Fredas, 10th First Seed, 4E 205 & Loredas, 11th First Seed, 4E 205
I travelled through The Void once more, but there was no confusion this time. I knew where I was and why I was there. I knew what I had to do.
Rigmor’s last words to me were, “Kintyra and I will need you. I love you, and we know that is the most potent power there is.”
I used the power of that love. I willed myself back to Rigmor, Kintyra, Inigo, Meeko and the rest of those I loved.
In a flash, I found myself in a square room. It was constructed of an unknown type of cut stone.
There was a single exit.
I was still in The Void but no longer floating aimlessly. Instinctively I knew this was like the wooden platform Lady Mara guided me across in Evermor. That wooden platform led from Mundus across The Void to The Scuttling Void, and I had to stay within her light, or my lifeforce would have drained, and I would have died. There was no lifeforce to drain this time as it was stored somewhere else. The conscience part of my soul found itself within this structure.
I headed for the exit of the room.
On the ground was a red mountain flower.
Echoing along a corridor that stretched into darkness was the sound of a child sobbing.
I picked up the red flower and smelt it. It was newly picked and had not gone droopy droop droop. I placed it in my journal case. I suspect nothing I am wearing or even my body is real. But if The Divines are doing this, then the flower might be in my real journal case if and when I return to Nirn.
I moved forward with caution as the darkness of The Void was barely kept at bay by the dweomer of the place I traversed.
I was in a maze, and the crying would cease whenever I took a wrong turn. I knew I was finding my way due to a combination of red mountain flowers and weeping. Both were leading me where I needed to go.
After many wrong turns and backtracking, I picked up a fourth red flower and placed it in my journal case.
Through a nearby doorway, I saw a bridge.
Using zoom-vision, I could see a weeping girl was at the far end of the bridge, dressed in rags, kneeling in a cage.
I walked slowly along the bridge till I came to a gap. A fall into the gap would return me to the regular, directionless, pitch blackness of The Void. I had no idea if I could make it back to this structure if I fell.
I used a Two Word Whirlwind Sprint Shout to make it across the gap. A full Whirlwind Sprint would have smashed me with great force into the cage.
I looked into the cage where the child continued to weep.
“Hello, I am Wulf. Wait a moment, and I will get you out of there.”
There was no reply, just weeping. The girl didn’t even look at me.
To my surprise, the door was not locked. A simple latch, assessable from inside the cage, was the only thing keeping the door closed. The child could have escaped whenever she wanted.
I opened the cage, but the girl continued to weep and did not acknowledge my presence.
I knelt and said, “Hello, my name is Wulf. I will help you, little one. There is no need to cry.”
The girl stopped sobbing, wiped away her tears then looked at me.
It was the face of Rigmor as a child! Well, I think it is. I only briefly saw the same face when it appeared in the den of Rigmor’s childhood. It was one of the places from her childhood that she had not visited since being back in Cyrodiil. Rigmor had pretended she could hide from destiny and danger in that den, and this child had briefly appeared. After we exited the den, Rigmor had a heart-breaking collapse into despair and made me promise that if she died due to the political games of Cyrodiil that I would kill everyone responsible.
That promise still holds. If Rigmor is dead or dies at their hands, then death to the Emperor and his allies is assured. That is if I can escape The Void.
I asked the child, “Are you Rigmor?”
She stood and smiled at me. Before The Battle of Whiterun, a girl had visited Rigmor in her dreams. In the last dream, Rigmor gave the girl the Jenny Doll I had made, and in exchange, the girl handed Rigmor her sword. That dream made Rigmor accept her role as Swordmaiden. Rigmor then gathered the Sons of Talos and joined me in The Battle of Whiterun.
Rigmor said the girl was her child self. Looking at the smile and into the eyes of the girl before me, I have no doubt she was correct.
“You came! This way, dark to light, follow me.”
The girl dashed past me and down some steps. I followed.
I caught up with her on a circular platform.
“You are quite the fast runner for one so small!”
I was rewarded with that smile once more.
On a hunch, I asked, “Are you the soul of Kintyra, the unborn child of Rigmor and me?”
With the cheeky smile still present, she answered, “I am the past, present and the future.”
“Well, that was cryptic enough and sounded like something Lady Mara would say. However, Rigmor is my past, present and future, so perhaps you are a product of our love. If you are not Kintyra, are you a guiding spirit that appears in our hour of need?”
The girl stood with a hand on her hip and a stare straight from Rigmor’s repertoire.
“Okay, let’s try another question. Am I here to escape The Void?”
“You are dying. She sent me and wants to see you.”
“Who is she?”
“That is good, for I look forward to seeing my mother once more.”
“You are between the dark and the light. Lord Akatosh helped move you here so you can cross The Void.”
“So here, in The Void, is most of my consciousness. There will be part of it in The Black Soul Gem.”
The Rigmor stare continued.
“May I ask, is Rigmor okay? What about my friends?”
“They need you to wake up.”
“They have my body with them! Some part of my soul must reside in it as well. How many parts has it been torn into?”
No answer. Like my father’s avatars, the girl has most likely been instructed only to answer particular questions and provide specific information. I call her a girl, but who knows what she is?
“Why do Rigmor and my friends need me?”
“That battle has begun.”
“How long have I been in The Void?”
“That date on Nirn is the tenth of First Seed of the two hundred and fifth year of the fourth era.”
“TWELVE DAYS! Well, I suppose that is better than three years.”
“We need to hurry!”
For some reason, I did not feel fear or urgency. I was calm as I followed the fleeing child down a long and narrow bridge.
On both sides was The Void and basalt like rock formations.
We were almost at another circular platform when the child suddenly stopped. I almost fell forward in my effort not to knock her over.
She said, “This way, dark to light.”
“Well, little one, I wasn’t going to turn left or right!”
The girl moved onto the round platform and waited in silence as I approached her.
“Where do we go next?”
“You must cross The Void. Head towards the light. Do not vary from the path.”
“Aren’t you leading the way?”
“I must go now, but I have something for you. I won’t be needing it anymore.”
The girl handed me a Jenny Doll, and I recognised my less than stellar handiwork in its construction. I placed it in the spiritual version of my journal case. I know, if it still exists on Nirn, the Jenny Doll will be identical to the one lying on Rigmor’s bed in her house.
I felt love for this child, no matter what it was in reality. But I dared not try and hug her, for that may break the illusion. Some realities can wait for my afterlife.
“Goodbye, little one. I thank you for your help.”
The child smiled, and I stored that vision to ensure it was never lost.
Then she vanished.
I turned to where I could feel a pull, similar to when my Divine Compass is active. In the pitch black of The Void, I could see a cloud of mist.
I headed for it slowly. I had no idea how wide the path across The Void was.
The cloud of mist was a platform approximately ten feet in width. I slowly crept towards its edge.
Only upon the very edge did another mist platform come into view.
I moved just as cautiously to that platform.
Then to a third.
I stood at the edge of the third platform and knew my next step would be transitioning from The Void to Aetherius.
I took the step and found my eyes assaulted by the artificial brightness of Sovngarde. It was annoying enough when we came to fight Alduin. Stepping from the pitch black of The Void, it was almost blinding.
But I knew where to go as I could sense Mother. She awaited her child.
I walked confidently in a straight line and soon saw The Hall of Heroes below me. At least I am not headed for that most boring of places!
After another couple of steps, I could see a brighter cloud in the distance.
I hurried towards it, almost at a run. And there Al-Esh, Saint Alessia, waited with some of the many children’s souls released from The Bridge of Sighs.
As I got closer, Mother moved towards me.
She stopped just beyond reach. I longed so to have her hold me.
I exclaimed, “Mother, it has been so long!”
“There you are! I have been looking everywhere for you.”
“Yes, Allie did not know that I had to leave the island. I am sad that was inflicted on that part of you.”
“Don’t worry, my child. I am right here. I will always be here.”
‘How do I get back to Rigmor?”
“Ah, my Dragonchild, follow your heart.”
“I did, and my heart led me to you. Now I will trust it to lead me to Rigmor once more. Goodbye for now, Mother.”
“There will always be a special place for you in my heart…always. I looked upon a rising star and remembered. My love for you is greater than the Universe. But now is not your time.”
I used my willpower to return Rigmor.
Sovngarde faded, and I felt my soul enter my body.
The shade of a barn roof replaced the brightness of Sovngarde.
As focus slowly returned, I heard my beloved plea, “Wulf, we need you to wake up, now! Wulf, please, wake up. We need you!”
I said, “Okay, Rigmor. I am back. Let me stand up, and then we can talk.”
