Sundas, 12th First Seed, 4E 205
The Sun was just above the Jerall mountains when I exited the keep. I will have to get up a bit earlier to watch a sunrise. It is probably quite spectacular.
I wondered who to take with me to Nagasel when I spotted Olette.
As I walked up to her, I wondered when she would stop growing. At fifteen years of age, she was already as tall as most adults.
“Good morning, my favourite statue in training.”
“Ahh, can I still call you Cap’n or do I have to curtsy and call you Majesty or some other snotty title?”
“You can keep calling me Cap’n.”
“Good. Can you still join the Bard’s Guild with Inigo and me?”
“I promised and will keep that promise. I will have to join in disguise with a fake name.”
“Hey, Cap’n, can I think of your fake name?”
“Okay, but nothing rude.”
“Pity as I was going to suggest Jurr Koff.”
“I am going to visit an old Ayleid ruin to look for a special ring. Would you like to come along?”
“Will it be dangerous?”
“There might be Thalmor or bandits or even vampires. But if you use your skills properly, you should be okay.”
“Is this some sort of test, Cap’n?”
“Before you are away from me at Bard’s College, I just want to make sure you can defend yourself properly. I know you have been using your bow a lot, but it is your sword skills I am interested in seeing. It is just for my peace of mind, you understand.”
“Okay, when are we going?”
“Right now! Let me get the rest of the team for today.”
Calder, Erandur and Brelyna joined Olette and me for the trip.
Erandur risked his life by informing Rigmor that she and the ladies would have to wait to use Bostin as her fiancée had something crucial that needed the airship. Erandur told me Rigmor had a few choice words for her fiancée that he could not repeat to an Emperor.
After setting course for the Beacon at Quintus’ camp, we sat and ate breakfast. I discussed with The Sentinels what they wanted to do since I was now Emperor and living in Cyrodiil. Calder and Erandur said they would wait until after the coronation before making any decisions.
Near the end of our two-hour journey, Olette leaned against the bar and called me over.
“Cap’n, would you need a bard or two now you are Emperor.”
“Ahh, a prospective Court Bard. I still have to learn about the resources I have access to as Emperor, but I can assure you, I will find a place for you to entertain crowds of people!”
“Not one of those places where they pinch the waitresses’ arses!”
“No, a higher quality establishment where they only ogle their breasts.”
“Well, I won’t have anything to ogle for another couple of years, so that’s okay.”
The bell chimed to tell us we had docked, so we made our way on deck.
- Wulf: Please, let’s keep Olette safe. I will observe how she handles herself in combat and will only get involved if we encounter large groups of enemies.
- Calder: Olette is quite good with the bow and polished off a lot of enemies from the Bruma battlements.
- Wulf: Good, but we may have to resort to melee combat at some stage.
- Brelyna: Remember, I am not one of your Sentinels, so I don’t know all the hand signals.
- Olette: That is the same with me, Cap’n. So, if you want us to be quiet, yell and tell us to, ‘Shut the f…f…flip up!’.
- Wulf: Good idea, Olette. And if we are going to sneak up stealth-like, I will flash my lantern six times!
- Olette: That won’t work, Cap’n. Calder can’t count that high.
- Calder: I can, with a bit of practice.
- Erandur: Any particular reason you wanted me along on this trip?
- Wulf: There are some interesting twists concerning religion. You might have some insights useful to figuring out a puzzle or two.
- Calder: Plus, we like the way you smash people with that hammer of yours.
- Erandur: Okay.
We climbed down the ladder and found a platoon of Imperials finishing their breakfast. A Field Legate was in charge. Usually, a sergeant or lieutenant would be the highest rank in a platoon.
The Legate saluted and stood to attention.
“At ease, Legate. We are heading to Table Mountain. Has there been any activity in that area of late?”
“Scouts reported a platoon of Thalmor entered the ruins a few days after the battle. We had just finished burying and burning the dead and returned to camp when they turned up. I had no orders to keep people away. After all, Table Mountain isn’t even in Cyrodiil. The Thalmor left about a week ago, and Raiders seem to have claimed the ruins. We are not keen on crossing the border for such small numbers. Diplomacy and so on, General Septim.”
“The dispatch riders won’t arrive here till tomorrow at the earliest, so I will inform you now. Our forces won the day, and Bruma has no more threats. Our forces surrounded the Imperial City, and Sethius called for a parley. During the parley, he attacked the negotiator and was legally killed in self-defence. A new arse now sits upon the Ruby Throne.”
“Anybody I know, Sir?”
“Yes, you will recognise the name when you hear it. Best to wait for the official announcement.”
“I don’t know why you are visiting those ruins, but it would be a crying shame if the Raiders were to have terrible accidents.”
I nodded, and we left the compound.
We crossed the bridge, and I told Olette, “We are no longer in Cyrodiil. We are illegally in Hammerfell.”
“I always knew you were the sneaky, criminal type, Cap’n.”
I decided to jog. Olette kept up easily while the others were a bit out of shape.
I told the team, “See that broken Ayleid archway? That is the beginning of the battleground. It is all uphill and should have been an easy place to defend.”
Olette asked, “Did they forget it was The Dragonborn coming to get them?”
“Yes, and I soon reminded them.”
We were close to the entrance when I announced, “Okay, dead silence and wait here. Knock your bows, prepare your spells. I will sneak into position and summon you all at once if there are enemies to dispatch.”
There were a few Raiders spread between two camps. I summoned the team, and they approached the enemy with arrows knocked.
When the enemy charged, several were downed in the first volley.
Olette got too far ahead of the others and became the target of the Raiders.
Olette drew her short swords and engaged two well-armoured enemies.
Olette propped as the two raiders separated in an attempt to flank her. A third raider came running from her left.
Erandur killed one Raider. Olette made short work of the other two.
The team charged a marksman and disposed of him.
Then Olette aimed and killed another marksman.
The fight was over.
“How’d I do, Cap’n?”
“Very good, except you got too far ahead of the others. You should maintain your line of archers until the last second. Because you got too far in front, the Raiders converged on you.”
“Yeah, I realised my mistake when I saw their beady eyes and smiles.”
“Both your marksmanship and swordsmanship were excellent, Olette. Well above average.”
“I had many hours of practice with The Sentinels while you were sleeping for three years.”
We entered Nagasel. Nobody said a word about the evidence of cannibalism. There are more gory things during wartime, and all of them saw plenty of that during the defence of Bruma.
We came to the chamber with the Life Tree or Tree of Life, as some call them.
Olette said, “The tree is beautiful, Cap’n. But there isn’t any fruit, so it is as useless as knickers to a Dunmer woman.”
Brelyna took the bait and said, “Excuse me, I am a Dunmer woman, and I find my knickers quite useful!”
“What for? To keep your ankles warm?”
Everybody had a good chuckle. Olette will be a hit with those who like bards to do more than play music and sing.
Somebody had constructed a bridge to cross the gap created during the destruction of the Oblivion Gates.
I turned and did the universal sign for “Shhh!”
We could hear Raiders at the top of the stairs and approached as quiet as possible.
When we reached the level of the Raiders, we could see five of them.
The one who seemed to be their leader said, “Keep looking. She’s around here somewhere. If she tries to escape, the boys outside will get her.”
I walked to the top and used zoom-vision on the leader. He was just a typical bottom crawler.
I called out, “Ahh, your friends outside had a terrible accident. I am afraid we killed them all.”
“I see nobody with you, and I like your fancy armour. Hand it over, and you might live.”
“Now, that was a threat. I don’t like threats.
I summoned the team, and the leader found himself surrounded.
He barged through them and up some steps.
Olette caught up with him.
Then cut him down.
The last Raider also tried running to the upper platform.
Olette put an arrow through his neck.
I climbed to the top platform and said, “I will have a look while up here, but I doubt the Red Diamond went anywhere but the water.”
Olette asked, “Did I do okay, Cap’n?”
“Yes, and I especially like that last arrow.”
“I was aiming for his head.”
“He is dead, and you are not. So, good shot, Olette.”
Before I had a chance to look at the level with the destroyed Oblivion Gates, I heard the unmistakable sound of somebody crossing the makeshift bridge. I ran to the bridge and saw a small woman standing on the other side.
She had rigged the bridge to release its anchors at my end, so it fell and limply hung on her side.
She decided that was the end of the pursuit, turned and started to run away.
She had not drawn a weapon even though she was carrying a bow, so I did not shoot her in the back. Instead, I did a full-strength Whirlwind Sprint and sped past her.
I then summoned my team.
The woman stopped running and casually walked up to us. She showed no fear.
She was a young Dunmer woman, and if she were Man and not Mer, I would estimate her age to be late teens to early twenties. However, a Dunmer could be many times that and appear no different.
