure my company for a little while longer. It must be debilitating for her after everything she has been through all these years.”
“You don’t have the slightest idea what Rigmor has been through and know nothing of her. And as for the title of Princess, she is not one. Calling her such is proof of your ignorance.”
“I am on your side, Dragonslayer. I am on Rigmor’s side. I personally took responsibility for the apprehension of The New Order in Alinor, and I have been playing my role in the game, as you have yours.”
“The Dominion knew all about The New Order. You had a list of people to arrest well before they invaded Tamriel! And I don’t play games for any god or mortal.”
“Blind fool! Look at you! What are you? It is obvious that you cannot recall any schooling. Do you even remember when you were born? Where exactly do you hail from? Do you recall anything about your past? Is there one single thing that you can tell me about yourself? Were you hatched from an egg or forged in a dank pool from offal?”
“I was born in a small cottage on one of Roscrea islands on the 29th Sun’s Height, 4E 177. I was conceived and birthed like every other mortal. At the age of eight, Lord Akatosh blessed me, and I became Dragonborn. At the age of eighteen, I was taken to Akavir. I spent six years in Akavir being trained by the Dragonguard and the Psijic Order.
My Father is Tiber Septim. My mother’s identity I will leave you to find out. But she is also a god.
So, you stuck up effeminate moron, what you just claimed is wrong, as is most of the bullshit coming out of your mouth. You only know what The Priest has told you.”
“Then what of Rigmor? Her whole life is like a book. A tragedy to be read by all and sundry. A child who was chosen for a fate worse than death, and she keeps enduring. She keeps giving. Her strength and resolve are unsurpassed.
Rigmor is born to reign and born to bear a child, and you no longer will be the Last Dragonborn, for there shall be another. Akatosh wills it. And it will be done.”
“Our daughter will not be Dragonborn. She will be a Dragonchild. If you don’t know the difference, I suggest asking The Priest.
Why is being The Chosen Queen a fate worse than death? Oh, do you think she will die in childbirth? Sorry to disappoint you, but she won’t. Lady Mara and Talos told us so.
You think you know all because of what you believe is The Alessian Prophecy. Once again, gods have told me that much of it is false.
Once again, you claim to know Rigmor, but you don’t know her at all, and it is embarrassing for you how you keep demonstrating that fact.
Akatosh’s will is only one item considered when Rigmor and I make our choices.”
“It is too late, whether you like it or not. Rigmor’s life was never hers to live. She is of the Mede dynastic bloodline and will take her rightful place for the people will demand it. You can, of course, wander the wilderness for the rest of your day. Or drink yourself to death.”
“Rigmor and I were selected to bring The Chosen One into this world for several reasons, and it has nothing to do with Mede dynastic blood. The blood of Saint Alessia was called Dragonblood after Lord Akatosh blessed her. Her descendants, including me, have blood different from other mortals. Rigmor does not! Not only that, there are dozens of people with closer blood ties to Titus Mede I and II than Rigmor.
We were selected because of our love and the unbreakable bond it has created.
We were selected because we could conceive a Dragonchild naturally.
We were selected because if our daughter is to become Empress, I have the greatest chance of making that happen!
We had a choice, Count Camaeus. When we touched that shrine, it was our choice to accept the burden of having our daughter be The Chosen One.
Rigmor’s life has always been her own. To believe otherwise is to deny the existence of mortal free will. You have chosen to follow the instructions of The Priest. You could have said no anytime you desired, and you know that to be a fact.
The Chosen Queen is not Empress. Nowhere in The Alessian Prophecy does it say that. Even an ignorant twat like you should know the difference between a Queen and Empress.”
Camaeus turned once more, opened the gates, and walked toward his horse.
He continued, “Have you spoken to Rigmor about her fate? You should. You owe her the truth at the very least. Stop treating her like a fragile porcelain doll.
You may come to find that she does have what it takes after all.”
I used The Voice to whisper in Camaeus ear.
“TURN AROUND OR DIE!”
Camaeus turned, saw my eyes, and his arrogance vanished.
“Let’s ask Rigmor about your claims, shall we?”
“Rigmor, assclown says that I treated you like a porcelain doll and kept the secret of your pregnancy and the chance of death from you. He thinks he knows all about you and us. Do you want to come and tell him the truth? We are just outside the gate.”
“Rigmor will be here in a few seconds, Camaeus.”
About thirty seconds later, Rigmor stood by my side.