I was aware of Rigmor via our rings, and her sadness and desperation were heartbreaking. Then a sense of wonder and relief came over her as she felt my presence via the rings.
Rigmor exclaimed loudly, “Wulf! By The Divines, you’re alive!”
I slowly stood with support from somebody I knew without seeing. Inigo was helping me.
Other welcomes from The Sentinels accompanied Meeko’s excited bark
Inigo let go once he was sure I was steady on my feet. He stepped back and stood next to Rigmor.
“Hello, my Chosen Queen. I followed your flowers out of The Void!”
“What? I picked them, and then, in a dream, I gave them to a little girl.”
“The same little girl you gave Jenny to.”
“Yes, but how? Why?”
“Let us talk about that later, my love.”
Rigmor flew into my arms and sobbed
“Shh, my beloved. I am back, and I assume we have work to do. The little girl said you were in a battle and needed my help.”
Rigmor released the hug, and I held her hand.
“Okay, I can hear fighting, and the quicker we get to it, the less of our people die. It has been twelve days, so I assume we are somewhere near the Imperial City if all went to plan.”
“Yes. We took Fort Ash. When Leyawiin moved his troops away from Bruma, Yngol sallied forth with the Guild, Garrison and Sentinels as planned. The three dragons flew over the battle, roaring and threatening to rain death upon the Cheydinhal troops. That was demoralising enough but added to an angry Yngol leading his veteran berserkers with laughing Sentinels on either side proved too much for the enemy. The massacre was terrible, Wulf. They routed the Cheydinhal troops then The Sentinels and garrison stayed to defend Bruma and start repairing the damage. Many mages from The College of Winterhold came to assist with that. However, the damage was minimal, thanks to Silah, Durnehviir and Odahviing destroying the trebuchets and catapults. We left Fort Ash and joined with Yngol at Fort Empire.”
“I barely remember most of the plan. I was almost gone during that meeting. Where is Quintus?”
“Quintus is holding Bruce de Medalius and his army stationary at Fort Nikel.”
“Aha, I remember now. That is why Bruce de Moron moved from Bruma, just like my genius beloved said he would.”
“I am good at this strategy stuff, aren’t I?”
“Yes, much better than two advisors I could name. ‘Oh, but they outnumber us. We have no chance!’.
“You said all along neither their leaders nor their troops were any good.”
“I think Morag was a good tactician. Remember how they used Elsweyr to bypass those counties defending the Imperial City?”
“Calm down, my dear. Morag is dead. Where is Camaeus? I am hoping he stayed with you.”
“No, he isn’t at the moment, but he was reluctant to leave.”
“I believe Lord Akatosh gave him the task of keeping you and Kintyra safe if I was dead or incapacitated.”
“Camaeus and his Silver Swords have garrisoned Fort Ash. That is keeping Chorrol from joining up with the Leyawiin forces.
“What about Count Janus Hassildor of Skingrad and Countess Lassita Aquilarios of Kvatch?”
“The Count of Skingrad pledged to help, but I can’t tell you if he did. The Countess of Kvatch wished me good luck in beating the penis brigade. She doesn’t like men! She will remain neutral.”
“I can tell via our rings that you are healthy but exhausted.”
“It has been hard to fight without you beside me and then watch you each night, just barely breathing.”
“You were my Guardian for a change.”
“Yes, but I was not silly enough to sit in a chair. I cuddled up to you, even though you were as cold as death itself.”
“Yes, every night. Meeko hardly left your side, night or day. He ate his meals next to you.”
I kissed Rigmor’s hand, and she smiled.
“Okay, my beloved, where are we, and what do we need to do?”
“We are on the final push to Weye and the bridge into the Imperial City. There are a large number of entrenched troops between us and that objective. They are rested while we have traipsed across Tamriel and fought several battles.”
“But we need to keep the momentum and not allow our enemy to regroup or formulate another plan.”
“Correct. We have to take a nearby farm. From there, we can attack and destroy their catapults. Silah said she only had instructions to defend Bruma, so has not accompanied us.”
“That is a wise move by Silah. The dragons defended Bruma. It is a different matter when you threaten the Imperial City.”
“That is what she said. Anyway, taking the farm will weaken and threaten the enemy’s middle ground. We can attack some heights surrounding a well from the farm, thereby dividing Bruce de Medalius’ forces.”
“What about the Count of Bravil?”
“I think he is abstaining. There are not enough Cheydinhal troops left to join Leyawiin’s without leaving their county undefended.”
“Let me tell those nearby how I plan on doing this.”
Rigmor stepped back. Tish and Ser Amon moved forward.
- Wulf: Where is Ser Gregor?
- Amon: He fought well but was injured defending Bruma. The mages healed him, but Ser Gregor wisely decided he was not suited to an extended campaign across the breadth of Cyrodiil.
- Wulf: My soul is still marked by Morag Bal. I don’t know if that mark can ever be removed.
- Celestine: It can, but you won’t like the solution.
- Wulf: Save that worry for another day. I must be more cautious, so I will not be travelling far in front of the troops this time. I will move ahead a small way to allow free use of The Voice, but I expect we will do a lot of fighting side by side.
- Inigo: My friend, we have not encountered any quality enemy. I do not understand how they can have the equipment and organisation of The Imperial Army but be so pathetic?
- Wulf: Up until now, their duties were to look tough. Unlike Skyrim guards and the Legionnaires stationed there, this lot hasn’t dealt with highly skilled bandits. They are bandits themselves who relied on numbers, not individual skills, when rampaging across Cyrodiil! Skyrim guards are formidable fighters, and the real Legionnaires train constantly.
- Tish: We have all heard about the Akaviri plan to invade. In most battles, they thrashed The Imperial Army and would die laughing at this lot of milk drinkers!
- Wulf: The real Imperial Legions would swarm into Cyrodiil and other places at the first sign of invasion. But by then, it might be too late. That is another reason why something has to change within The Empire while we still have time.
- Lydia: Are we marching into The Imperial City?
- Rigmor: No, Wulf and I agreed that we would not subject the residents of The Imperial City to the terrors of war. We will surround the city and see what The Elder Council have to say.
- Wulf: If The Elder Council were to demand Sethius abdicate, then a Legion or two will quickly be despatched from High Rock and Skyrim to aid the blockade. Eventually, the order would be given to remove Sethius forcefully. Imperial City citizens would be given a chance to flee via protected routes. Sethius would die or surrender, but either way, we would be back to what it was years ago. The Elder Council would select the next Emperor.
- Ghorbash: They would nominate the son of Tiber Septim.
- Wulf: Maybe, but speculation is not going to win this battle. Let’s get that farm!
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko, Rigmor told me how well you guarded me. You have every right to fight by my side.
- Meeko: Grrr!
As we made our way to the front of the assembled troops, I heard, ‘The Guardian General is back!’ and ‘It’s General Septim!’ and “The Dragonborn is with us!’ and other variations.
As soon as we reached the front, Rigmor yelled, “Onward, let’s take the farm!”
I could run faster than everybody but Meeko and Inigo.
The first enemies I eliminated were manning a catapult.
A squad of New Imperials came rushing towards me.
I eliminated those and was soon behind the defensive barriers.
The Sentinels kept pace with me and left piles of corpses behind.
Squad after squad of the enemy attacked and died as Unrelenting Force ripped through them.
I looked behind me when I heard, “Mercy. Please, mercy!”
Celestine had hit a New Imperial with Lightning. Tish said, “Too late!” as she decapitated him with her katana.
The last of those defending the farm died, and silence ensued.
I asked Shor’s avatar, “Is that Azura’s Moon you are wielding?”
He nodded, which is all I expected from him. He never talks.
I approached Rigmor, who was smiling.
She happily exclaimed, “We are carving through them!”
“Yes, we got way ahead of the regular troops once more. The farm is ours. The heights around a well are next.”
“Yeah, and that will divide the Leyawiin forces.”
“As soon as the others catch up, give the word and then follow me!”
A few minutes later, enough stragglers had caught up, and Rigmor yelled, “Follow Wulf Septim! For The Nine and The Empire!”
Inigo and I outpaced everybody.
Inigo yelled, “My friend, these cowards were hiding!”
I turned and saw a squad of New Imperials. Some ran away, others attacked.
Inigo and I made short work of them, and once more, we were soon behind the enemy stockades.
This time the enemy had spread out over a long line of defence.
My colleagues took care of one flank.
I took care of the other.
New Imperials swarmed me. I methodically cut them down, moving from one to the other in a dance of death.
The dead piled at my feet.
