Morndas, 18th Last Seed, 4E 201
After breakfast and morning ablutions, we were ready to leave for Helgen.
“I am glad to see you in a better mood this morning, Celestine.”
“Yeah, sorry for yesterday. I was acting like a spoilt princess.”
“Well, you are of noble blood.”
“Not as noble as your blood, Wulf, and you don’t put on airs.”
“The things you did during The Great War prove you are no stuck up noble.”
“I am looking forward to revisiting Helgen. It is quaint, and the people are friendly, despite the arsehole they have as Jarl.”
“Master Borgoth told me they have little to do with Jarl Siddgeir. They are self-governed for all intents and purposes.”
“Where the Khajiit camp, I assume?”
“Yes, let’s go so we can find something more interesting to do than play courier.”
Celestine vanished. I soon followed and then summoned Meeko.
Ri’saad would be camped outside Whiterun, so nobody was in the Khajiit camp outside Helgen.
Smoke was billowing from Helgen. We ran towards the town.
As we reached the gates, a Dovah rose and headed towards Riverwood.
He roared, “ZU’U LOST DAAL, DOVAHKIIN!” (I have returned, Dragonborn!)
I watched till I could see Alduin no more, then turned to the startled Celestine.
“Well, Celestine, it seems he knows about me.”
“He was waiting for us. Who knows how long ago he attacked Helgen?”
“Let’s worry about analysing things later. There may be wounded who need our help.”
We entered Helgen, and both of us stood stunned at the devastation. Meeko whined.
We headed towards the town centre.
We encountered very few corpses. Somebody had cleared the dead. The attack must have happened hours before, probably at dawn.
A headsman’s block was in the middle of the square. The implications were terrifying.
Celestine remarked, “It looks like Alduin attacked in the middle of a public execution. This square was probably packed with the morbidly curious and other witnesses.”
“But why attack Helgen? Pretty as it was, it had no strategic value.”
“Alduin is not at full strength. He has no idea of your strength in the Thu’um. That is why he dared not attack you. But he wanted to instil fear, so he chose an easier target than one of the major cities.”
“Perhaps, Celestine. However, destroying somewhere like Riverwood would have a greater impact on the people of Skyrim.”
“Well, let’s keep looking. Maybe a witness can be found?”
On the opposite side of Helgen, we came upon a squad of Legionnaires exiting one of the towers.
I approached their lieutenant, a half-orc.
- Wulf: Excuse me, lieutenant, can you tell me what occurred here?
- Lieutenant: I am not at liberty to discuss what has occurred. However, I can advise The College of Winterhold and the Imperial Battlemages, what is left of them, have set up a triage and hospital in Highreach. The Temple of Arkay in Solitude is responsible for the identification and internment of the deceased. In other words, head for Solitude if you are seeking a loved one.
- Celestine: How long ago did the dragon attack?
- Lieutenant: I said nothing about a dragon.
- Celestine: We saw him take off minutes ago. You and your squad were hiding till he left.
- Lieutenant: An entire battalion failed to stop it! My men are not here to be needless additions to the death toll.
- Wulf: No, you are here to search for survivors and answer inquiries from stickybeaks such as ourselves. We are both Masters in Restoration. Is there anywhere the injured may be waiting for assistance?
- Lieutenant: The keep we exited has a tunnel leading away from town and towards Riverwood. We were ordered not to traverse it, but you might try it yourself if you are genuinely here to help. Be forewarned. The structure is not stable.
- Wulf: Thank you, lieutenant.
We entered the keep and were greeted by the sounds of creaking timbers and falling debris. The keep was mainly underground, so Alduin did not destroy it directly. However, the damage on the surface was enough to weaken the structure to the point of collapse. We decided to search it anyway.
The first body we encountered was that of a young Stormcloak. He had died by sword, not dragon. Falkreath hold was loyal to The Empire. The presence of a Stormcloak added to the mystery.
When we entered a corridor, Meeko gave a warning bark. We stopped and watched as a large part of the ceiling came crashing down.
We decided to enter a doorway next to the collapse.
We soon came upon another dead Stormcloak.
And a deceased Imperial officer.
I said to Celestine, “Even a dragon attacking did not stop the senseless killing of The Civil War.”