“Count Camaeus, Wulf has never been anything but honest with me and has never kept secrets. He told me what The Alessian Prophecy said about giving birth to a Dragonchild. I stood next to him earlier today as Lady Mara told us I was with child and assured me that I would not die in childbirth.
Has Wulf treated me like a porcelain doll? No, Count, quite the opposite.
We have faced battles against enormous odds side by side and when separated. For instance, while Wulf travelled through The Scuttling Void to close an Oblivion Gate, he left The Sentinels and me to defend a town and its civilians again the hundreds of Daedra pouring through the gate.
Wulf has constantly defended my strength against those who doubt it.
You know nothing of me, Wulf or what we have accomplished together.”
“Rigmor, Count Camaeus seems to question my reverence for The Divines.”
“What? I don’t know who has provided you with your information, Count Camaeus, but Wulf has dedicated his life to serving The Divines and at great danger to himself.”
“I will join you in our tent soon, Rigmor.”
“Put the Dovah away before you do.”
“He is needed for the final judgement.”
“Count Camaeus, your life is in the balance. For your sake, I hope you have convinced my love, my life, my Guardian and my soulmate that you deserve to live.”
Rigmor returned to our tent. A far humbler Count Camaeus faced me.
“I won’t kill you for two reasons. Firstly, The Priest and Lord Akatosh would not send you here if you did not have a role in completing The Alessian Prophecy. Even if I am ignorant of that role, I have no right to interfere with their choice.
Secondly, Baa’Ren-Dar signed that letter. He doesn’t do anything without a purpose, and I implicitly trust his judgment.
So, get on your horse and join your Silver Swords. However, heed this warning. If you call me Dragonslayer again, I will smash your fucking face in!”
Camaeus silently climbed on his horse and rode slowly towards his troops.
My Dovah handed control back, and I walked into the command tent.
“Count Camaeus is here as instructed by Lord Akatosh. He and his troops will live because of that and the fact that Baa’Ren-Dar signed the letter. You were too quick to trust him, Quintus. If you knew what those bastards did to Rigmor and her family, you would never have expected her to accept their presence within a thousand miles of her!”
I was not interested in any apologies or excuses. I left to join Rigmor in our tent.
“Why is he here, Wulf?”
“Because Lord Akatosh, working through a mysterious priest, asked him to be.”
“A mysterious priest?”
“The Priest is my Father. Talos has shaped a high ranking Thalmor’s entire life, and he doesn’t even know it.”
“Hahaha, oh my, that is quite amusing!”
“I can’t imagine assclown would find it hilarious. I didn’t tell Camaeus because I am not that cruel, even when the Dovah is in charge.”
“So why does Lord Akatosh want him here?”
“I don’t know, and therefore, I couldn’t justify killing him.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar signed the letter. Wulf, we know how careful he is.”
“Assclown’s knowledge of us was limited, and he made constant and inaccurate accusations and assumptions. However, there was one thing he said that might be impressive.”
“What do you want to name our daughter?”
“Ha, so he got that right!”
“I thought I was with child but was unsure.”
“Why, are your menses late?”
“Yes, but when under stress, it is not uncommon for them to be late or early.”
“Do you trust what Lady Mara and my Father said about you being safe during childbirth?”
“I don’t have your faith in The Divines, Wulf. But I have no choice but to believe what they say.”
“They have never lied to me, Rigmor.”
“If I don’t make it, promise me you’ll love Kintyra, care for her, and remember me.”
“Rigmor, it is okay to doubt the gods, but once again, you question who I am! Why would I not do those things?”
“I would gladly die in your arms, and if Kintyra were to become Empress, then at least my life amounted to something.”
“You will not die, Rigmor!”
“Promise me that you’ll take good care of her.”
“Why would I not?”
“Because you might be too busy seeking revenge on the gods who let me die.”
“Oh, I have said that, haven’t I. I understand now why you ask this of me. Therefore, I swear that Kintyra would be my priority in everything I do. She would be loved, and we would share my memories of you. She would know Rigmor Ragnarsdottier as well as I do. She would want for nothing and be surrounded by my love. That is my pledge, Rigmor.”
“Ha, I know you well. As soon as Kintyra is entrenched as Emperor, you would seek revenge on The Divines.”
“Get some sleep. Rigmor. I will be your Guardian once more and surround us with our peace.”
Rigmor kissed me then crawled onto her bed.
I pulled up a chair and watched as my beloved drifted to sleep.
The day started with bacon and ended with doubt. I suppose it could be worse.