A Leyawiin guard cowered and begged for mercy.
My sword ended his life. No mercy will be shown.
I watched as the last few enemies were dispatched.
Once again, we were far ahead of the majority of troops.
As we waited for everybody to gather for the last push towards Weye, Tish said, “I watched you cut down those New Imperials who had surrounded you. I am glad you’re on our side!”
“I do observe what is happening around me, and all of you are doing a superb job.”
I used my Thu’um to address the troops.
“WE HAVE THE HEIGHTS AND THE MOMENTUM. LET’S END THE THREAT TO BRUMA!”
We advanced with a mighty roar of anger and defiance.
I could see the enemy had conveniently set up a camp to the right of Weye. That will save time later!
Once again, squad after squad of the enemy charged me and fell to my sword and The Voice.
One of the last New Imperial soldiers ran, and I chased him down.
I yelled, “Turn and fight, you coward!”
And he died.
Another squad attempted a shield wall.
Unrelenting Force took care of that problem.
Shor’s avatar was also decimating the enemy with Thu’um and blade.
I decapitated my last opponent.
The sounds of battle soon ceased, and everybody poured into Weye.
I walked over to Rigmor.
“We have achieved your objective, Rigmor.”
“It’s all like a dream. We need to figure out what to do next.”
“I see Camaeus has arrived. We just destroyed the forces of Leyawiin. The threat to Bruma is over.”
“Wulf, what are we going to do now?”
“Consolidate our position and wait for at least a day. If Sethius has not contacted us by then, we will get a message to High Queen Elisif, and she will get The Elder Council involved. I do not doubt that General Tullius would immediately send a Legion our way. You also have the support of Anvil and Skingrad, who I am sure will help with this siege.”
“With Morag gone, maybe Sethius will sue for peace.”
“It may be out of his hands. I doubt The Elder Council will allow him to remain in power. But we will listen to what he has to say if only to fill in time.”
“If only we could just stop the fighting, go home and live a normal life again.”
“As I told you in Quintus’ camp, that horse has bolted, Rigmor. We can never have a normal life, and you know what we need to do to stop this sort of war once and for all!”
Quintus came running up, out of breath and full of excitement.
“It is over, Countess, and we have won the war! Fort Nikel has fallen, and Count Bruce de Medalius has surrendered. Skingrad forces arrived and forced Chorrol back behind his walls.”
Rigmor asked, “Did Bravil stay out of it?”
“The Count of Bravil abstained. He turned his troops around and returned to Bravil without a fight.”
“Thank you, Quintus, for everything.”
“Countess, the Legion stands ready.”
“Wulf and I agreed that we do not want to march into the city. Its citizens have put up with enough bloodshed over the years. As Wulf suggested, solidify our position. I will call in help from Anvil and Skingrad, emphasising we will not be attacking the Imperial City. We will surround it and await developments. Use the enemies camp, clean up some this mess.”
“As you command, Countess.”
Rigmor turned and said, “Count Camaeus, you have proven yourself a trustworthy ally. I shan’t forget, and I accept your apology on behalf of The Dominion for my father’s death.”
Camaeus was taken aback by this and stammered, “C…Countess?”
“No, please don’t. Will you stay until we have decided what to do next?”
“Yes, of course, Countess.”
I had no right to object to Rigmor’s acceptance of the apology. It was her decision, but I hoped she would not regret it.
Rigmor then addressed Yngol, “Yngol, there are no words to say how grateful I am for your help in Bruma’s hour of need. Please, feel free to take your men and return home. Sorella and Angi will be eagerly awaiting your safe return.”
“It had been an honour to fight alongside the garrison of Bruma and The Sentinels. I will accompany my men on the long march home, but may I ask a favour?”
“Yes, of course. What is it?”
“Can one of the mages teleport or whatever it’s called to Falkreath and tell my family I am safe and on the way?”
Celestine piped up and said, “I will do that for you, Yngol. Just let me claim a good tent before they are all taken!”
“A wise move, Celestine! Rigmor, if you ever need me for anything, you know where to find me. And Wulf, we would have done this a lot quicker if you hadn’t taken a nap!”
I replied, “Write a letter of complaint to Molag Bal. He might apologise.”
That generated much laughter, which I feel was in short supply since Rigmor left Quintus’ camp at the head of an army.
Quintus started barking orders as Rigmor approached me. Before we could talk, a Legionnaire called out, “A lone rider approaches!”
Rigmor and I waited at the foot of the bridge.
The rider was a New Imperial Sergeant. He rode up, halted, then said, “I bring a message for Lady Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma.”
Rigmor asked, “Wulf, will you please fetch it and read it.”
I walked up to the rider who handed it to me. I told him, “Wait until I have dismissed you.”
I quickly read it to myself.
“Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier,
The Emperor has instructed me to invite you to The Imperial Palace for talks in the hope we can put an end to this unfortunate position we all find ourselves in.
I think we can agree that Morag’s demise and the defeat of Bruce de Medalius and his cabal have changed the political climate in The Empire, and I humbly beg you not to march your army into the Imperial City.
I know you only want to return to a normal and prosperous life, and I can assure you that Bruma can remain a free city. The Emperor has assured me that if we can end the war between us, His Majesty the Emperor promises the following:
- The Count of Leyawiin will be exiled.
- Robere de Medalius will be exiled.
- The Count of Chorrol will be reprimanded.
- The Count of Cheydinhal will be reprimanded.
- Marshall Quintus will be pardoned.
General Septim is to be bestowed the County of Leyawiin by Royal Decree if only to restore freedom and prosperity to Cyrodiil and The Empire in these troubling and dark times.
Therefore, I humbly ask you to present yourself to the Imperial Palace tomorrow morning to discuss and agree to the possible terms and amendments if you require them and once again bring a lasting peace the citizens of The Empire deserve.
Lord Chancellor of Cyrodiil and The Empire.”
“Rider, tell the Lord Chancellor we will only parley in a room that contains no New Imperial troops. If I see any present, I will escort the Countess back here, and no negotiations will occur.”
“May I ask why this is of concern to you?”
“I can trust Penitus Oculatus and Legionnaires not to break the rules of parley. I cannot trust bandits dressed as soldiers. Plus, messengers don’t get to ask questions. A real soldier would know that.”
I turned to talk to Rigmor and found a smiling Inigo in my way.
“My friend, your time being dead, again, has not improved your mood.”
“It took all my reserves of happy not to cut him down.”
I called over to Rigmor, “Countess, we will parley with Sethius in the morning. Let’s discuss things over some food. I haven’t eaten in days!”
“Okay, Wulf, I would like that.”
I said to Inigo, “The Sentinels better go find a good fire and tents.”
“Yes, and away from The Thalmor. They have no sense of humour!”
I took my time walking to where Rigmor headed. I knew instinctively she would choose the quietest corner of the large camp.
Tish and Ser Amon had joined Rigmor by a crackling fire. The Legion’s cooks would provide food. Therefore that chore was not ours.
I sat and felt relaxed as I was close enough for our quiet to envelope Rigmor and me. The sun was rapidly setting.
- Amon: My friends, greetings and salutations.
- Wulf: I saw you and B and Tish during the battle, and I was impressed. I want to thank you for helping Rigmor and Bruma.
- Amon: There is no need for thanks, my friend. I feel invigorated again, and it’s been some time since I had a purpose.
- Wulf: Amon, I think there is more to you than just an aged warrior.
- Amon: Perhaps. The Countess needed my service. Her father, Ragnar, offered his service to help us fight The Dominion to a standstill. I felt obliged to return to favour.
- Rigmor: Did you know my father, Amon?
- Amon: Not personally. He arrived late in our struggle after The Empire betrayed us. The war had been raging for some time. If only Mede had kept his nerve after Naarifin was defeated in The Battle of The Red Ring, maybe we would not have had to fight alone for another five years.
- Wulf: I understand the bitterness, Amon. However, if Emperor Titus Mede II had not negotiated the White-Gold Concordat, The Dominion would have won a prolonged war. Of that, I have no doubt. He made the hard choice of withdrawing Imperial troops from Hammerfell. However, he made it easier for soldiers like Ragnar to aid your people, even after Hammerfell left The Empire.
- Amon: How so?
- Wulf: At first, at the advice of The Elder Council, he labelled people like Ragnar as deserters. But then he stopped mentioning them at all but let it be known that any who aided Hammerfell were invalids and therefore eligible for their pensions and reinstatement if their health improved. That allowed those concerned about their hard-earned pensions to join in your defence.
- Amon: I did not know that.