“No, but why would Stormcloaks attack Helgen the same morning as Alduin?”
“I doubt it is a coincidence. But I also doubt Ulfric would ally himself with The World Eater.”
“This keep is huge. I find it strange such a large outpost would be hidden underneath such a small town.”
“I can’t recall reading about it. Surely the locals knew of its existence?”
“If they only ever saw the above-ground building, they would never suspect the rest existed.”
“True, Celestine. Well, there is still no sign of the tunnel so let us keep going.”
The keep was a maze, but the many collapsed sections dictated our direction.
We reached the keep’s dungeon, and The Empire’s dirty secret lay exposed. For all their claims of being civilised, the art of torture was still employed.
Celestine and Meeko could sense my anger rising, and with it, my Dovah half was coming to the fore.
We entered a room with a caged Stormcloak.
I inspected the deceased man and saw his death was recent and from a single stab wound.
I growled, “As defenceless as this man was, he was killed as Legionnaires escaped. These atrocities are why they wanted a keep deep underground with an entrance they could use with discretion. This barbarity is not what Mother envisioned when she created The Empire!”
“There is no real victory if you have to emulate the sins of your enemy to win.”
“The Blades were assassins, and thank The Divines that you never had to do that duty. But even that distasteful pastime pales in comparison to the depravity of torture. For a society that professes to follow the Ten Commands of The Nine Divines, it is unforgivable.”
“It is best we keep moving, Wulf, and give your Dovah a chance to retire. He cannot help the wounded with anger over the deceased.”
Not far past the dungeons, we found the tunnel. It was apparent that a hidden door had collapsed during Alduin’s attack.
The occasional blood splatter showed that some injured had come this way.
We entered an area far older than the rest of the keep. Crude stonework conforming to the natural shape of a large cavern had been laid centuries, if not millennia, ago.
We came upon a group of dead Stormcloaks, their weapons still sheathed.
“Well, Celestine, what do you think of this little puzzle?”
“They died from Chain Lightning. Probably cast by an Imperial Battlemage of mediocre ability. A more powerful exponent of Destruction would have turned them into piles of ash.”
“It appears they were heading into the keep, not trying to escape.”
“I agree, which suggests they were probably trying to rescue somebody, not attack Helgen.”
“The truth of what happened here will eventually reach our ears. However, I don’t think we can wait that long. I need to know why Alduin chose Helgen.”
We encountered more bodies but did not get far before another collapse blocked progress.
I turned to Celestine, who suggested, “Let’s try from the other direction. Meeko can find the tunnel entrance for us.”
Meeko barked in agreement, so we made our way out of the keep and exited a different entrance from Helgen.
Meeko led us without hesitation to the cave entrance, where he barked with anger and entered with speed. We followed and ran after him.
We came upon an Imperial officer battling a bear. He was not winning!
We rushed to his aid and dispatched the animal, but not before it almost disembowelled the unfortunate soldier. His armour saved him from the bear’s claws, but the impact would have caused internal damage.
He was a young lieutenant and tried to speak through his pain.
I told him, “Hush, let me take care of your wounds, then you can speak.”
I cast Grand Healing.
Celestine and I helped the surprised soldier to his feet.
“What is your name?”
“I am Valdr. The young lady is Celestine. The big furry thing is Meeko.”
“What are you doing here, Valdr?”
“We saw what the dragon did to Helgen and came looking for any injured. You are the only one we have found.”
“I wouldn’t have survived another minute. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Saving a life is reward enough. However, we would be grateful if you could answer some questions. A half-orc lieutenant in Helgen was not very co-operative.”
“That would have been Lieutenant Ramouk Uzgabog. He is a stickler for orders even when they make no sense. I will be happy to answer your questions, but let us get out of here before more collapses trap us.”
Meeko barked in agreement, so we ran outside, which was not a wise thing to do for Hadvar. Powerful Restoration healing diminishes the patient’s endurance to low levels. It takes rest for the body to heal fully.
We ran clear of the entrance, then the puffing Hadvar stopped and turned to me.
- Wulf: You must take it easy for a few days, Hadvar. I healed the wounds, but you still need to rest and recover your strength.
- Hadvar: Yes, I doubt I could swing my sword to save my life at the moment.