- Archaeologist: Hey! BACK OFF! You’d look completely fuckin’ stupid with an arrow sticking right out the middle of your face, bucko.
- Olette: And you’d look completely fucking stupid with my swords shoved up your arse, bucko!
- Wulf: You just witnessed us slaughter that lot in seconds, and I had a clear shot at your back. We would not be talking if I wanted you dead, so cut the bullshit. Okay?
- Archaeologist: Yeah? Well, just keep your hands where I can see ‘em.
- Erandur: Young lady, he doesn’t need to use a weapon or hands to kill you.
- Archaeologist: Hey, I am no lady!
- Olette: DUH!
- Wulf: Relax, I only wanted to ask you for some information, that’s all.
- Archaeologist: What sort of information? Come on, spit it out. I haven’t got all day!
- Olette: Yeah, she was rushing off to have a bath. A badly needed and long bath!
- Wulf: Olette, can you please refrain from antagonising our friend here?
- Olette: I suppose that is possible if I concentrate and pretend that she is not an idiot.
- Wulf: We came here to look for a unique gem, a red diamond.
- Archaeologist: Uhuh, didn’t see nothing like that, although if I did, you’d be the last to know about it.
- Wulf: How long have you been here? Did you observe Thalmor searching for something?
- Archaeologist: I dunno why I should answer your questions.
- Calder: See the uniforms a couple of us are wearing. As Penitus Oculatus, we can ask whatever we want, and you have to answer, or we lock you up until you do.
- Archaeologist: Maybe in The Empire, bucko. But this is not The Empire, is it?
- Calder: If I knock you out and drag you over the border, it will be The Empire.
- Wulf: Unless you have something to hide, you would answer my questions and be on your way.
- Archaeologist: Okay, if it gets rid of you. I came here about a month ago. Many Raiders and other undesirables outside these ruins made it impossible to enter. I noticed a lot of soldiers in the nearby fort and a bridge being made across the river. I guessed a battle was gonna happen and that if the Imperial’s won, I might be able to get into the ruins.
- Olette: Cap’n, I don’t think she knew what lived in here.
- Wulf: Probably not, but let her finish.
- Archaeologist: The battle happened, and then the Imperials buried some bodies and burned others. I managed to sneak inside, but within a day or so of the Imperials leaving, Thalmor arrived. I watched as they built the bridge, and then they started searching for something. About a week after they arrived, one of them yelled excitedly from the water below. They dragged him up by a rope, and he showed their commander what he found. Then they all cheered, and within the hour, they were gone.
- Wulf: That was over a week ago, correct?
- Archaeologist: Yes, and then the Raiders turned up. For some reason, they disliked me, and I have been playing hide and seek with them since.
- Wulf: Thanks. That was helpful information.
- Archaeologist: So, now I’ve answered your questions, you can go back the way you came and forget you ever saw me.
- Wulf: That is not going to happen. The red diamond was one reason we are here. The other is we are seeking the Ayleid city of Nayasel.
- Archaeologist: That was buried underground by Molag Bal’s lackey king, who the Ayleid princess, Pilvi-Hinnesh, spurned.
- Wulf: So, you are not just a tomb raider then? That information is only found in dusty tomes.
- Archaeologist: What are you? An archaeologist or just some chancer looking for a quick septim?
- Olette: You are talking to a wealthy person. Look at his armour. It is made from Star Metal! His sword is worth more than most kingdoms!
- Wulf: Have you visited The Dragonborn Museum in Solitude?
- Archaeologist: Yeah, why?
- Wulf: Last count, two and a half thousand relics and artefacts were on display. I collected over ninety per cent of them. But I am not an archaeologist, even if I have been in far more dusty tombs and ruins than you can imagine.
- Archaeologist: Yeah, right. Pffft!
- Wulf: What did you just say?
- Olette: She said, ‘Yeah, right. Pffft!’
- Wulf: Who are you, and what is your name?
- Archaeologist: Who wants to know?
- Wulf: I am Wulf Septim, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. As of yesterday, I am also Emperor of The Empire.
- Archaeologist: Hahaha! Nice try! Hahaha! You and I, we’re gonna get along.
- Olette: She can see through your disguise, Lord Sheogorath.
- Wulf: I have warned you before. It is Uncle Sheo!
- Archaeologist: Well, I’m an archaeologist. Perhaps we can help each other?
- Wulf: That sounds sensible.
- Olette: And almost as much fun as me shoving my swords up your arse.
- Archaeologist: Then come this way, Your Royal Fibber.
We walked into the cavern full of shallow water where we had encountered Morag’s crack troops and slaughtered them in seconds. The archaeologist stopped and pointed to a massive tree as if I might not have noticed it.
“See that tree? It has something to do with the old legend. Nayasel was built around a ‘Tree of Life.’ Yeah, I know, not exactly original as far as legends go.”
I warned, “Olette, no comments about Dunmer woman and knickers, thank you.”
Olette poked her tongue out.
The archaeologist continued, “My guess is if there’s a way below into the old city, we should look for some kind of opening or break in the wall or floor.”
Olette piped up, “That is brilliant, and we would never have thought of that! We were going to look for a sign that said, ‘This way to Nayasel’”
My team laughed, but the archaeologist ignored them and ordered, “You check over that side. I’ll check over this side.”
When she turned her back, I gave her a salute, then crisply turned and headed for our designated search area.
After a couple of minutes, the archaeologist yelled out, “Hey Dragon Boy, I think I found something.”
We walked over to find her standing in front of a cave entrance.
She commented, “This could lead to somewhere. You first, I hate caves!”
“Did you just light that torch?”
“You are an archaeologist who hates caves? That is like being a dragon afraid of heights. Or a pirate who is scared of water. Or a Nord who dislikes mead. Perhaps this is not your calling? By the way, don’t call me Dragon Boy.”
“I am The Dragonborn!”
There can’t be many Dunmer women who like crawling around in Ayleid ruins and who talk like my beloved. Could it be her?
I said to the archaeologist, “You remind me of somebody.”
“Oh yeah, who?”
“Someone very special to me. My fiancée.”
“Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.”
“Rigmor, huh. That’s some fancy name.”
The way her eyes briefly widened was the clincher. She knows Rigmor. This young Dunmer woman was Loona, her childhood friend. If she wants to play charades, I will play the game for a bit longer.
She pointed to the cave and said, “Let’s get moving.”
After a few steps, she made the brilliant observation, “This is promising. This could be our way in. That way, follow the eternal flames.”
Olette quipped, “Did you all hear that? We are to go straight ahead and not turn left or right through the solid rocks!”
I used heat-vision and announced, “See the spider webs. There is one spider immediately ahead, and another is heading our way. I will take point and will cast Lightning to take care of them. Miss Archaeologist, take up the rear. We are immune to their poison. You, I assume, are not immune to electricity or poison.”
“How would you know where the spiders are?”
“I am partly dragon. I can see body heat through the rock.”
I think Loona was starting to realise I was The Dragonborn.
We moved along at a good pace, with me warning about spiders and their arrival then me zapping them with Lightening.
I stopped and said, “By the way, Miss Archaeologist, they are not eternal flames. They are Ayleid Welkynd Stones.”
A spider marked by Kyne came visiting and got zapped.
Erandur said, “Miss, that spider was marked by The Divine called Lady Kynareth. It is a game she plays with The Dragonborn.”
Loona had no objection to that bit of gobblygook as we continued.
We came upon a large chamber with Ayleid architecture in abundance.
Loona made her way to the front.
She then said, “I think we are on the right track.”
Olette replied, “Ahh…duh!”
I advised, “Watch out for the loose Ayleid stone blocks. I know somebody who explored Rielle when she was a little girl, and one of those blocks fell on her foot. Her best friend had to run to Bruma to fetch Ragnar, the injured girl’s father. But then, Miss Loona Shadow, you would know all about that, wouldn’t you?”
“So, you know Rigmor. But you haven’t told me why you are here and looking for the lost city.”
“My fiancée, Rigmor, has decided she wants a particular ring for her wedding band.”
“The White Gold, Diamond and Ruby encrusted ring of the lost Ayleid Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh?”
“That’s the one.”
“You must really love her to go to all this trouble.”
Olette piped up, “Cap’n has gone to Oblivion and, worse, to help Rigmor. He loves her heaps!”
I explained, “Sigunn, her mother, told me the story of how you met Rigmor. Loona, I am Emperor Wulf Septim the First. Rigmor is currently the Countess of Bruma but will soon be my wife and The High Queen of Cyrodiil. Together, we have saved the world and its people on several occasions. Despite all that has happened in Rigmor’s life, she is still that caring and compassionate friend from your childhood. She has often mentioned her best friend, Loona Shadow, to me.”
“And you are The Dragonborn.”
“Yes, I am. I can sense something familiar ahead, so let’s go discover what that might be.”
A single tunnel exited from the cavern.