- Wulf: Much of what Mede did was lost in the bitterness of your people and Talos worshippers. That is the burden of a good Emperor. They must be willing to make unpopular choices. As I said, I understand your bitterness, but all the facts need to be known if a fair judgment is to be made.
- Amon: Yes, that is information that should be weighed in context.
- Wulf: Please, forgive me for the history lesson and continue.
- Rigmor: Wulf has a habit of doing that.
- Wulf: And you have a habit of saying I have that habit!
- Rigmor: Please ignore the idiot and continue, Amon.
- Amon: I don’t think The Dominion accounted for the fact we would never surrender.
- Wulf: Their atrocities galvanised your people’s determination. They never tried such barbarity anywhere during The Great War. They must have thought they had free reign to do so after the White-Gold Concordat was signed. You mentioned you participated in The March of Thirst at the Fighters Guild. What did you do after that?
- Amon: After we crossed the desert, we regrouped in Skaven. By that time, only Hagathe held out from Arannelya’s forces.
- Wulf: Arannelya managed to take Skaven, didn’t she? But her forces were severely weakened.
- Amon: You know your history. Yes, Arannelya followed us across the desert. Still, by the time she made camp outside the wall, General Decianus had arrived with his Legion and many volunteers from High Rock, Skyrim, all over.
- Wulf: That must have been a brutal battle.
- Amon: Yes, it was a bloody day. Although we lost the city, as you said, it was the beginning of the end for Arannelya. By the time Mede had won in Cyrodiil, we had retaken Skaven and pushed her back across the desert.
- Wulf: Then the White-Gold Concordat was signed.
- Amon: No matter the reason, the fact is The Empire abandoned us to The Dominion. And yes, under the direction of The Thalmor, they thought they could get away with genocide and began to cleanse the south to consolidate their gift from Mede ethnically.
- Wulf: As I said, I understand the bitterness.
- Amon: That is when your father arrived, Rigmor. I have never seen such ferocity. The sheer size of the Nords, all berserkers, was enough to inspire awe in allies and fear in enemies. We also had a lot of other former Legionnaires from all over The Empire join us. For instance, Casius and his men. We fought on. Then one day, The Dominion was gone. It was over.
- Wulf: And then, like many warriors, you found it hard to adjust to peace.
- Amon: Yes. The war had given me a purpose, and then I had none. I was just a Lordless Knight with nowhere to call home. The rest is, how shall I say, history.
- Rigmor: What will you do when this is all over?
- Amon: I have decided to return home to Rihad. Hammerfell is calling. Who knows what awaits?
- Wulf: Amon, I guarantee older and wiser warriors like you will be essential as Tamriel prepares for the Akaviri.
- Rigmor: Tish, we didn’t have much of a chance to talk after you joined us a few days ago.
- Tish: If you weren’t fighting, you were discussing strategy and tactics, or you were looking after Wulf.
- Rigmor: So, what is your story, if you don’t mind me asking?
- Tish: My story? Have you ever heard of Wrothgar?
- Rigmor: Yes, it is part of The Western Reach, where Wulf and I dealt with King Sigmayne and all that creepy stuff.
- Tish: Were you there for the Oblivion Gate and those idiots called Orsinium’s Sons?
- Rigmor: Yes, it is where Wulf was so badly hurt it took three years for him to recover. Well, he is still recovering.
- Wulf: Rigmor and The Sentinels fought hundreds of Daedra while I made my way through The Scuttling Void to close the Oblivion Gate. The battle for Table Mountain was to save Nirn, not just Bruma. Similarly, the battle that day was to save Nirn, not just a single city of Evermor.
- Rigmor: So, Tish, you come from somewhere in the Wrothgarian Mountains?
- Tish: Yes, we lived in a small village under the shadow of Mount Sorrow. Our tribe was The Gorlanah. Like most other small tribes, we became part of a bigger one during ‘The Squabbles’.
- Wulf: Is your name Gorlanah Tish?
- Tish: Yes, we were allowed to keep our tribal name.
- Wulf: How did you end up in The Blades?
- Tish: Our new chief was looking for young wives and had his beady eyes on me, so I up and left overnight. My mother was sleeping, but my father caught me at the door of our hut. I was all ready to go with my pack on my back. He knew what I planned but never said a word. He just grabbed my face in one hand and lifted me onto my toes, and with his thumb, he drew a line from my nose down over my lips. He then let me down and placed his hand on my shoulder with a slight nod. Man, I can tell you that was intense. You see, we don’t do that kind of lovey shit most Men and Mer do. No way! But it meant everything to me, and I cried like you milk drinkers when I was out of his sight.
- Wulf: I have seen plenty of crying Orsimer, especially in Evermor. It is not a sign of weakness.
- Rigmor: Wulf calls himself the blubbering barbarian. I wouldn’t call him a milk drinker!
- Tish: Different tribes expect different behaviours. The Gorlanah saw it as a sign of weakness.
- Wulf: Fair enough, please, continue.
- Tish: I was pretty young when I left my tribe and had been down in the mines for most of my childhood. I’ll never forget, every morning when I woke up, the very first thing I would do was gaze up at Mount Sorrow and watch the clouds kinda get wrapped around it. Yeah, I’ll have to go back there someday.
- Rigmor: So, when did you join The Blades?
- Tish: I don’t like to talk about it, okay?
- Wulf: Tish, I am the leader of The Blades. I left them with explicit instructions. I need to know what they have been doing.
- Tish: Ask one of your dragon friends.
- Wulf: I am asking you. I feel Silah and the others have kept something from me. So please, why did you leave The Blades.
- Tish: We would receive complaints about dangerous dragons. When you vanished, a few resorted to their territorial ways. Esbern had discovered old Akaviri schematics for creating ballista. They were ineffective if used against a flying dragon unless you lured them into a kill zone. We became very good at that. We survived long enough to enrage a dragon who would land or swoop through a kill zone. The ballista bolts had barbs and ropes attached. If you hit a wing, it would just punch a hole. If you hit at close enough range, the bolts would be embedded with the barbs ensuring they could not be easily removed. Once hooked by one or two ropes, the dragon was a goner. It was easy to plaster them with arrows till they crashed to the ground. Then we just hacked away until they died.
- Wulf: Harsh, but it was justified if the dragons killed people.
- Tish: That is where it went wrong. Esbern and Delphine would tell us of a problem dragon, and off we went, full of righteous anger, and kill it. But they lied to us. They simply wanted to kill every dragon they could!
- Wulf: Didn’t other dragons tell you about the innocent brothers you slaughtered?
- Tish: Dragons are liars, so we should never believe a word they say! That was the mantra of Esbern and Delphine, the veteran Blades and experts on the ‘beasts’, as they called them.
- Wulf: How did you discover the lies?
- Tish: We gathered to hunt a particularly vicious dragon that had slaughtered many citizens of Whiterun. When we approached it, it was asleep and basking in the sun. We quickly set up our ballistae and fired. The dragon screamed, and from the mountain nearby, Legionnaires came running and surrounded it. Then children, armed with bows and swords, joined the Legionnaires!
- Wulf: Was the dragon called Strunmahwuld?
- Tish: Yes.
- Wulf: What happened next?
- Tish: A Legion Captain demanded to know why we attacked one of his guards. Some of the children were crying and hugging Strunmahwuld. The Blades all turned to Delphine as we waited on her reply. She made some feeble excuse about a dragon in the area attacking Whiterun citizens. Strunmahwuld said something in dragon language, and a young girl interpreted it for the Captain. Strunmahwuld said that no dragons within hundreds of miles of Whiterun had harmed a single mortal. To cut a long story short, I discovered that only three of the dozen dragons I had helped kill were causing problems. The others were, since you defeated Alduin, living peacefully. I left The Blades, and I think nearly all if not all the others also left.
- Wulf: The Dragons were not killed by me. That means they can be resurrected. But still, what Esbern and Delphine did was unforgivable. Thank you for telling me, Tish. Please, do not feel guilt for the crimes of others. Excuse me. I need time to think about this.
I walked to the edge of Lake Rumare.
Other dragons did not attack The Blades. They probably thought such retaliation might cause issues with other mortals. I was tempted to summon a dragon and ask them why I wasn’t told of this in Sovngarde weeks ago. But I already knew the answer. It was a distraction, and I did not have the time to deal with the problem. There is nothing I can do until we resolve the issues in Cyrodiil. I decided to visit The Sentinels instead of worrying over it.
I approached the fire and tents appropriated by The Sentinels and a few Legionnaires.
“Celestine, can you tell me how I survived and how to get rid of Molag Bal’s taint.”