- Celestine: While you catch your breath, can you tell us what happened. We need to know why the dragon chose to attack Helgen.
- Hadvar: Your armour, clothes, weapons and accents tell me you are not from around here.
- Wulf: Celestine is from High Rock, Evermore, to be precise, and I am from Roscrea.
- Hadvar: Well, that explains the accents!
- Wulf: Celestine has been in the service of The Empire for decades. I am in the service of The Nine. You will not be divulging information to foreign agents.
- Hadvar: It is okay. I trust you, and it will soon be public knowledge anyway.
- Celestine: Please, go ahead.
- Hadvar: We had set an ambush in Darkwater Crossing for Ulfric Stormcloak, and it worked! We captured him alive but were worried about a concerted rescue attempt. So instead of taking him to Solitude, General Tullius chose Helgen as Ulfric’s place of execution. A couple of the rebels had already been beheaded when the dragon attacked. One of the captured Stormcloaks is my friend from Riverwood, Ralof. Instead of running like the others, he helped the civilians of Helgen and me during the attack.
- Wulf: There is no denying many good men have sided with The Stormcloaks.
- Hadvar: I saw him killed by the dragon when escorting elderly citizens to safety. His family in Riverwood run the mill. They will be devastated. But at least I did not have to watch The Empire execute him.
- Celestine: Brother fighting brother. Friend fighting friend. That is the travesty of civil war.
- Wulf: We are genuinely sorry for your loss, Hadvar.
- Hadvar: The Legion, town guards, even civilians, fought bravely, but we stood no chance against the beast. Spells, arrows and weapons were useless against it. Men, women, children were stomped on, turned to ash, swallowed whole or chewed into pieces, crushed by falling buildings and so on. It is an experience I will never forget.
- Wulf: Did Ulfric survive?
- Hadvar: I don’t know. Some thought that the dragon attacked to save Ulfric.
- Wulf: No, I can assure you that was not the motivation of the dragon even if Ulfric did survive.
- Celestine: Were General Tullius and Ulfric close together in the town square?
- Hadvar: Yes, General Tullius had just given Ulfric a lecture on what a piece of scum he is.
- Celestine: Did the dragon attack those assembled in the square?
- Hadvar: Yes, he made us all fall over with the Thu’um and made boulders fall like rain.
- Wulf: The dragon could easily have killed General Tullius and Ulfric with his initial attack. There must be a reason he did not.
- Celestine: The probable reason is he wants the Civil War to continue unabated. That would have been motivation enough to stop Ulfric’s execution.
- Hadvar: Why would a dragon want that?
- Wulf: It is speculation, Lieutenant Hadvar. We will need to discover more to answer that question.
- Celestine: Were the Stormcloaks in the tunnel attempting to rescue Ulfric?
- Hadvar: Yes, I think they were. But they could not assemble enough troops to be successful.
- Wulf: We will escort you to Riverwood. You could not defend yourself against an angry Skeever at the moment.
- Hadvar: Thank you, but can you answer a question for me?
- Wulf: Ask away.
- Hadvar: Celestine was likely a spy, part of The Blades or similar. She is Breton, so she could be decades older than she appears. That I can figure out, but you, Valdr, said you are in service to The Nine.
- Wulf: I am their mortal champion. They knew the dragons would return and sent us here to deal with the problem. The Divines have not left us defenceless.
- Hadvar: Dragons! Look what one of them did! How can we defend against more like that one?
- Wulf: There will not be any as powerful as him. But have faith, Hadvar. The Khajiiti repelled a dragon invasion, and mortals won the Dragon War. The Nine will guide me to a solution.
- Hadvar: I am a simple soldier but faith in The Nine.
- Wulf: Good, now let us get you home before you fall over.
Not far from Helgen, we encountered a far too familiar sight. With regular patrols cancelled due to the Civil War, banditry has become a far more lucrative and safer occupation. Many of those fleeing the significant conflict centres find themselves prey to the bandits. It appeared somebody fleeing Helgen fell victim to one, and my Dovah wanted him dead.
I did an Ethereal Shift, which I call Blinking, and instantly stood next to the bandit. Startled, he rose and drew his sword. I played with him for a few seconds by easily blocking his best attacks.