At the end of that short tunnel was a much larger cavern. The history of Nayasel was before us.
Loona ran past me and up to a pile of charred bodies spilling out of an inert Oblivion Gate.
- Loona: Shit, Emperor, look at all these dead! There must have been one helluva battle here, but what could have the power to do that?
- Wulf: Master Mage Brelyna, would you care to speculate?
- Brelyna: Yes, Arch-Mage, let me have a closer look.
Brelyna studied the evidence then faced me.
- Wulf: Tell me your thoughts, Master Mage Brelyna.
- Brelyna: Well, Arch-Mage, they are not just burnt, but their flesh and bones melted before solidifying and making this macabre sculpture.
- Wulf: What do you notice about their skulls, jaws and claws.
- Brelyna: They were vampires at the time of their death.
- Wulf: Only one thing is hot enough to produce such a death, and that is Dragonfire. Molag Bal opened this gate and ordered his minions from Coldharbour to attack Nayasel. At least one potent user of The Voice defended the city.
Loona wandered over to a shimmering barrier and exclaimed, “Hey, Emperor, check this out. This barrier must be protecting the entrance to Nayasel. There must be something we’re missing, and this is totally so fucking amazing!”
I walked up and placed my hand on the barrier.
I said to Erandur, “Place your hand on the barrier and tell me what you detect.”
Erandur did so and said, “I have a feeling this barrier has something to do with one of The Nine. It is not of Lady Mara, so cannot say which one.”
“Touch my armour.”
Erandur did as asked, then said, “I get the same feeling. But wait, your armour was made by Lord Akatosh!”
“Yes, the barrier was placed by an avatar of Lord Akatosh. Most likely Herald, the large orange dragon I met in a pocket plane of Aetherius.”
On the ground was a raised platform in a stylised shape of the Sun.
I said to the others, “This symbolises the Sun and was used by ancient Mer, Snow Elves and Ayleid to represent Auri-El, another shard of AKA and their equivalent of Lord Akatosh.”
I took off my gloves and asked, “Does anybody have a sharp dagger?”
Loona passed me one, and I knelt before the symbol.
I explained, “This is a Blood Seal. Only a person with blood blessed by Lord Akatosh can trigger it. Watch.”
I cut my palm and squeezed some blood onto the platform.
A light appeared in the middle of the platform, and the barrier vanished.
Behind the barrier was a massive sliding door with Dovahzul runes etched upon it.
Loona walked up to it and asked, “I know that is dragon language. Do you know what it says, Emperor?”
“They are Fus then Ro then Dah. They are the three Words of Power that, together, trigger the Unrelenting Force Shout.”
“Ahh, Words of Power?”
“Daar los drog Bormahu miiraad. Bo!”
“I said, in Dovahzul, ‘That is Lord Akatosh’s door. Move!”
Erandur answered, “Loona if you do not want to end up an interesting smudge on that boulder or a pile of ash on the floor, move to the side and behind His Imperial Majesty.”
Loona did so but did not notice the others had their fingers in their ears.
“FUS RO DAH!”
A full-strength Unrelenting Force hit the door where the Dovahzul was carved. The cavern shook, and pieces of rock fell from the ceiling.
The door slid upwards with dust billowing. Beyond it was Nayasel.
The others had fallen to the floor, and Loona issued an inventive string of expletives. I walked over and held my hand out, which she grabbed, and I helped her to her feet.
“I am sorry, Loona, I had to use all my power as if I were Lord Akatosh knocking on that door.”
“What? I can’t hear a word?”
Olette got Loona’s attention then replied, “Loona, our Emperor needs a sacrifice, and we all decided you would be the one. Okay?”
Olette nodded enthusiastically to Loona, who returned a tentative nod without knowing what was said.
Olette laughed then said, “Go ahead, Cap’n, the sacrifice is ready!”
Loona had no idea why, once again, my companions were laughing.
I motioned, and Loona followed me into Nayasel.
The young Dunmer exclaimed, “Whoa! Holy fucking shitballs, Emperor!”
Olette mumbled to herself, “Shitballs? Wow, I can use that word in so many ways!”
We were heading down a flight of stairs when Loona said, “Emperor, please wait.”
I turned to her and replied, “Loona, please call me Wulf when we are not in public.”
“Well, ah, Wulf. I am sorry I didn’t believe you about being The Dragonborn or Emperor.”
“Forget it. In a dingy, dusty tomb, some random person you just met says, ‘Hi there. I am The Dragonborn and Emperor’. I wouldn’t believe me either. But that would be talking to myself, which is the first sign of madness. Have you met my invisible rabbit, George? Say hello to the nice lady George.”
Loona laughed, and it echoed my beloved in its sincerity.
She said, “I’ll follow your lead, yah? But let us take it slow and careful, okay. If there is any truth to the legend of a lost Ayleid Princess, you will probably find evidence in that temple. That’s where I would look.”
In the distance was a Temple of Auri-El and the most likely place of internment for Pilvi.
We strolled along the walkway, and it was evident a great catastrophe had occurred. There was no damage to the buildings that I could see, but there were thousands of graves.
Loona exclaimed, “By the Gods, look at this place. Look at the Graves Dragonborn, so many graves. They survived and must have decided to stay down here. This is the saddest thing I ever saw.”
Olette piped up, “Cap’n, I don’t like this place. I feel like singing the darkest dirge I know.”
Gone was the levity of minutes before. Laughter probably fled this place in despair thousands of years ago.
I was staring straight ahead at the temple and trying sort through a moral conflict. The idea of taking a ring from some desiccated corpse of an ancient princess was not appealing. Finding her grave and digging her up even less so.
A woman appeared briefly at the summit of the steps. Using zoom-vision, I could see that she was some form of Mer, most likely Ayleid. The woman turned and entered the temple again.
- Loona: What the…? Did you see that? Was that a ghost or something?
- Wulf: It seems not all Ayleid are dead. Do you want to come and meet her?
- Loona: I’m gonna stay here. You go ahead. I’ll wait for you to come and get me, okay?
- Wulf: That is okay. I think it best I approach her, or them, alone. The less intimidation, the less likely they are to act aggressively.
- Olette: Cap’n, what if they turn out to be cannibals?
- Wulf: I will explain how chewy and tough Nords are and that Dunmer is far more tender and good with red wine.
- Erandur: If there are Ayleid, they might not know what a Dunmer is. We didn’t exist in the days of the Ayleid.
- Olette: Oh, I know that story. The Chimer were turned to Dunmer by Lady Azura when three of them lied to her and turned themselves into gods, and the rest abandoned their Daedric gods.
- Wulf: Any Ayleid survivors might be ignorant of history since this city was buried.
- Brelyna: If you are lucky, they have the ring you seek, and you do not have to interfere with a corpse.
- Calder: We will wait here with Loona.
Loona sat down and placed her satchel next to her.
The others stood near her. All of them watched as I approached the temple.
As I walked, I looked to my left. There was a Great Welkynd Stone, one of the greatest marvels of the Ayleid.
They are the pinnacle of Dawn Magic and one of the rarest and most sought artefacts. It would have provided the energy to grow food, including reagents for medicines by storing starlight. Nobody was going to get their hands on it unless they were Dragonborn. I was going to seal the city again.
I walked up the long flight of stairs and was met with an ancient tapestry depicting the Tree of Life. I asked in Ayleidoon, “Hello, is anybody there? Do not be afraid. I will approach with my hands away from my weapons, and my friends will keep their distance.”
There was no reply, so I stepped past the tapestry into a small throne room.
I stood still. I am a big man, so it is hard not to look dangerous when standing there in armour bristling with weapons, but I tried.
A timid voice whispered, “Wait…please….”
An exotic looking Mer emerged from behind a column. She had pale skin, unlike all other Mer I have seen. Not albino white like the Snow Elves. As she spoke, my heart ached to hear such loneliness, despair, guilt, and, above all, forlorn hope.
“Are you a God? Is it you, have you come back for me, Auri-El?”
She stood staring at me. I was at a loss for words as I stared into her eyes, her soul, and saw a flicker of hope.
She pleaded, “Should I be afraid?”
“There is no need to be afraid of me, gentle lady. I mean you no harm and am no god.”
“I waited…I waited as you said….”
I knew the answer before I asked. But my mind needed confirmation of the tragedy before me.
“May I ask, how long have you been waiting?”
She said, “Oh….” and after a long pause, the word I dreaded, “Millennia.”
“Do you know of Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh?”
“Yes, I am her.”
I could see she wore the ring I sought. But that was the last thing I cared for at that moment. Tears came unbidden. She did not have to tell me her story as it was self-evident, but I would listen anyway and store it word for word with all her inflexions and emotions and replay them repeatedly in my head as a way of preserving it.
With a sadness wrought from loneliness, Pilvi whispered, “They are all gone now. The last died a long time ago.”