“The senior vampires that Serana spoke to had a theory. Usually, for Molag Bal to claim a soul, he has to be physically close to a mortal, or a person dies whilst a vampire. To do it remotely, he must have used The Bridge of Sighs as a conduit. Rigmor said you detected a sudden rise in the amount of Magicka being used just before the Dark Lord marked you.”
“Yes, it rose quickly, then there was an explosion that was far weaker than others that followed. Then the Magicka level dropped to its previous, but still rising, level.”
“The closer you were to The Bridge of Sighs, the less energy would need to have been expended. The ratio was inversely proportional.”
“So, half the distance, one quarter the Magicka required.”
“Yes, and Bal knew where you were thanks to the conversation you had with Morag Sethius, which, I was told, ended up with you teaching her how to fly.”
“She made the best scream and crunchy sounds, but it didn’t kill her.”
“You recognised the mark, the taint, and the spell because of the affinity for Daedric dweomer that you obtained when Husk tainted you.”
“How was the spell draining my lifeforce removed?”
“Valerica came and removed it. She and Sybil Stentor said it was a variant of the curse that the Zurin Artis Underking used on you in Sancre Tor. Once the curse was removed, Serana returned the soul fragment from the Black Soul Gem to your body.”
“That was kind of Valerica.”
“She said she owes you a lot, despite you stealing her castle and island from her.”
“Valerica is immortal. Give her a couple of thousand years, and she will get over it.”
“She was not very complimentary about Morag Sethius and her clan.”
“So, the dweomer, curse, was removed, but my lifeforce had to regenerate, and the rest of my soul find its way home.”
“Yes, and nobody was certain how long that would take. Silah assured us it was a matter of days, perhaps a couple of weeks, but no longer than that. The more lifeforce in your body, the more likely your conscience in The Void would be able to do what you did when lost and will yourself back. Silah said that Lord Akatosh provided a pathway to guide you through The Void and make your return easier and less prone to error.”
“It was similar in concept to the pathway that Lady Mara guided me through that led from Mundus to The Scuttling Void via The Void. I needed to stay close to her avatar so The Void would not drain my lifeforce. But that was not a worry this time or when I got lost as it was my conscience devoid of lifeforce that visited that realm.”
“That pathway in Evermor was wooden planks. What was it this time?”
“A maze. And it didn’t lead straight to Mundus. My Mother wanted me to visit her, so it led to Sovngarde.”
‘You saw Saint Alessia!”
“Yes, and some of the children whose souls were released from The Bridge of Sighs. I will tell all about my trip soon, but I need to speak to Rigmor about our visit to the grieving widower.”
“To remove the mark on your soul, you will have to visit Coldharbour. Morag Bal has to do the removal, or you might find another method while there.”
“Excuse me, Lord Bal. I am sorry about whacking you on the knee with Scourge and stuffing up your plans. Can you please remove your mark from my soul?”
“Take some flowers and perhaps a nice necklace, and he might forgive you?”
“Before I whacked him, he wanted to drink from my skull.”
“Then you had better get a bigger bunch of flowers and make sure the necklace has lots of diamonds.”
“I am sure something will come up to at least allow me to visit Coldharbour. It is quite a busy and populated place. Bal might not even know I’m there.”
“I made a quick trip to Falkreath and spoke to Sorella. Angi was hunting up in the mountains and left Sorella in the care of some rather large Nords. Anyway, Sorella was more than a little happy that her father was on the way home and that Rigmor and Wulf beat the bad guys.”
“Every enemy to Sorella is a bad guy!”
“Lydia wanted to chat, so you had better go talk to her.”
“Thanks once again, Celestine.”
“You don’t have to thank The Divines, Wulf. We owe you far more than we can ever repay.”
I wandered over to Lydia.
“Lydia, how did you hold up with all the fighting?”
“I was reminded why I became a guard and not a Legionnaire. I can’t imagine going on a campaign that lasts for years!”
“I suppose it does take a particular type of personality.”
“Wulf, will you be Emperor?”
“I don’t know, Lydia. If The Divines want me to be Emperor, they had better have a plan that doesn’t involve assassinating Sethius or invading The Imperial City.”
“I just want you to know that The Sentinels have all told me they would still want to guard you and Rigmor if you are to remain in Cyrodiil.”
“That is nice to hear, but I would also like you lot to have a chance at a normal life.”
“Well, perhaps if Cyrodiil is going to be your home, we could make our homes here if you understand me.”
“Yes, come to work, then return home to a partner and maybe children. A normal life.”
“Like Bjorn and I planned what seems a long time ago. Two guards doing their shifts and then returning to their place.”
“A house you can decorate how you want. You can walk around in whatever you want and eat when you want. A place of your own.”
“It is still my dream. Perhaps a place to share with another love, although I still morn Bjorn. I have not even sought another partner. But maybe, my own home will rekindle the bigger dream.”
“Let us see what develops, Lydia. No matter what, I will talk to each Sentinel and see how they want to move forward.”
“Okay, you had better head back to Rigmor. She is probably exhausted.”
I quickly made my way back to Rigmor and sat down.
“Wulf, Tish just told me how she met B. It’s hilarious!”
“I am sure it was, and you can tell me the tale another time. But we need to talk about what Sethius has offered as a peace deal.”
“I would like to do it over by the lake. I find it calms me, and I want the Imperial City in my view. It will help me focus.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
Tish headed to the tent she was sharing with B.
Rigmor and I headed for the shore of Lake Rumare.
I handed Rigmor the letter from Blackwell, which she read then returned.
“So, Rigmor, what are your first thoughts?”
“I have gone on and on about wanting peace and a normal life. This offer is generous, but I know the peace would only be temporary, and I realise a normal life will never be mine.”
“The extent of Sethius’ crimes will soon be known. He handed powers to Morag that an Emperor’s consort should not have. She ordered ships and troops and even the Penitus Oculatus around. Under his rule, Morag planned an invasion of Tamriel by the Akaviri and used Empire resources to do so. The families of those slain at the border will demand justice. The Jarls of Skyrim and the leaders of High Rock will threaten war if he is not removed.”
“Wulf, do you think this offer is worthless? Should we even parley with Sethius?”
“It is always worthwhile talking peacefully rather than shouting over the sounds of battle. Behind you is The Imperial City. It should be a centre for multiculturalism, arts, knowledge and religious tolerance. Instead, it is the central point for the political game of Cyrodiil and the injustices that derive from a greedy grab for power.”
“So, we do the obvious. We talk politely, then tell Sethius we have to think about it.”
“Yes, we need time to see what The Elder Council and the nobles of other provinces do.”
“Good, that is settled. Now I want to know how you got back to us.”
“How about I tell you as we cross the bridge tomorrow. It was bad enough crossing it on Hashire. I could drop dead from tedium walking across it!”
“So off to bed we go then. I feel like I could sleep a hundred years.”
“I will hold you close, and we can share our quiet. Too bad your snoring will keep the rest of the camp awake.”
“I don’t snore!”
“Oh, and how would you know since you are asleep while doing it?”
“I hate logic!”
“Come, my Queen, hitherto yond comfy bedroll only recently used by smelly, unwashed New Imperial troops.”
“Don’t worry, Milady. The bed bugs and fleas would not dare bite royalty.”
We walked to our tent and found brand new bedrolls had replaced what was there. I have no doubt one of The Sentinels did that for us after discovering the state of their tent.
Rigmor crawled in, and she was asleep by the time I joined her.
I moulded my body to hers and thanked the heavens that I could keep doing so.
I know not what time I fell asleep.
Rigmor and I were up at dawn, and I enjoyed breaking my fast with The Sentinels. Rigmor looked at the bacon and eggs with revulsion rather than her usual predatory demeanour. She still enjoyed having a chat with our friends.
We returned to our tent to retrieve my weapons, helm and shield. Rigmor looked worried.
“Are you ready for this?”
“As much as I’ll ever be. It is always good to start the day with The Sentinels.”
“Before we go, let me show you something.”
I opened my journal case and was not surprised to see the four red mountain flowers, plus the fifth Rigmor gave me at Casius’ camp. Jenny was also in there. I showed them to Rigmor.
Rigmor exclaimed, “I still have the red mountain flowers you picked, but you have them as well!”
“You still had your Jenny Doll after giving it to the girl, and she gave you a sword you already had.”
Rigmor took the Jenny Doll off me and looked at it closely. She handed it back with a smile.
I asked, “It is identical to the one on your bed, isn’t it?”