By the time Meeko arrived, I had enough of the game, knocked his sword from his hand, then sliced him open. He dropped dead, and my Dovah was pleased.
I was still performing Arkay’s Rights over the victim when Celestine and Hadvar arrived.
I did not look at Hadvar when I answered his question. My eyes betrayed what I was. I did not want what I am judged by the ignorant.
- Hadvar: How did you do that? You cast no spell and did not physically move. One second you were next to us, and then you were here.
- Wulf: It is a gift of The Divines. I send my soul somewhere, and my physical body reforms around it. I call it Blinking. Others call it an Ethereal Shift.
- Hadvar: And the bandit, you played with him. Why did you not kill him outright?
- Wulf: Part of me didn’t want to. I let it have what it wanted. It enjoys combat and inflicting just punishment. If I don’t do that occasionally, it nags me beyond belief.
- Celestine: You saw Valdr performing Arkay’s Rights. He is the instrument of The Divines and not to be feared. However, he has told you all he will divulge for now. Be content with that, Hadvar.
- Hadvar: I do not fear or judge you, Valdr. I am just glad you are on our side.
- Wulf: When you get to Riverwood, can you please arrange for this man’s remains to be taken to Solitude? The Priests and Priestesses of Arkay are dealing with the victims of Helgen.
- Hadvar: Of course.
We continued in silence until we heard the sounds of battle.
“Lieutenant Hadvar, continue to Riverwood. I can hear commands in Altmeri. It seems some of our Thalmor friends are in trouble.”
“They should not be here! Whiterun Hold is neutral in the Civil War, and The Thalmor banned from within its borders.”
“They do as they wish. But I cannot let rebels force Jarl Balgruuf into a choice by murdering Thalmor within his borders.”
“Good luck, Valdr. Please, when you get the chance, let me know you and Celestine are okay. I will be at my father’s house in Riverwood. He is the blacksmith there.”
Hadvar continued his slow walk to Riverwood while we ran to the skirmish site. What we found was not what we expected. Two tribes of Goblins were arguing over territory when a Thalmor tracking party arrived. The Thalmor were a common enemy, and the Goblins attacked as one unit. Many Thalmor and tracking dogs lay dead.
A Goblin is a small bundle of muscle and can take a great deal of punishment before death. This fact was evident with the first one I tackled. It resembled a porcupine with the number of arrows, all from other Goblin’s, protruding from its body.
Goblins are also adept Destruction mages. However, they tend to favour one element over another. If one starts firing Ice Spears at you, it will not suddenly decide Fireballs are a better option.
Soon the two Goblin tribes were no more. A Justiciar, who was notably absent during the fighting, appeared and mounted his horse without a second glance at the dead.
I ran up to him and said, “Oh look, a horse with a prick on its back! It is your lucky day, Justiciar. If we had not turned up, you would be another of these many corpses.”
With all the arrogance his kind is known for, he replied, “And I suppose you expect a reward? Well, sorry to say The Dominion does not reward underlings for simply doing their duty.”
“It is not my duty to rescue the enemies of my gods. We mistakenly thought that Stormcloak rebels were causing problems for Jarl Balgruuf. If it were just goblins and Thalmor, I would have sat and watched with pleasure as they slaughtered you. But alas, good men and women of The Empire were also in danger. Now, if you don’t mind, I find myself in need of fresh air.”
Several Legionnaires accompanying the Justiciar found it impossible to suppress their laughter. I noticed that among the dead, none wore the Imperial uniform.
We continued on our way, with Celestine looking at me with concern. She ended up in Akavir as she hid from The Thalmor, as many other Blades did. To the uninformed, it would seem she has more reason to hate The Thalmor than I. But Celestine knows of my ethereal travel and what I witnessed just over four years ago. She knows who my father is. Celestine understands my contempt for The Thalmor is justified. She worries I will give in to the violence my Dovah wants to exact upon them.
We came upon some Standing Stones. The archaeologist in me could not ignore them.
“Celestine, these three Standing Stones are called the Guardian Stones. There are thirteen Standing Stones in total. Each represents a Tamrielic constellation and associated month. The thirteenth is the exception as there is no month associated with The Serpent. Do you know what is special about The Serpent?”