Pilvi walked towards the tapestry then stopped.
She asked, “What of the world outside?”
“My name is Wulf, and much has changed. For instance, your homeland is no longer jungle but grasslands, mighty forests, and snow-covered mountains. Not long after Nayasel was buried, the Daedric Prince worshipping kings started turning on each other. King Anumaril attacked King Cenedelin, who worshipped Meridia. King Anumaril and his followers were butchered, and their cities destroyed.”
A tiny flicker of recognition crossed Pilvi’s face. Confirmation enough that Anumaril was her insane suitor.
I continued, “Less than one hundred years after Nayasel was buried, the slave rebellion occurred. Auri-El contacted my mother, a mortal slave of the Nedic race, and told her if she took up arms against the Ayleid, he would aid her. The slaves revolted, and many Ayleid nobles, tired of the brutal ways of others, joined her rebellion. Auri-El also provided her with two Demi-Gods to aid her. The first was of the Minotaur race. The other was of a race of Man. Free people of the Nordic race from Skyrim also assisted and were terrible enemies of all Mer. The Nords had driven the Snow Elves, another Auri-El loving people, to extinction, such was their insane hatred. Together they defeated the immoral Ayleid kingdoms and united the lands under one Empire founded by my mother. Sick of the meddling of The Daedric Princes on Nirn, my mother asked a boon granted by Auri-El. He created a Liminal Barrier that stopped the Dark Lords from manifesting on the mortal plane. Mortals could still speak to the gods, all of them, but only words, not great magics, could be wrought by them. Mortal free will was the catalyst for the evils that plagued the lands in your time and to this day. Akatosh is our name for Auri-El, and he is chief amongst our gods known as The Divines or The Nine. My Mother now resides with Lord Akatosh and others in Aetherius. I am now Emperor, and most people of The Empire worship Aedra, but Daedric worship is permitted. There are nations of Mer who are mostly peaceful, and they worship nothing but Daedra.”
I did not have the heart to tell her that Ayleid were extinct after the persecution by the Alessian Order. That cult ruled for two thousand years after making up stories about what my Mother told them after her death.
She asked, “Did Auri-El send you to free us from this place? Because if he did, you are too late.”
“He sent me here, but I did not come looking for your people. Nobody suspected there may still be living Ayleid here. Molag Bal and his followers were recently defeated in a battle within Nagasel. His dweomer was purged from his city, which enabled us to look for and find Nayasel. Akatosh blessed me, and I have dragon blood and a dragon soul. Therefore, I was the only mortal alive who could have removed his seal and opened the door.”
Pilvi registered no emotion at this news but said, “Yes, I felt the tremors of that battle and your power when opening the door. Come.”
She then walked through the tapestry and out onto the balcony.
Down below, she saw the group staring up at her.
Pilvi asked, “Who are your friends?”
“Erandur, a priest of Lady Mara, one of The Nine. Olette, a young orphan girl who is like a daughter to me. Calder, a Nord warrior from Skyrim. Brelyna, a Master Mage from Morrowind. That country was once known as Veloth and Resdayn. The one sitting is a young archaeologist and friend of my fiancée. Her name is Loona, and she helped me find this city. She would like to meet you.”
“Well, that’s wonderful. I haven’t spoken to anyone in such a long time. I would love to meet her.”
I pondered what that meant. Does Pilvi still think I am a god, and she means she has not spoken to another mortal for a long time?
Pilvi made a gesture, and Loona came sprinting towards us as fast as possible. I made a hand signal that told The Sentinels to stay put. They stopped Olette and Brelyna from approaching.
“Hahaha, look how she runs. The gods bless her little heart.”
That was probably the first time Pilvi had laughed in millennia, and it was pure joy at something so normal to you or me.
Loona finally reached us, and her excitement was contagious. She gushed, “As I live and breathe! By the gods…oh. Please forgive me, Princes, er, Milady. I didn’t mean to sound disrespectful.”
“Hahaha. That’s perfectly fine. Now, Loona, where are you from? I have never seen a Mer with your eye and skin colouring before.”
I explained, “Loona and another two of my companions are Dunmer. That race was once Chimer but was cursed with this skin and eye colour by Lady Azura.”
Pilvi commented, “That seems like a minor curse?”
“Wulf, only three of the Chimer upset Lady Azura by turning themselves into gods. She did not wish to severely punish an entire people for the indiscretions of a few. The change to their appearance was a reminder to the Chimer that some things should not be done.”
Pilvi turned her attention back to Loona. Loona and Rigmor speaking together when they are excited would be like two Skeever on Skooma chittering at each other.
Loona blurted, “I’m from Morrowind, no actually I was born in Bruma, and my Dad owned a stable and I had a big thing with horses, but he wanted to get rich so sold everything, and we moved out many years ago, but it didn’t help because he died.”
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear. You are an archaeologist?”
“Yeah, well, I studied in the library n’ everything, and the scholar took me under his wing. He was also an archaeologist and taught me everything he knew, and then I bumped into the Dragonborn, and he was like ‘FUS RO DAH!’ and the gate opened. Still, we thought a big fight had happened, and all those dead burned bodies in the chamber, and I always wanted to find the lost city of Nayasel and the city of life.”
“Well, now you seem to have found it, Loona.”
“Yeah, and I was kinda hoping you could tell us what happened.”
“Oh…you want to hear my story, Loona? I am afraid it is not a very happy one.”
Pilvi moved away from us and then began her tale.
“Many millennia ago, my people forsook their gods. The world as we knew it began to change. They turned to the Daedra for the power and riches they promised. As a result, they became corrupt and perverse. Auri-El came to me in a dream and told me to lead the last of his truly devout out of Cyrodiil and build a new city away from the madness, chaos and cruelty. We came here to Hegathe and discovered the Tree of Life. It had wonderful, magical properties, and we decided to stay and build our home on the top of the mountain. We called the city Nayasel, which means ‘City of Life.’ And from the heights, we could defend our new home. No one could touch us. No one could torture us or burn our children for sport. You see, my people had descended into darkness. Auri-El was broken-hearted.”
Hegathe is an ancient name for Hammerfell. The whole world would now be foreign to her. Pilvi looked out upon her domain and continued, “This, what you see here, is all that’s left of our city after a mad king called upon his lord, Molag Bal, who buried us deep into the ground when I refused to accept his love. Molag Bal sent his minions through an Oblivion Gate, and we fought them heroically. But it wasn’t enough. The earth quaked as the city was forced deeper and deeper into the ground, and it seemed all was lost. As we prepared to do what had to be done so all would not be taken alive, Auri-El’ avatar appeared as a huge orange dragon, and he breathed fire down onto them, destroying the Oblivion Gate and the minions. Petrifying them into scorched effigies of rock. Forever frozen in time.”
Rigmor contacted me, “My beloved, I am trying not to use our rings because I think that breaks the rules. You know, no contact after the proposal! But I sense you are sad and am wondering why.”
“I will explain soon, Rigmor. But I am in no danger, so do not worry, okay?”
Pilvi’s voice faltered as she concluded, “Auri-El created a seal to protect us and promised he would return to free us when it was safe to do so. He gave me this ring with a ruby containing a drop of his blood. As long as I wore the ring within the seal, I would live forever.”
I may not have the new Red Diamond, but that ring contains a Chim-El Adabal. Like the one given to my Mother, it could form the central stone of a new Amulet of Kings. One that could light Dragonfires and maintain the barrier if Martin’s should ever fail. Few laymen realise the original Red Diamond was a soul gem, as is the ruby in Pilvi’s ring. The new Red Diamond is also a soul gem but not a Chim-El Adabal.
Loona asked, “What about the others?”
“They all perished over time. We had no desire to live here trapped under the ground, not knowing if we would ever be able to return to the surface. If anyone knew we were alive down here, they would probably have found a way to capture us, a fate worse than death. So, to save any suffering, we had no children. It was better that way, but it was a self-inflicted wound. I realise that now. Auri-El had wanted us to flourish and I failed him. I betrayed us all, and he cast me aside to forever suffer in remorse as punishment for my crime.”
Loona spoke before me and said, “You don’t know that. Maybe he couldn’t reach you? Isn’t that right, Dragonborn?”
“Princes Pilvi, Auri-El does not punish the mortals he loves! His avatar would have taken much power and effort to appear and help protect Nayasel. However, once the city was buried and Nagasel was built above, his avatar would not have been able to return. But he had mortal champions on Nirn like me, blessed with his blood and given the powers of the Dov. Any of them could have opened the seal if they knew where to look. I don’t think Lord Akatosh sent any previous Dragonborn to open the seal because of the dweomer placed by Molag Bal. A soon as that dweomer was removed, he sent me. If Lord Akatosh knew you were still alive, I do not know. He spoke to my fiancée, my Queen, my beloved. He was full of such sadness and regret, Pilvi and is not a vengeful god. None of the Aedra are apart for that traitor Meridia. You were not being punished, and you were not forgotten. You are free to leave now and once again speak to Auri-El, and he will be most pleased.”