“It was one of my comforts when you first got lost. I know every inch of my Jenny Doll. Yes, Wulf, it is identical.”
“The Divines are on our side, Rigmor. If they could aid us more, they would. They have often demonstrated their power to me when outside of the mortal plane. But here, they rely on us. I hope that you can share my love and faith in them one day. It helps when you worry about things like meeting a milk drinker with a funny beard who calls himself Emperor.”
“You have trust in other things, Wulf. For instance, you cannot envision somebody breaking the rules of Truce and Parley. Sethius was content to watch evil perpetrated of all sorts. Therefore I cannot share that trust.”
“Blackwell would not allow such a heinous thing. Let’s get there and get this farce over. Then we can spend the day staring at the light bouncing off the lake’s surface.”
“Like we did near Riften on a couple of occasions.”
“We did it from the balcony of Honeyside a couple of times.”
“Yeah, I remember when we crossed all over Skyrim wearing robes and with no weapons. That was the closest I have felt to The Nine, doing those missions for Lady Mara.”
“On our mission to the ghosts near Whiterun, you saw Strunmahwuld, the dragon that Tish mentioned.”
“And I said he was beautiful!”
“He is a magnificent being well-loved by the children and guards of Dragons Keep, yet blind hatred almost killed him. That is what the Emperor of The Empire should be working to eliminate. The elimination of such blind hatred is one step towards Kintyra’s Peace.”
“Kintyra’s Peace is a good name for the target of all this. I like that!”
“Imagine in a thousand years that children all over Nirn are told their life is good because of Kintyra’s Peace.”
Rigmor smiled and said, “Come on then, my optimistic Guardian.”
As we walked past the fire, only Ser Amon was there.
Rigmor stopped and asked, “Good morning, Amon. Where’s Tish?”
“Tish has decided to return to High Rock. You might be able to catch her if you hurry.”
I said, “I wish you all the best, Ser Amon. Perhaps we will meet again, and we can sit and relax and talk about wars being relegated to history.”
“That is a worthy wish.”
I ran to catch up with Rigmor, who, despite wearing plate armour, was quite swift on her feet.
Tish and B had commandeered some horses. I am sure there are plenty without owners after yesterday’s slaughter.
Rigmor pleaded, “Tish, wait!”
Tish and B stopped.
- Tish: Hey girl, what’s up?
- Rigmor: Where are you going?
- Tish: Bruma has been good to us. We don’t wanna outstay our welcome.
- Rigmor: You are welcome to stay as long as you want.
- Tish: Agh, Rigmor, don’t do this to me.
- Wulf: Rigmor, Tish, like Ser Amon, feels an urge to return home. Knowing what is coming, I think it is wise.
- Tish: Look, me and B gonna head up to High Rock and see what’s happening up there. I got some unfinished business, and talking to you kinda cleared my head a bit.
- Rigmor: I understand. You will always be welcome here. No regrets, huh?
- Tish: One of the biggest regrets in my life was killing those dragons.
- Wulf: Tish, you are not the guilty party, and perhaps I can bring them back. I know the Shout that Alduin used. I just need to figure out where to get the lifeforce to use it.
- Tish: That way that those children defended Strunmahwuld kinda changed my mind. They are not beasts.
- Wulf: No, they are individuals, and as with mortals, some are good, some are evil.
Tish and B continued their journey.
Rigmor and I continued ours.
Quintus’ Legionnaires had removed the debris of war, and Weye’s citizens returned to their homes. But the blood of battle is not so easily hidden and marked the place of death of many.
Quintus was waiting at the foot of the bridge.
- Quintus: Watch out for a trap. His handpicked guard will surround Sethius.
- Rigmor: I’ll be fine, Quintus. I have Wulf with me. What could go wrong?
- Wulf: I will not allow Rigmor to enter the room if I see any New Imperial troops. There is no chance that Legionnaires or Penitus Oculatus would breach the law of Truce and Parley.
- Quintus: If something untoward were to happen, I would march my Legion into the city in the name of Titus Mede II and give control back to the Council of Elders.
- Wulf: No, you wouldn’t, for that is not what Rigmor desires. If we were harmed under a truce, Sethius would have guaranteed that every noble in Tamriel would demand his removal. You would not make the citizens of The Imperial City suffer for his crime. You would maintain your encirclement and wait for the Elder Council to act. Isn’t that so?
- Quintus: Yes, you are right. I spoke in haste.
- Rigmor: I am sure Blackwell is as good as his word. Thank you again, Quintus, for everything you have done for Bruma and me.
- Quintus: Don’t make it sound like it’s the end. This victory is just the beginning. Good luck, Milady.
- Wulf: Quintus, if they tried to harm Rigmor, I would kill them all and happily lop of Sethius’ head. They can’t fit an army in there, and even if they did, they would still lose.
- Quintus: Oh!
- Rigmor: Come on, my Dragonborn. Let’s go and talk to the milk drinker with the funny beard.
I stared at the long, monotonous bridge and said, “Forget talking about how I got through The Void. I have a better idea!”
“And what is that?”
“Give me your hand and get ready to skip.”
“No, that was okay in the snow and ice of Roscrea, where nobody could see me!”
“The Chosen Queen can do what she wants, and nobody would dare say a word to offend her. That isn’t in the prophecy, but neither is a long boring bridge.”
Rigmor took my hand, and I used my Thu’um as I sang. Everybody in the Imperial City and Palace would know we are not afraid.
- DANCING THROUGH SAVANNA GRASS
- ON LIGHT FEET, WE GLIDE
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI BOY
- TAP YOUR HEELS IN STRIDE
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI GIRL
- SWING YOUR TAIL BESIDE
- VAL VIJAH VA RHOOK, BAANDARI
- CARRYING OUR WORLD IN PACKS
- VAL VIJAH VA RHOOK, BAANDARI
- OUR KINGDOM ON OUR BACKS
- HOME IS ON THE MOVE AGAIN
- ON WAGON WHEELS, WE GO
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI BOY
- WHERE THE WILD WINDS BLOW
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI GIRL
- OUR CARAVAN IN TOW
- VAL VIJAH VA RHOOK, BAANDARI
- CARRYING OUR WORLD IN PACKS
- VAL VIJAH VA RHOOK, BAANDARI
- OUR KINGDOM ON OUR BACKS
- WALKER, WE CAN TEACH THE STEPS
- WE’LL BE YOUR GUIDING STAR
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI BOY
- KEEP CLOSE, AND WE’LL GO FAR
- HEY, HEY, BAANDARI GIRL
- OUR VAGABOND BAZAAR
Two rounds of that song got us halfway, and Rigmor was laughing.
“Okay, my beloved, you just have to hold my hand for this one. No skipping required, and I won’t even make you kiss me!”
- MY SWEET LOVE, SHE WAITS FOR ME,
- THROUGH STORM AND SHINE, CROSS LAND OR SEA.
- I RUN TO HER AND TOGETHER WE,
- SWAY AS WE KISS
- SWAY AS WE KISS
- HER GRACEFUL SHAPE I HEAVE ON HIGH
- AND IN ONE HAND I HOLD HER NIGH
- HER WAITING LIPS ARE NEVER DRY
- SWAY AS WE KISS
- SWAY AS WE KISS
- COME THE MORN SHE GOES
- THE TASTE OF HER REMAINS
- AND IN MY MIND, I SEE US SWAY
- SWAY AS WE KISS
- SWAY AS WE KISS
“Rigmor, there is one song that means more to me than any other.”
- THERE IS A SMALL CHILD LOST IN THE DARK
- IN MY DREAMS, SHE’S STILL THERE.
- SHE HAS FALLEN, AND SHE WAITS.
- WILL SOMEONE COME?
- MIGHT SOMEONE CARE?”
- HER HEART, SHE’LL GIVE YOU, HER LOVE BE TRUE.
- WHERE’S HER DRAGONBORN, TO SAVE HER, TO NEVER LET HER GO?
“I have failed on the ‘never let you go’ in terms of physically being there for you. But you are always in my heart, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier. That will never change.”
Rigmor held my hand tight as we walked the end of the bridge in silence.
Then Rigmor let go to reach for our weapons if need be. Love has to submit to practicality on occasion.
A New Imperial made a crude remark to another as we approached. As I passed him, I whispered, “If you are still here when we come back this way, I will kill you.”
We entered, and instead of the hustle and bustle of a major city, there was silence except for barking dogs telling each other how tough they were.
We walked in silence. Any attempt at ambush would be heard long before it reached us.
At the foot of the stairs leading into The Imperial Palace, Rigmor halted.