“Yes, Wulf. I am a Mage, remember! It is the only constellation that moves and does not have a month dedicated to it.”
“Tsk, no lecturer likes mouthy students.”
“Get your lecture over with so we can do something more exciting.”
“It is interesting that ancient Nords should find the stars magical, an aspect of Nedic belief not found elsewhere. Not everybody can enable a Standing Stone and receive its blessing.”
“We both know it will react to you. So, hurry up and do your gloating.”
“I will pick the Mage, although its blessing is superfluous in my case.”
“Too bad they don’t have one for humility.”
“I am the humblest person you will ever meet!”
“That one sentence proves otherwise.”
I touched the Standing Stone, and it reacted. I felt its ancient magic flare and fade.
“Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating! Oh well, I will have to study them another time.”
“Don’t bother inviting me. The excitement would be too much.”
“You really can be sarcastic, Celestine.”
Many parts of Skyrim are renowned for their beauty. This part, approaching Riverwood, reminds me of where I grew up.
Many pilgrims insist on walking even if their guards are on horseback. During the Civil War, any travel on the roads was inherently dangerous as the bandit problem persisted.
A distant plea was heard from a ridge above the road not far from Riverwood.
“Hey, you in the red armour. Can you help me, please? These other arseholes refused!”
We made our way up the hill to speak to a woman, a hunter by the looks of it, in her late twenties, early thirties. Other people were walking away muttering about suicidal do-gooders.
- Wulf: My name is Valdr. How can I help?
- Celestine: I am Celestine, but the brute sometimes forgets I am here.
- Wulf: A phantom voice from the ether!
- Meeko: Woof!
- Celestine: And this is Meeko.
- Rose: Ah, glad to meet you all, I think. I am Rose.
- Wulf: Well, Rose, what is the problem?
- Rose: There is a wounded girl over by the cliff.
- Wulf: Okay, you are in luck as we are both Masters of Restoration Magic. How did she get wounded?
- Rose: We have to hurry while they are still looking in the wrong place.
- Celestine: If you mean the Thalmor, their dogs are dead, and so are most of them. Goblins took a disliking to them. I have no idea why, as they are such lovely people.
- Wulf: Take us to the girl, and we shall see what we can do for her.
- Rose: I have somewhere safe we can take her. But she is too heavy for me to carry.
- Wulf: Well then, it is fortunate I am an ignorant brute then, isn’t it?
- Celestine: Where is this safe place?
- Rose: I have a camp not far from here, on the lake. She will be safe there if she survives.
- Wulf: Let us hurry to the girl.
Rose explained as we headed towards some cliffs, “I saw what happened. The Thalmor chased her to the cliff’s edge. She looked down and jumped into the canopy of a tree without hesitation. I suppose she hoped it would cushion her fall enough to survive.”
Celestine surmised, “I think they have some idea where she landed. Fortunately, Goblins delayed their arrival.”
I added, “The Thalmor must want her badly to ignore their banishment from Whiterun Hold. If I had known the Legionnaires we just saved were aiding in the hunt for Imperial citizens, I might not have helped against the Goblins.”
Rose continued, “The tree did break her fall, but she is badly injured. But if we can get her to my boat, she might survive.”
“If we pick her up, she might not survive. We will inspect her and decide on what is best.”
When we arrived, the girl was in a foetal position. She wore armour with the crest of Bruma upon the breastplate.
As Celestine knelt to inspect her, I looked up to where she had leapt. The girl was fortunate to survive this long.
Celestine said, “I think her armour has taken most of the damage. Branches would have pierced her otherwise. Still, she has a narrow slash across her stomach that has bled profusely. There are no obvious broken bones, and her breath is strong without any gurgling or other signs of internal bleeding. Grand Healing will stabilise her long enough for us to move her. If The Thalmor want her so bad, it is in everybody’s interest to keep her from them!”
“I would never leave anybody to the ministrations of The Thalmor!”
Celestine moved aside, and I cast Grand Healing on the girl.
I turned to Rose and asked, “What next?”
“I feel my skills are redundant with you two to care for her!”
“Not in the least, Rose. We can heal internal injuries, but herbs and personal care are essential for the quickest recovery. The presence of another mortal with empathy cures the injuries not visible. It gives the soul of the injured encouragement to fight for survival.”