“So, I can go home now?”
Loona replied, “Things have changed now, and Cyrodiil is totally different. You could come with us. Couldn’t she, Dragonborn?”
I did not say it aloud because Pilvi would be aware. She could come with us, but I had made her mortal once again by breaking that seal. I had no idea if the years would catch up with her or if the ring would still protect her somehow, but I knew she was mortal. If I replaced the seal, she could remain immortal.
Loona did not wait for my reply but continued, “There’s peace in the world now…well mostly…and The Dragonborn can find you a place to live in the Imperial City or wherever you want.”
“Hahaha. You are so kind, Loona, but I would probably stand out and get some strange looks in this robe.”
I answered, “Cyrodiil is very cosmopolitan. You would find robes based on that style suddenly adorning the wealthy who waste money on the latest fashion trends. But yes, at first, it would be a curiosity.”
Loona piped up, “I have a spare outfit. But it is in my bag, and dang it, I left it over there. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Before I could say, “Pilvi is about two feet taller than you!” Loona was off on a mission to retrieve the clothes.
Pilvi moved to my left as she observed Loona.
She remarked, “Bless her. She calls you Dragonborn. Are you an avatar of Auri-El?”
“No, Pilvi. My parents were once mortals but are now gods. I was born a mortal and will remain one. Auri-El has given me Dragonblood and the soul of a Dragon, but I am not him.”
“I know it must be you. Please don’t deny me….”
“I have always loved you. Why are you forsaking me?”
I tried hard to stop her, but Pilvi was not listening. It would have been so easy to lie to her to ease her pain. But that would have been morally corrupt. I tried again, “Pilvi….”
“Have I not suffered enough? Please say you have come to take me home. Auri-El, I beg you, please don’t leave me here alone.”
“Pilvi, I just explained all of this. I am so sorry, but I am not Auri-El, and he was not punishing you and is not punishing you. We are not going to leave you alone. We will wait till you gather some things and we can leave together. Please don’t cry. You will see I am correct.”
“I…I’m sorry, forgive me.”
“No apology is needed. Once we leave here, you can decide what you want to do. I will do everything in my power to help you. I even know others who have worshipped Auri-El for millennia in isolation and are now free to roam Nirn once again. It can work, Princess.”
“Did you break the seal?”
Pilvi was still confused, but I will repeat things as many times as needed.
“Yes, and it is the gifts Auri-El blessed me with that allowed me to do so. Only his blessed blood in my veins allowed the opening of the Blood Seal. I am the only mortal that could do so and was sent by him.”
“Then I must give you this.”
She offered me her ring. I did not know what would happen to her without it. I had already made her mortal. I stammered, “No, Milady, I can’t take it. Not now.”
“Please, Wulf, Auri-El said I should give this ring back to him when he returned to me, or whosoever breaks the seal.”
I reluctantly took the ring and could feel the presence of Lord Akatosh within it. I placed it in the safest place I could, my journal case.
“Your little friend returns. Please, wait here while I gather my things.”
Pilvi walked past the tapestry, and I watched Loona approach.
When she reached the top, Loona ran right past me and behind the tapestry whilst calling out, “Pilvi, Pilvi! I got you something to wear, hahaha, you won’t get any strange looks with this on…Pilvi…?”
Then Loona let out a cry of anguish, “NO!!!”
I rushed into the small throne room, and Loona was standing over the body of Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh.
She exclaimed, “Fucking… fuck! No!”
She turned with tears in her eyes, and I stepped aside so she could leave the small throne room.
I knelt then turned Pilvi over so I could examine her. Pilvi’s skin was dry and brittle, and there was little or no flesh underneath. I had seen many a similar mummified body in tombs and crypts over the years. It seemed that her body aged thousands of years in the time it took to make a few steps. The dweomer on ring and barrier no longer protected her. I am positive she knew this would happen when she handed me the ring.
I gently opened the red pouch attached to her belt, and it was empty except for her last testament, which read,
I am the last and carry the burden of my people’s crimes. However, I live in a paradise so real, so amazing in my dreams. I am not alone, surrounded by those who love me, liberated from my isolation, shrouded with happiness, warmth and laughter.
I walk among the meadows and let the grass gently brush against my feet. I watch the sunrise over the horizon casting long shadows through the trees. The stars that shone so brightly now fade into the azure of blue, born from a melting pot, two urns of silver and gold poured into a raging furnace.
My white gold city, untouched and shining, is alive while I reside in my desolation. I am comforted by the joy I shall feel to once again return home to the loving rapture of my kin. They call my name, and I soar through the clouds, free from the chains of the mortal realm. I am exalted in my righteousness by my people left behind, which carries me to endure the unendurable.
This then, my cruel fate that I have learned to embrace and rejoice in my wretchedness, my trembling despair.
I carry this testament for a time when I shall be free.
Let it be known I have waited for this moment all my life. To the weary traveller, or the anointed, whosoever that may be, who have found me undone…
Please, do not weep for me!
As I have ascended as promised to sit upon a gilded throne, united for eternity with my one true love.”
I did not weep as Pilvi, like Lord Mor’Bel-Harza, is now reunited with those she loves and soaring in Aetherius with them. Pilvi is an example, along with Knight-Paladin Gelebor and Aranea Lenith, of the strength that comes from total belief in your chosen deity or deities.
I decided that it was disrespectful to leave her body, her shell, slumped in front of her throne for all eternity. The soul may have left, but it still deserves due care.
I gently placed her body in an unoccupied sarcophagus. I then slid the heavy stone lid in place.
I stepped through the tapestry and onto the balcony. The residents of Nayasel were terrified of being discovered. The risk is high in both life and death without protection. I decided their souls need guidance as well as protection.
Using my Thu’um to project my voice, so it echoed within the vast cavern, I performed Arkay’s Rights for the thousands of dead before me.
- BEHOLD, FAITHFUL OF THE DIVINES, THE BEAUTY OF YOUR TRANSFORMATION.
- DO NOT FEAR THE JOURNEY BUT REJOICE AS THE GATE OPENS.
- ENTER AETHERIUS WITH JOY IN YOUR HEART AND A SMILE ON YOUR FACE.
- THE GATE OPENS FOR ALL MORTALS.
- NOT RICHES NOR RANK NOR POWER CAN DENY THIS RETURN TO AETHERIUS.
- AS YOU APPROACH THE GATE, AETHERIUS WILL APPROACH YOU.
- DO NOT TURN FROM THE GATE AS THAT IS TO REJECT YOUR NEW LIFE.
- WALK WITHOUT FEAR AND WITH DIGNITY THROUGH THE GATE.
- WELCOME YOUR TRANSFORMATION.
- YOU NEED NOT FEAR LOSING YOUR WAY, FOR HE WILL GUIDE YOU TO YOUR REWARD.
- YOUR BODY WILL DECAY.
- YOUR SOUL WILL REMAIN SAFE BEHIND THE GATE.
- ONCE THE GATE CLOSES, YOU MAY NEVER RETURN.
- THIS IS ARKAY’S LAW.
I approached the group and could see that Loona had been weeping.
- Loona: Why does everything I touch turn to shit?
- Wulf: Pilvi’s death is not your fault, Loona. Lord Akatosh sent me here to release Pilvi from her suffering. She willingly handed me her ring as Auri-El had told her to do. She knew it would kill her, and she does not want you to weep. I placed Pilvi in an empty coffin and sealed it.
- Loona: How do you know what she wanted when dead?
- Wulf: She wrote a testament as she knew this day would come. It is written in Ayleidoon, but I can read it to you.
- Loona: Okay.
- Olette: Cap’n, before you read it out, can I ask about the prayer you just did.
- Wulf: It was not a prayer but a guide for the deceased. A ritual, if you will, to guide them to their afterlife.
- Olette: Would it work for these people who have been dead for a very long time as well as Pilvi?
- Wulf: Not all souls find their way to Aetherius easily. I am sure there would be many amongst the myriad dead here who will now find their way to Aetherius. Arkay’s Rights works for all mortals, no matter their religious beliefs. But it also has another purpose. It protects the use of the souls of these people by necromancers and others.
I read Pilvi’s testament to the group.
- Wulf: I realise that most of you do not know Pilvi’s story. I will explain it later, but I have had enough of this place of death and despair.
- Olette: Loona, what are you going to do now?
- Loona: I dunno, bum around, I guess?
- Wulf: We can take you to Bruma. Rigmor would love to see you. You can even come to our wedding if you wish.
- Loona: You’re kidding, right?