“My Dragonborn, wait. What shall I say to them?”
“If you wish, I can represent you.”
“Please do but be diplomatic.”
“I will follow your example and keep the swearing for the end of my rant.”
“Hahaha! Well, I certainly won’t be marrying that arsehole Ser Robere so check that off the list. The best he can hope for is his freedom, same with his father.”
“Blackwell would have warned Sethius not even to suggest that idiocy.”
“We hold the upper hand in the negotiations, right?”
“They are begging for a deal. Beggars can’t be choosers, as Kharjo once told me.”
“Imagine if they asked me to marry the Emperor!”
“Negotiations would have to be postponed till we both stopped laughing!”
“All this political bullshit! How do they even live with themselves? They will do anything, stoop to the lowest of the low and fuck each other over at every opportunity for power.”
“And all done without the slightest influence of gods, Rigmor. They have indulged in mortal flaws without restraint because that has been allowed. In Cyrodiil, it has been regarded as civilised. The system in Skyrim has produced Jarls who do not fight each other. Unlike Cyrodiil nobility, their main concern is for their people. Except for that arsehole in Falkreath, they got rid of him and put Yngol in his place. What is one of the first things he did? Built a school!”
“Exactly, and that is what pisses me off. The power the Cyrodiil nobles fight over does not belong to them. It belongs to the citizens, the people of Tamriel. If only I could be a true voice for the people.”
“Well, if we accept this deal, we can at least help the people of Leyawiin as well as keep up the good work in Bruma.”
“Dragonborn, do you think I have what it takes to become Empress?”
“Let’s see. You are compassionate, ethical, a champion of the ordinary citizen and can cut a man in half with a single sword stroke. All the requirements to be an astounding Empress!”
“Pffft! I don’t think so.”
“What you just said about the power belonging to the people and your earnest desire to be their true voice. Add those to what I have already said, and you truly are capable of being Empress and one that the people love.”
“But you don’t think The Chosen Queen is supposed to be the Empress, do you?”
“No, I don’t. It would make no sense to give a title completely different meaning in a prophecy. A queen is not an empress.”
“What about us? What will you do no matter what happens next?”
“I am with you no matter what. I will never leave you! Our love brought me back from the brink of death on several occasions. Our love is beautiful, eternal, and so strong that gods can’t stand in its way. Without you, I am nothing.”
“I love you, Wulf. I belong to you and you alone, and I will never stop loving you!”
“You don’t belong to me, Rigmor. We are equal in everything except blankets. You always steal the blankets!”
“You truly believe in the prophecy, don’t you?”
“Yes, but we have to work to achieve its promised outcome.”
“What will become of us?”
“We shall have a daughter by the name of Kintyra. She will want for nothing and be loved by the citizens of Nirn and us. She will usher in a new era of peace and such fame she will have that we will fade into the background of history. The love we give her will continue for eternity as it is passed on from generation to generation. I could not think of a greater gift The Divines could give Nirn or us.”
“Come on, my beautiful Dragonborn.”
We entered, and scant troops were visible, none of them New Imperial.
I opened the door to the throne room and could see no New Imperials.
We entered, and the door closed behind us.
Sethius immediately stood and demanded, “What are you doing?! Why are you standing there! Kill them!”
I mentally prepared the Mayhem spell. It would take a split second for me to cast it.
Sethius came storming down the stairs and barked, “Lord Chancellor Blackwell, order your men to kill these traitors!”
Blackwell replied, “No, I shall not.”
I turned to Rigmor and said, “If a fight breaks out, run. I will not hold back with my Thu’um, and it would be best if I didn’t have to worry about hitting you! Meanwhile, I will be rude and stand in front of you.”
Blackwell continued down the stairs and declared, “I am your Emperor!”
He walked over to the Legionnaires on my left and yelled at one of them, “You! I demand you kill them. You…you must obey me.”
I used my Thu’um enough that my words echoed for seconds.
“Your Imperial Highness is incorrect. The Countess’ and my safety are protected by several Imperial and International laws. A member of the Imperial armed forces does not have to obey a command that requires them to break Imperial law knowingly. As Emperor, you should know that The Empire is the law and that the law is sacred.”
The Legionnaires ignored Sethius. Many of them had their back to him.
Sethius moved to the Legionnaires on my right and randomly picked one for his tirade in desperation.
“You will cut them down this instant!”
My anger was growing, but so was my pride. As I expected, the real soldiers of The Empire refused to be corrupted by the piece of shit spitting on tradition and law.
He picked another victim for his unlawful demands and screamed, “You will unsheathe your sword and cut them down! Cut them down, I say!”
Total silence from the Legionnaires was Sethius’ answer.
Sethius turned to Blackwell and despairingly said, “Then I… I am undone.”
Sethius walked towards us, pleading his innocence.
“It wasn’t me. I…I am innocent. It was Morag. She murdered the children, not me!”
I replied, “It was you who murdered, raped and plundered for years as a bandit before usurping the Ruby Throne. It was you who ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Leyawiin men, women and children. You allowed Morag to utilise Imperial resources for coordinating and aiding the planned invasion of Tamriel. It was you who allowed border guards to rape, murder and rob defenceless families who only wanted to move to another part of THEIR EMPIRE!”
My last two words shook the room.
Sethius stood in front of me and said, “You can have the Ruby Throne. Take it!”
“Sign the abdication papers, and I will gladly do so on behalf of The Empire’s citizens.”
Sethius got very close and, in his horrible, whiney, squeaky voice, said, “Mercy!”
“Your Imperial Highness, I had no and have no intention of killing you. If I had such intentions, you would have died weeks ago.”
Rigmor vomited loudly behind me. Thinking that she may have been hit with a poison dart or something similar, I quickly turned to check on her. From behind, I heard the rasp of a blade being unsheathed.
I quickly turned and found Sethius had a wicked-looking blade in his hand.
He was lower than me, so doing a Single Word Unrelenting Force was safe. It would not reach the Legionnaires, and if it did, it would only stagger them.
Sethius staggered backwards and fell to his knee.
As he got to his feet, I drew my sword.
I used my Thu’um to denounce Sethius.
“THE BANDIT KING HAS DRAWN A WEAPON AND ATTACKED ME DURING PARLEY. I WILL NOW DEFEND MYSELF AS ALLOWED UNDER THE LAWS OF EVERY CIVILISED COUNTRY!”
Sethius stood up then lunged at me.
I manoeuvred so that the Legionnaires were not behind him, then used a Single Word Unrelenting Force once more. He fell to his knees once more.
I snarled, “While you played your pathetic games of politics, Morag planned an invasion of Tamriel by the Akaviri and Molag Bal. You almost cost the lives and freedom of billions. You are scum and no better than the myriad other bandit scum I have killed.”
Sethius was beyond reason. He stood and attacked.
I did a lazy backhand swing and decapitated him.
Sethius’ body fell to the ground and his heart, yet to realise it inhabited a dead body, beat a few more times. The floor of the centre of The Empire was stained by the blood of a smelly-bandit, as Inigo likes to call such vermin.
I looked at Rigmor’s handiwork.
I observed, “That column has stood for thousands of years, but I bet you are the first to puke all over it.”
Rigmor whispered, “Do you know what this means?”
“Yeah, carrots do stay in your stomach for weeks.”
“Idiot! You are now Emperor.”
“Emperor Idiot the First!”
My attention was drawn to Blackwell, who declared, “The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.”
Then the Legionnaires started chanting, “Dovahkiin” over and over.
I asked Rigmor, “Please be my co-ruler. That is the role of my Chosen Queen envisioned by The Divines.”
“How would it work?”
“I have the final say when we are both in attendance. You will have the full power of Empress when I am otherwise engaged.”
“If you wish to be so blunt, yes.”
“I don’t know. This Chosen Queen role is kinda scary, Wulf.”
“We would be doing this together for Kintyra and all the other children born from this moment on.”
“Yes, Wulf, of course, I will sit by your side. But you had better order some cushions!”
I headed towards Blackwell and heard Rigmor whine, “Normal life? Yeah, right. Pfft, there goes that dream.”
I halted for a second when I noticed Sethius’ head amongst the feet of Legionnaires. Thank goodness the chanting stopped.
I stood before Blackwell and shook my head.
“I would have preferred not to kill him, Lord Chancellor. In a week or so, he would have been removed by The Elder Council.”
“Your Imperial Majesty, whom so ever takes off the head that wears the crown, reigns supreme.”
“And he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. This killing is not how I wanted to obtain the Ruby Throne!”
“But what you did was lawful. So, take your rightful place upon the throne of Dragonborn Kings!”