“Do you truly believe that?”
“I am somewhat of an expert on souls, Rose. I know what I said is true. You are not redundant, and together we can help this girl survive.”
“Well then, follow me and be careful!”
“There is no need to hurry. Celestine, Meeko and I are quite capable of taking care of any Thalmor threat.”
I gently lifted the girl. Her face was familiar, but it was hard to remember from where. Cuts and bruises were numerous and concealed much. I put that thought aside as I concentrated on carrying her with the least jolting possible. Even with her armour, she weighed less than a hundred pounds.
We travelled slowly. A bit further up the hill, Rose stopped and held her hand upright in a fist. It is the military signal for “halt and silence!” I began to wonder if Rose has always been a hunter.
I crept up and looked through the branches to where Rose was staring. The Justiciar was by himself. He probably sent the surviving Legionnaires forward to scout.
Rose whispered, “You were right about their deaths. But still, we need another route. Up here, this way….”
We climbed up a fairly steep slope and past a seemingly disused mine. Perhaps it was not as disused as it seemed as Meeko raised his hackles and growled at the entrance?
We came to a small overhang overlooking the road leading to the Standing Stones.
Rose said, “Wait here. Let me make sure the coast is clear.”
Rose ran till she could see around the corner, then waved for us to follow.
It was far easier not to jolt the girl when travelling uphill. I moved much slower and with increased care on the steep descent to the Standing Stones. Both Meeko and Celestine watched with concern etched on their faces.
We arrived where Rose’s boat was moored. It was a small fishing and hunting camp. A weaselly little man with a weaselly little voice came over and whined, “Rose, are you mad? They will kill us all!”
Rose replied, “I am not letting those bastards push us around, Hedren.”
“Who are these strangers? Can we trust them?”
With conviction, Rose replied, “Sometimes you have to do what is right. Even if it means risking everything.”
I walked up to Hedren with the girl cradled in my arms.
“Hedren, the most untrustworthy are those who value their lives over what is correct. It seems you refused to help Rose with this girl, which makes you scum, in my estimation. Keep out of our way and don’t dare presume you have a right to question our trustworthiness!”
Hedren stood with his mouth open and said not a word as I walked to the boat and gently lay the girl down.
I said to Rose, “Let me row. I can get us to your camp faster without too much rocking of the boat.”
“I thought you would offer to row because it is a gentlemanly thing to do?”
That statement was met by peals of laughter from Celestine.
Rose guided us as we glided across the water at a good pace. We soon moored where she indicated.
Rose said to Celestine, “I have a lean-to where I keep my firewood. It will be ideal for the girl and much easier than getting her in and out of a tent. Can you please help me clear the wood before Wulf brings her to us?”
“Sure, lead the way.”
As I waited for them to tell me to bring the girl, I stared over the water to a small village. Somewhere within that village, Father, or more accurately his avatar, was observing us. I became pretty adept at spotting his spying sessions when on Akavir. It was a bit of a game then. I am guessing his interest is much more serious this time around. Could he be concerned I have let this girl distract me from Alduin? He would let me know if that was the case. But he would also know I could not abandon a single stranger in need and therefore committed myself to the girl’s care. Alduin can wait! Mother often said my compassion would either be our saviour or the path to our demise.
The girl was tiny. Why would The Thalmor put so much effort into capturing her? Did she possess knowledge they do not want to be made public? The only way to find out is to ensure her survival.
Celestine came and told me the lean-to was ready.
I gently lifted the girl and made my way to Rose’s camp.
I lay the girl gently on some furs that had been placed upon fresh straw. The shelter would be adequate as long as there is no rain. It would be easy enough to hang a hide over the side to keep the rain out.
Rose knelt to inspect the girl.
- Rose: Oh my, there is a new scar around her midriff. She is lucky she wasn’t disembowelled.
- Wulf: My healing spell shut the wound, but there is still the risk of infection. Plus, the scar will be permanent unless treated. The girl also lost a lot of blood while you searched for a helper.
- Celestine: Valdr and I are Masters of Alchemy, but we lack the practical experience that I am sure you possess. So, let us know what needs doing, and it will be done.