- Wulf: No, Loona, I am not kidding. We will walk to the Imperial outpost just over the border then fly to Bruma.
- Loona: Fly?
- Olette: The Cap’n has a cool airship. But he can also fly on the back of dragons. I did that one, and it was fun!
- Loona: The airship is cool?
- Olette: Yeah, that is a Rigmor word.
- Loona: We always argued who used it first.
- Wulf: Bah, it is not as good as albatross!
- Olette: Nah, Cap’n, albatross is not cool.
- Erandur: Nobody thinks albatross is better than cool.
- Wulf: All of you are traitors!
- Calder: Yes, but we are cool traitors!
- Wulf: Loona, did you have trouble understanding Pilvi?
- Loona: No, why?
- Wulf: She was speaking Ayleidoon, which is similar to Aldmeri.
- Loona: I never learned Aldmeri.
- Wulf: As I thought. I was also speaking Ayleidoon, but you understood me. The Great Welkynd Stone has a dweomer allowing you to understand Ayleidoon and Pilvi to understand Cyrodiilic.
- Loona: That thing is worth a fortune!
- Wulf: Yes, and to stop the desecration of this place, I will reseal it.
- Loona: That would make me more comfortable about the whole thing.
- Wulf: Then come, let us head home.
We made our way to the entrance to the city, and I asked the group to stand clear as I resealed it.
I did a less powerful Unrelenting Force Shout on the doorway, and it slowly lowered into place.
I then stood in front of the Blood Seal.
- Wulf: As long as my blood remains, the seal will not return.
- Loona: Can’t you just scrub it off?
- Wulf: No, there is only one way to remove my blood, and that is with Dragonfire.
- Loona: You are going to breathe fire, like a dragon?
- Olette: He does that from both ends. You don’t want to stand behind him after he has polished off a bowl of Elsweyr Chowder!
- Erandur: Wulf is never as bad as our Argonian friends after eating Chaurus Eggs.
- Wulf: Well, I am now Emperor. Therefore my farts will smell like roses.
- Olette: And you will crap gold bars!
- Wulf: Stand back further. My Dragonfire will be extremely hot!
I Shouted Fire Breath, and my blood was burnt away.
The light vanished, and the barrier returned.
- Wulf: Nayasel is safe from any tomb raiders once again. I am sure the Welkynd stones have enchantments to stop theft by such lowlife. However, I hate the idea of anybody even corrupting that place with their presence.
- Loona: What you just breathed was the type of fire that melted all those vampires together?
- Wulf: I assume the avatar of Lord Akatosh has at least the same strength of Thu’um as me. So yes, that is what melted them together.
- Olette: Did you use Dragonfire on Molag Bal?
- Wulf: No, I don’t think it would have hurt him. I just waited for the right time and hit him with Scourge.
- Loona: You fought Molag Bal with a weapon?
- Wulf: Yes, in that chamber with the three destroyed Oblivion Gates.
- Olette: But Wulf couldn’t have done it without Boethia’s Browneye!
- Loona: Ah, please explain.
- Wulf: I will tell you about it as we walk to the Imperial compound.
Loona nodded her agreement, and we made our way out into the fresh air.
We stopped next to the statue of Lord Akatosh.
- Wulf: Erandur, now I know why a statue of AKA as Lord Akatosh and not Auri-El is here.
- Erandur: Witnesses to what occurred had it made.
- Wulf: Yes, I would say some Ayleid couldn’t join Pilvi after the battle against Molag Bal’s minions.
- Olette: Why didn’t Molag Bal’s people destroy it?
- Wulf: It was constructed using similar materials and dweomer to the White-Gold Tower. It would be nigh on indestructible.
- Brelyna: Dawn Magic is the type of magic used to protect this statue. The Ayleid were experts, but most of that knowledge was lost.
- Olette: And that Life Tree is also indestructible?
- Wulf: The one in Whiterun was damaged by natural lightning. I don’t think any spell cast by mortals can harm them.
- Erandur: That tree would have irritated Morag and her coven. Molag Bal did not bother to destroy it and could no longer do so after the Liminal Barrier was created. It would have been a constant reminder, as this statue is, that there are things safe from the pettiness of gods and mortals.
- Olette: Just seeing these things makes me want to write songs and poems about them.
- Wulf: I will take you to see some other wonders that are now safe to visit. You will be writing about them for decades.
- Loona: Olette, are you going to be a bard?
- Olette: Yep, once the Cap’n gets off his royal arse and enrolls me in the Bard’s College!
We continued on our way to the Imperial compound and Bostin. As we walked, I explained to Loona what was inside Nagasel and why I had to fight Molag Bal. The only comment she made was, “This idiotic archaeologist was trying to sneak inside!”
Light rain was falling by the time we reached Bostin.
- Loona: Ahh, is this thing safe?
- Wulf: Well, we haven’t crashed and died yet!
- Loona: How long will it take to get to Bruma?
- Wulf: Two hours. If a mage knows where a destination is or what we call a beacon has been placed, this airship can go anywhere in two hours.
- Loona: Can you tell me about Rigmor in those two hours?
- Wulf: I can give you an outline of what happened after you and your family left Bruma.
- Olette: Loona, if you are hanging around for the wedding, I am sure Rigmor will talk your ears off.
- Calder: I suggest you have something to eat in those two hours. Once Rigmor gets yapping, food will be an afterthought.
- Loona: It doesn’t sound like she has changed much.
- Wulf: No, she hasn’t, and when you hear her story, you will marvel at how that can be.
We entered Bostin’s cabin, and Brelyna set the course for Bruma. Olette prepared our meal while I sat and talked to Loona.
Tears flowed freely from Loona as I detailed some of what had happened to her childhood friend. We all agreed to keep the story of Pilvi to ourselves until after the wedding. The story is, I found Loona wandering the ruins of Nagasel, which was true.
After we finished our meal, the others had moved away to clean up and do other chores before we arrived in Bruma.
I warned Loona, “There is one thing about Pilvi you must never mention to anybody. If you do, it may put Rigmor in danger.”
“What is that?”
“What did Pilvi say about the ring?”
“Auri-El’s blood is in the ruby. Is that dangerous knowledge?”
“What do you know about the creation of the Amulet of Kings. Think about that, and then tell me.”
Loona started mumbling to herself some passages from a book I remember reading. Then she looked at me and said, “WOW!”
I emphasised, “We have enemies that would do anything to get their hands on that ring. Not just mortal enemies, either. My blood would do them no good as my mortal half taints it. But that ruby and what is inside…let’s say it would be payday for certain Daedric Princes.”
“That is frightening. And you and Rigmor live this precarious life?”
“Constantly, but you will find Rigmor is much the same as when she was a girl growing up in Bruma. She will take you to her old house. Rigmor is staying there whilst we prepare for the wedding.”
“Is the diamond you were looking for as important as the ring?”
“I am unsure as to its exact purpose, so I cannot say. The Thalmor spent considerable effort searching for it, which suggests they find great value in it.”
“I get the feeling many of your friends already know a great deal about me.”
“You were Rigmor’s childhood friend, and she speaks of you often and with great affection. You will soon feel comfortable around The Sentinels and find they are like a big family. You will enjoy your stay in Bruma, and the wedding will not be huge and intimidating.”
“I will be a surprise to Rigmor, won’t I?”
“Yes, I will tell her to wait just inside the front gates so she will see me, and then you, and then mayhem will result.”
“Ahh, how can you tell her to wait inside the front gates?”
I held up my hand and said, “Lady Mara gifted rings to Rigmor and me. With them, we can talk no matter how far apart we are. We can also tell each other’s health and emotions. Right now, she is getting impatient, and I can guess why. Let me talk to her for a bit.”
“My darling fiancée, we are about fifteen minutes away.”
“Us ladies want to go shopping, and now it is too late, and we will have to wait till morning, and it is all your fault!”
“You will not be angry once you see the surprise I have for you.”
“The whole idea of surprises is not to know what they are beforehand. So, wait inside the front gate and be surprised!”
“I am not going to stare at your arse as you come down Bostin’s ladder. That is entertaining but not a surprise.”
“Yeah, and you don’t want to get any weirdo ideas that would involve breaking that stupid engagement tradition!”
“Yeah, right. Pffft! Anyway, they moved the beacon outside the gates. People were complaining about Bostin’s shadow over the centre square.”
“Fair enough. So, wait inside the front gate.”
“Okay, I will be waiting, like I have all day after somebody hogged the use of Bostin.”
“Who is going with you?”
“Cerys, Lydia, Celestine, Jordis, Serana, Iona and Rayya. All the lady Sentinels wanted to go, but we drew straws to see who would remain behind.”
“Do you have room for our future teenage daughter?”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Olette will be my daughter! Yes, she can come along with us.”
“I am so looking forward to telling her. I will have to figure out the legalities with Blackwell. Olette will have a title, but we don’t want her endangered by the adoption.”