“And The Divines meddle once more, but I suppose it was a neat solution.”
“Nothing, Lord Chancellor.”
I slowly ascended the steps that Sethius descended minutes earlier.
I stood staring at the Ruby Throne and said to Rigmor, via our rings, “My Mother created it. My father was the most famous Emperor who sat upon it. Our daughter will inherit it.”
“And you will fart on it!”
‘Yes, my dear Rigmor, but from now on, they will be as freshly blooming roses.”
“Uhuh. They will still smell of rotten cabbages and cheese.”
“I wonder if I can make important diplomats gag?”
The sweet sound of Rigmor’s laughter reached my ears, and I smiled as I sat upon the Ruby Throne.
The Legionnaires shouted in unison, “All hail Emperor Wulf Septim the First. All hail, Ysmir, Dragon of the North. All hail The Champion of The Nine.”
That salutation would have required some rehearsal. Blackwell knew this outcome was inevitable.
I used zoom vision upon my beloved. Rigmor was staring at Sethius’ corpse.
I asked via our rings, “Are you contemplating the beginning of our new life?”
“Nah, I was wondering where his head is.”
“It is in the middle of the Legionnaires on your right. It is on top of a red diamond floor motif and is dripping blood upon it.”
“Do you think that symbolises something?”
“No, Rigmor, I am just wondering if I get a bonus prize for accuracy, like at a carnival.”
“I am glad you are relaxed about all of this!”
“I had a feeling that things were heading, or should I say beheading this way since I saw the innocent dead on the border. It is less of a surprise to me than you.”
Blackwell said, “Milady, after you.”
I watched my beloved ascend the stairs.
She looked at me, and I asked her, “Would you like your cushion to have Morag’s face embroidered on it?”
Rigmor smiled and fought laughter as she made it to her throne and sat.
The Legionnaires chanted, “All hail Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma.”
I said to Rigmor, “You will soon be High Queen of Cyrodiil. Then Consort to The Emperor if your mother blesses our wedding and doesn’t chase me with a carving knife.”
“What will people call me?”
“Even after our marriage, your will be ‘Your Royal Highness’. Welcome to the confusion of multiple titles.”
We watched as Blackwell approached us.
Blackwell stood to the front and centre of us.
- Blackwell: Your Majesty, as Lord Chancellor, it is my duty to protect, serve, and pursue your interests with absolute, unwavering ruthlessness. If you would kindly permit me to, I am sure you’ll agree, tie up a few ends. We have to ‘nip it in the bud’, so to speak. And I mean all of them.
- Wulf: What was that? Did I hear you humbly ask if I want you to continue in the role of Lord Chancellor?
- Blackwell: Ahh…umm…
- Wulf: Relax, Lord Chancellor. I gratefully accept your offer of service. However, there will be no absolute, unwavering ruthlessness under my reign. We will uphold Imperial law and The Ten Commands of The Nine Divines.
- Blackwell: Yes, Your Majesty.
- Wulf: Therefore, the ‘nip in the bud’ will not involve summary executions. The Count of Leyawiin, Bruce de Medalius, and his son, Ser Robere de Medalius, will be arrested and tried for the mass murder of the County of Leyawiin’s citizens and the wanton destruction of the County of Leyawiin’s infrastructure. They were not entitled to do so at the time but were mere bandits. I assume Sethius never issued pardons?
- Blackwell: No, he did not.
- Wulf: Furthermore, The Count of Leyawiin, Bruce de Medalius, and his son, Ser Robere de Medalius, are to be tried for High Treason and Sedition, in that they planned to usurp Emperor Ariel Sethius and led a coalition of co-conspirators. I would suggest The Count of Bravil, Regulus Terentius VI, be subpoenaed as a witness for the prosecution. I am also available as a prosecution witness against Ser Robere de Medalius. Since there are no legal heirs not also being tried, The Court of Leyawiin will be moved here until the end of the trial. Understood?
- Blackwell: Yes, Your Majesty.
- Wulf: The Count of Cheydinhal, Andel Indarys IX, is to be arrested and tried for High Treason in that he planned to usurp Emperor Ariel Sethius. His wife, Lady Agatha Longstride, will be given the powers of Countess until at least the end of the trial. Her conduct during that period will be of paramount importance as to who rules Cheydinhal in the future.
- Blackwell: As you command, Your Majesty.
- Wulf: The Count of Chorrol, Matthew Valga, is to be arrested and tried for High Treason in that he planned to usurp Emperor Ariel Sethius. His wife, Lady Ariana Debenfall, will be given the powers of Countess until at least the end of the trial. Her conduct during that period will be of paramount importance as to who rules Chorrol in the future.
- Blackwell: It shall be done, Your Majesty.
- Wulf: Rigmor, do you understand why we cannot persecute any of these people for what they did to Bruma?
- Rigmor: Yes, Wulf. They were under legal orders from Sethius as I had escaped my, ahh, legal internment on Roscrea.
- Wulf: Legal internment? Yeah, right. Pffft!
- Rigmor: Hey Emperor Weirdo, steal somebody else’s sayings!
- Wulf: You look shocked, Lord Chancellor. It will be best for your health and nerves if you quickly accept and become used to our informality.
- Rigmor: Yeah, I will not participate in that stiff assed, court duties, crap thing. Cyrodiil nobles can remove the sticks from up their arses! Of course, we will be diplomatic with important dignitaries.
- Wulf: Yeah….
- Rigmor: Wulf, steal it once more, and there will be an issue.
- Wulf: Yes, my Chosen Queen.
Blackwell turned to Rigmor and said, “Milady, you look quite pale. Are you ill?”
“I am with child.”
I instructed Blackwell, “Lord Chancellor, please attend to the arrests and imprisonments. I worry retribution may put the accused in danger. Return when you have done so, and we can discuss the transition.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Blackwell bowed and left the chamber. The Legionnaires followed.
When we were alone, apart from the corpse of Sethius, I approached Rigmor.
“My beloved, are you sure? Are you absolutely, one hundred per cent, no chance of a mistake certain that you are pregnant?”
“Oh, my silly Dragonborn, I am positive. My menses is never this late, and when have you known me to refuse bacon and eggs plus the mess against the ancient pillar over there so yes, a million times yes, I am sure.”
“So, Lady Mara was correct, but I understand your scepticism.”
“The scepticism didn’t stop me blubbering along with you at the shrine.”
“Well, this morning turned out far more interesting than peace negotiations.”
“Wulf, what are we going to do?”
“We are going to rule The Empire with fairness. I will abolish many stupid laws and bring us into line with The Ten Commands of the Nine Divines. But as always, we shall deal with problems as they occur and not invent new ones.”
“You were so forceful with Blackwell. Are you sure you will need my help?”
“You must act as Empress on occasion. When I am on that throne, you will help save your citizens from the epic blunders of Wulf the Unprepared.”
“Our little talk before has convinced me that I can do it and do good for the people, so of course, we will be equal leaders. Or maybe 51-49 in my favour.”
“Anything else before Blackwell returns?”
“I don’t want to give birth here. I want to have it in Bruma!”
“That, my future Queen, will be done. It is your comfort during childbirth that is important.”
“Could we make Bruma Castle the centre of administration?”
“I am sure we can arrange something so that it is your residence when not at court. Sigunn will become Countess of Bruma, so we must ensure she has some help with managing that. Your presence there could be part of that help.”
“I have a better idea. Can we make the Tap&Tack the centre of administration?”
“Maybe for special diplomatic meetings. Colin will have to stock Ye Olde Special Brew.”
“Do you think you could take me home after we have spoken to Blackwell? I am sure there is a lot of boring stuff that doesn’t require our arses on these uncomfortable thrones. He will know where we are.”
“I will assign one of the College mages here to be his courier. We will use Bostin to take you home. That will give us time to sit and relax and talk to The Sentinels.”
“Are we going to send a mage to tell them in Bruma about this development?”
“I think it will be more fun to announce it in person. I like to see Malesam and Freathof splutter.”
“Plus, you don’t want to give my mother time to hire a thug to beat you up!”
“There is your strategic mind in its full glory!”
“You are made for this, my dear Dragonborn.”
“When I first found out who my father is, I was fairly certain that manipulation would get me here one day.”
Blackwell entered, and I said to Rigmor, “Let us talk to him down below. I find it a bit pretentious sitting on this throne.”
“An excellent idea!”
Blackwell looked a bit uncertain as we approached him.
I said, “Relax, Lord Chancellor. We are not ones for useless formalities and protocols. So, tell us, what is next?”