“I will wait for you with the very surprised Casius. He wants to hear the offer of his noble title from ‘His Emperor’s mouth’.”
“Can you please ensure Malesam is waiting for me in The Cabinet Room? See you soon and remember, I love you.”
“I still love you but never, ever get in the way of my shopping again!”
I laughed then told Loona, “Rigmor is impatiently waiting for Bostin so she can go shopping in The Imperial City. Something about a wedding dress?”
“Mmm…well, it can’t be red even though that is her favourite colour.”
“I think she has one in mind, but….”
“But once the shopping bug bites, Rigmor will need a whole day to try on many different dresses and accessories before buying that one anyway.”
“You know her well.”
“Nah, that is just normal behaviour when shopping with friends.”
I handed Loona a bag of coins.
“Ahh, what is this for?”
“I don’t want you to miss out. All the ladies with Rigmor will be buying outfits for the wedding.”
“Thank you, Wulf.”
‘Thank you, Loona, for being Rigmor’s friend and giving her such beautiful and precious memories.”
‘No wonder she loves you, Wulf. You are a big softy!”
Bostin’s bell rang to tell us we had arrived in Bruma. We climbed down the ladder, and I looked up at the sky. The beauty of the stars never fails to impress me.
We walked through the gate ahead of Loona. Then we watched as she slowly approached Rigmor. My beloved was still wearing armour. The day she goes back to wearing dresses will be the day she feels safe once more.
Rigmor stood and stared at the approaching figure. When Loona was about six feet in front of Rigmor, she stopped.
Finally, Rigmor recognised her childhood friend and exclaimed, “LOONA! How? Why?”
“It’s a long story. Wulf said you are living in your old house at the moment?”
“It’s a long story, pffft yeah right. Come on…Hahaha! You too, Olette, you are now part of the Royal Wedding Dress Shopping Expedition of 4E 205!”
The girls ran off to Rigmor’s apartment, which will once more reverberate to women’s laughter for many hours. I wonder how the neighbours are coping?
I told Calder to immediately organise four Sentinels to escort Robere to the Imperial prison. They must return Bostin by morning or risk an angry Rigmor! He laughed as he went to find four volunteers since the squads were in disarray thanks to Rigmor’s shopping trip.
Erandur and Brelyna headed for the Tap&Tack. Their body language told me a romance was brewing between the two.
I walked up to Casius.
“Good evening, Casius. Or is it Count of Leyawiin, Casius Varon?
“Good evening, Your Majesty.”
“You wanted to speak to me about something?”
“Blackwell summoned me to The Imperial Palace. He sent a mage to teleport me there. That is not an experience I want to repeat often!”
“Get used to it. We will be using teleportation and portals quite a lot.”
“Well, I just wanted to be sure about my new appointment.”
“It is official, old friend if you want to take up the offer.”
“Of course, I accept and it will suit me well. With my naval experience, it makes perfect sense but please, how thoughtless of me… congratulations are in order.”
“Thanks, Casius, and I hope you realise we had planned to marry long before we found out about the pregnancy!”
“Your love for each other has always been apparent. Blackwell has gone to great lengths to announce your wedding as one of love, not political expedience. He said that is a rarity amongst Cyrodiil nobility.”
“The Lord Chancellor is not as black-hearted as the persona he has nurtured.”
“You know, you will always have a loyal and trusted friend in me. If there is anything you need, just ask.”
“Come, Casius, you can join me in discussion with Malesam.”
“I will follow you, Your Majesty.”
We headed for the keep and The Cabinet Room.
Malesam was sitting and waiting for us.
- Wulf: Good evening, Malesam.
- Malesam: Good evening, Your Majesty.
- Casius: Good evening, Malesam.
- Malesam: Ahh, I assume you have taken the offer and are now Count Varon of Leyawiin.
- Casius: Yes, indeed.
- Malesam: I like a happy ending and am pleased to make your acquaintance.
- Wulf: Casius, did you discuss some of our concerns with Blackwell?
- Casius: Yes, we discussed the possible involvement of Black Marsh and High Rock. Blackwell seems concerned about Lord Malakai. Do you know of him?
- Wulf: He was a noble we kept our eye on when in Evermor. We did not want Jehanna to march on Evermor during the problems there, and Lord Malakai seemed to have significant influence over his king. However, we had assurance that they would not interfere with Imperial plans.
- Casius: Since the High King is ailing, Lord Malakai has been muscling in on dynastic affairs. Indeed, he had the king adopt a young wastrel after convincing him she was related and noble.
- Wulf: King Pjofr Ice-Blade declared himself High King? I bet the other kings and queens had a good laugh at that!
- Malesam: Your Majesty, are you aware of Thane Erikur’s plot to control Jehanna?
- Wulf: Yes, when Pjofr left Jehanna for unspecified reasons and moved to Riften, Erikur had the Queen poisoned and a puppet, Smaref Ice-Blade, put in her place. Through Smaref, Thane Erikur and his sister, Gisli, arranged many illegal land transfers. Although there was never enough proof to convict Erikur and Gisli of the poisoning, they have been pariahs in Skyrim ever since. Pjofr gained proof of their illegal land dealings via the Thieves Guild and reclaimed them. He returned to Jehanna, where he rules with Smaref adopted as his heir apparent.
- Casius: We don’t know what claims this wastrel has to nobility, but she is called Princess Potema.
- Wulf: Not the friendliest of names.
- Casius: Lord Malakai was not a friend of The Empire under Titus Mede II, but I always put two and two together.
- Wulf: Many people here do that and come up with five as the answer. Don’t they Malesam?
- Malesam: Ahem.
- Wulf: So, Casius, explain what your two and two equals.
- Casius: I mean, the High Rock connection to the Akaviri. We should be wary of Lord Malakai and his ward, Princess Potema.
- Wulf: That one cross on the map does not make a plot. We do not know what those crosses signified. But High Rock is volatile, and we must always be aware of political manoeuvrings there. We shall diligently look for a connection to the Akaviri, but I doubt there is one.
- Casius: Lord Chancellor Blackwell is already investigating possible connections with High Rock, Black Marsh and the Akaviri.
- Wulf: And that is why Rigmor and I have kept him on the payroll. He is very efficient.
- Malesam: Now then, Your Majesty. I hope my advice is welcomed, as I thrive in situations like these. You know, who to watch out for and who might be a problem, that sort of thing.
- Wulf: Of course, Malesam, but you know my caveat. Speculation is to be presented as such and not as fact.
- Malesam: Yes, I understand. Can we, ahem, speak in private.
- Wulf: If I did not trust Casius, I would not have appointed him as Count of Leyawiin!
- Malesam: Yes, Your Majesty.
- Wulf: However, Casius, you would find this discussion confusing, and until I gather all the facts, it is best kept to as few people as possible.
- Casius: I understand, Your Majesty. I will immediately head for Leyawiin. The sooner I see what needs doing, the sooner it can be done.
- Wulf: Concentrate on what is achievable in three years. We cannot assume we have four or more.
- Casius: Yes, that is wise. Farewell, for now, Your Majesty. I look forward to your sacrifice, I mean, wedding.
We waited for Casius to exit the room.
Then I asked Malesam, “Do you think I am so stupid as not to know who to trust?”
“I am sorry, Majesty. I am not doing well so far in your estimation, am I.”
“Let me put the facts to you, so you realise my dilemma. I let Casius leave because he does not need to hear me tear strips off you! Let me state clearly. I trust many people more than a follower of Boethia. Do I need to remind you of The Culling? Her plan to kill every man, woman and child in the Imperial City so she could build an Oblivion Gate? That is not ancient history! That was during the Thalmor occupation of the Imperial City during the Great War! The Akaviri are participants in a war not for lands and title but the ongoing war between Deadra and Aedra. Understand?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“This gives me no comfort, but as discussed in the past, you have not been tested, Malesam. If your mistress asked you to do something harmful to myself or Rigmor or our war efforts, what side would you take? Do you have the fortitude to refuse her? You do not know, and neither do I.”
“I…I do not know how to resolve this.”
“Use your strengths. Sniff out the truth amongst the fawning and falsehoods. Help Blackwell protect Rigmor and me from the political games that we are ill-equipped to handle during the beginning of our reign. If you feel you are not privy to something that may hinder your ability to do that, ask Rigmor or me, and we will decide what to tell you. Sniffing around where I have deliberately kept you at a distance will see you removed from Tamriel. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“As for the Red Diamond, let me summarise it for you. Camaeus has it. He had almost a two-week head start to look for it. Whilst we were fighting our way to the Imperial City, he had Thalmor troops scouring Nagasel for it. He knew it was there because Lord Akatosh wanted him to find it and not me. I will not go into the reasons why that may be. Lord Akatosh would now want me to have possession of it. There is no bargaining in this. The Dominion hand it to me, or I take it from them. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I will inform Blackwell of the same.”
“Count Camaeus has been promoted to an envoy of the Aldmeri Dominion and will be at the coronation. Most of the royal houses and our own noble houses will be there. So, it will be a chance to repair any fractures with Chorrol and Cheydinhal.”
“This, Malesam, is an area where Rigmor and I need good solid advice. How do you approach the widows of those executed? I look forward to your sage advice on such things, Malesam. Please, do not think I do not value your skills, but I am not only The Emperor. I am first and foremost the Champion of The Nine.”
“If I may suggest, Your Majesty should take some time between now and the Royal Union to relax. I am sure Blackwell and I will have strategies ready that we can discuss between the wedding and the day of coronation.”
“I will be far from relaxing, Malesam. I now have The Empire to run.”
“I will do better, Your Majesty.”
“I have been very harsh on you and Freathof on several occasions. I do not apologise for this. I do what is necessary for The Divines, Rigmor, Tamriel and the whole of Nirn. Contemplate on that and ask yourself if I have been correct with my criticisms on those occasions. Good night, Malesam.”
“Good night, Your Majesty.”
I headed for Bruma’s Cathedral and was not surprised to find Father waiting for me.
“Father, thank goodness you have appeared in this form! I might have been tempted to punch the other avatar in the face.”
‘Son, you are angry and have every right to be.”
“No, Father, I am not angry. On the contrary, I am taking a more philosophical approach. I might have stayed after banishing Molag Bal and tried to find it if I had been told about the diamond. Then I would have collapsed beyond the help of others. Oh, Rigmor might have come to me via our rings and watched me take my last breaths.”
“We did not know if Molag Bal could take advantage of your damaged soul. We feared you might join Morag Sethius. We feared lots of scenarios because you were unstable, Son.”
“Yes, well, I suppose wiping out an army and then ranting in front of your and Lord Akatosh’s shrines didn’t say much for my sanity.”
“It might turn out okay. Camaeus may do as instructed and hand the Red Diamond over to you.”
“You groomed him to be the spokesman for The Dominion, but do you know where his loyalties lie? Is his loyalty to Lord Akatosh or The Dominion? If he does not hand over the Red Diamond by the time of my coronation, we will know.”
“He has followed my directions up until now.”
“But now he knows he was misled by you even if no lies were issued. If he finds out your identity, then he will rebel. I will do what is necessary to retrieve that Red Diamond and feel no guilt. Every life lost will be the fault of The Divines and their miscalculation. I will simply be cleaning up their mess as I defend the mortals of Nirn, as is my duty. And until that diamond is in our possession, Kintyra will be in danger.”
“We were wrong not to tell you, and we made a mistake with Camaeus. Many lives may be lost because of those mistakes. But please, Son, do not lose faith in The Nine.”
“I won’t. It would be hypocrisy of the highest order to expect perfection from The Nine. I might not agree with some decisions made, but I will always trust they come from a place of genuine concern for the mortals of Mundus. If that trust is ever broken, that is when my faith will wane.”
“You have a strong ally in your Mother. She said this would be your opinion. But first, you had to get over your anger and confusion.”
“Yeah, anybody would think she watched me grow up. I remember some epic tantrums from my childhood and Mother’s patience as she waited for my Dovah to shut up. You will have your revenge on me with Kintyra, I am sure. If she has half the temper of her mother, her tantrums will be things of legend.”
“None of us are sure as to the properties of the Red Diamond. Only by having it in your or Kintyra’s hands will that be fully revealed.”
“As I expected. But I assume Lord Akatosh’s blood in Pilvi’s ring has known properties that could be used if the Liminal Barrier is breached.”
“Perhaps, but there are so many variables it is hard to say for certain.”
“Father, I do not like the manipulation of others. You are better off telling me via Silah or my compass, which disappeared after I rescued Rigmor from the jail in Roscrea.”
“We don’t use mind control, my Son. We have mortal agents that are adept at implanting suggestions through conversation. You would have seen the same tricks they use at carnivals where people start acting like chickens or think they have great singing voices when alas, for the poor audience, they do not. It is nowhere near foolproof, especially if the suggestion requires multiple triggers and is implanted well in advance of those triggers.”
“Okay, I have seen such mind tricks. Please, explain Rigmor’s sudden interest in Pilvi’s ring.”
“Rigmor often shops for jewellery. On multiple occasions, that ring was suggested as a perfect wedding band if she was ever fortunate to marry. It was sheer coincidence that trigger occurred after she spoke to Lord Akatosh. The trigger was somebody proposing. We took the gamble that it would be you who proposed. Somebody like Robere wouldn’t go looking for the ring, would he?”
“How about Sethri also failing to tell me of the Red Diamond?”
“You will have to ask him. We do not know his mistress’s information or their interactions. You have communed with that entity before, so perhaps you can ask her yourself?”
“Is Pilvi with Lord Akatosh?”
“She is in Aetherius and can visit Lord Akatosh at will. Death has gifted her the knowledge to comprehend all that occurred. She is at peace. Lord Mor’Bel-Harza is now reunited with your Mother. They have the afterlives they sought, my Son. You helped guide some lost Ayleid souls to Aetherius with your slightly warped version of Arkay’s Rights. He cares not for strict adherence, just results, so he is pleased with that outcome.”
“If Sethius had not attacked me, how would I have obtained the throne?”
“We did not interfere, for we were certain mortal politics would eventually hand it to you or Rigmor or Kintyra. The odds were very high that one of you would obtain the Ruby Throne. If need be, we would have asked you to take the Ruby Throne by force.”
“That would not have been well received, Father.”
“No, and the need would have to be great for us to ask that of you.”
“How do I remove Molag Bal’s claim on my soul?”
“That can only be done in Coldharbour and by that entity or some other method while there. He always has parallel plans for opening Oblivion Gates or other mischiefs. Perhaps one of his other plans will allow you to venture into that realm. If we find a lead, we will let you know. There is another task to be undertaken if you ever enter Coldharbour.”
“That entity has your Mother’s mortal body, which contains a tiny fragment of her soul. She will never be complete until that is rectified.”
“I would never be asked to venture there solely for that purpose.”
“No, for it does not benefit the mortals of Mundus and not why you are our Champion.”
“But you told me to increase the chances of me agreeing to visit Coldharbour. Simply doing so to rescue my soul may not be enough of a cause for me to undertake such a trip.”
“We will only ask you to visit Coldharbour if it is to benefit the mortals of Mundus. You have my word.”
“And I accept your word.”
“You have done well with all that has occurred. Our faith in you has never wavered when we know you have all your faculties. But you were unpredictable, my Son.”
“And I have said I understand and accept what has happened. Let us not speak of it again.”
“Then go, get some rest, for tomorrow your work as Emperor begins.”
“If I visit Aetherius, can I get a hug from Mother?”
“When you can do so safely, you will be in danger of being crushed by both of us embracing our Son.”
“Mother’s shrine is the night sky, but I do not understand the stars.”
“That will come, my Son. It is not an easy language to learn.”
“I am at peace with almost all, Father, except Rigmor’s sudden loss of faith in me on occasion.”
“We are a product of life’s experiences. Lady Mara will always be your best guide when love seems to falter. Just remember that Rigmor’s love for you never actually falters. Just as The Nine’s love for you never falters.”
“Do not worry about me, Father. I am resilient and will use the strength of others, including The Nine, to keep my mortal self to the fore. We shall be ready for the Akaviri and what follows after them.”
“Your Mother says that Silah has abandoned her for Rigmor’s shopping trip. Lord Akatosh is just happy for the quiet our corner of Aetherius experiences when she is on Nirn.”
My father’s avatar vanished, and I made my way to my room.
Rigmor said via our rings, “You are the most relaxed since we had our rings returned. I know you were in the cathedral. Did Akatosh speak to you?”
“No, I just had a chat with Father. But I am content with what occurred and have moved on. I am looking to the future, and that makes me smile. My future contains a beautiful wife, a cute daughter and never-ending politics. How blessed I am!”
“Silah teleported into my house and told me she is coming tomorrow. The shops of The Imperial City do not know what chaos awaits them!”
“How did Loona react to the fact that Silah is a dragon?”
“Loona has quickly learned to accept all the gobblygook and mumbo jumbo thrown her way.”
“Good, I would hate for her to turn into a gibbering idiot.”
“Yes, we already have one of those as Emperor.”
“You are welcome.”
“Goodnight, my beloved.”
“Wulf, don’t forget I will always love you no matter what my occasional meltdowns suggest.”
“I know, and Father said the same thing. After all, our love is the strongest force known to mortals and gods alike.”
“Goodnight, my Guardian.”
I crawled into bed, content and at peace.
I know not what time I fell asleep.