- Rose: I was going to ask if you would stay and help. It seems I have my answer.
- Wulf: The moment I saw the girl, I was committed to helping her. That is my way, and The Divines will have to be patient.
- Rose: Ahh, The Divines?
- Celestine: Surely you saw the dragon as it passed over Riverwood?
- Rose: It was hard to miss.
- Celestine: We were sent by The Divines to deal with that problem, but we cannot ignore this girl. As Valdr said, we are now committed to her aid.
- Rose: I am supposed to believe The Divines sent you to fight a dragon?
- Wulf: Believe us or not, I care not. The important thing is the girl. What do you need?
- Rose: Okay then, take the boat back to the Guardian Stones, then make your way to the Riverwood Trader. Talk to Lucan Valerius or his sister, Camilla. We need some furs and clean linen. They are good people and will sell at a fair price.
- Celestine: Wulf, why don’t you zap to Solitude and pick the stuff up from the safehouse?
- Wulf: I want to make sure Hadvar is okay and maybe pick up some gossip about the girl and our scaly friend.
- Rose: Why would you travel to Solitude? We don’t have days to wait for those things!
- Wulf: It would take me seconds to get there. Listen, Rose, accept we are not ordinary people and can accomplish things that few others can. That will stop your incredulous stares and the odd sensation you are dealing with the insane.
- Rose: What did that dragon do?
- Wulf: He wiped out a battalion of the finest Legionnaires, the town of Helgen and most of its citizens. History will soon be a reality if you ever learned of the Dragon War. But we have time as that dragon was nowhere near his full strength. When he is, no city wall will keep him out. We will use some of that time to help this girl.
- Rose: Well, don’t tell them what the goods are for. We don’t want to bring trouble down on anyone.
- Wulf: I know how to keep discreet, Rose. My life depends on it. Lucan and Camilla will be none the wiser.
- Rose: Oh. Well, I’ll stay here and keep the girl warm and dry. Be careful as there may still be Thalmor around Riverwood, so have an alibi ready.
- Wulf: The Thalmor have no legal jurisdiction in Whiterun Hold. I need no alibi, but they will once Jarl Balgruuf learns of their presence.
- Celestine: Meeko and I will stay with you, Rose. Both you and the girl will be safe.
- Rose: Here, Valdr, take this coin.
- Celestine: Rose, Valdr is very wealthy.
- Rose: Well, it seems I might have to learn more about you two while we wait for Valdr’s return.
“Meeko, guard the ladies and no running after bunnies or other distractions.”
“Celestine, Father has been spying on us from the village across the way. I feel there is something pivotal about this moment, this girl. Whether it is related to Alduin or not, I cannot say.”
“Your gut feelings are rarely wrong. Lord Talos will direct you if we go astray.”
“You know how much you can safely tell Rose, and she deserves some of the truth. I will not be gone long, I hope.”
I climbed into the boat, and without an injured girl to worry about, it skimmed across the water with my powerful strokes.
Once again, the river reminded me of my childhood home. That childhood seems like an eternity away.
A familiar horse but without the prick on its back signified that Thalmor were polluting Riverwood.
I approached without a care in the world. I could see Thalmor looking at my armour and weapon and discussing both with curiosity and suspicion. They were, after all, the hallmarks of a Blade, just different in colour.
I was momentarily distracted by a wanted poster. My training kicked in, and I concentrated on the immediate danger.
A Thalmor lieutenant barked, “You there, halt! What business do you have here?”
“My business is my own. But what are you doing in Whiterun Hold? I should arrest you for trespass!”
That was not the meek reply he was expecting, and a good-sized dent was made in his confidence.
“Yes, well, have you seen the girl pictured on the poster?”
“I dunno. Let me have a closer look.”
My mind was racing. How common is the name “Rigmor”? Surely, she cannot be the same one! A fifteen thousand septim reward will attract every bounty hunter in Skyrim. What the hell did she do to deserve the punishment I witnessed and the wrath of The Thalmor years later if she is the same person?
The lieutenant brought me back to reality, “Well, citizen. Have you seen her or not?”
“Well, she does look a bit like Susy, a barmaid in Riften. But I would have to see her bent over and naked to be certain it was her.”
Some Thalmor have a sense of humour, as demonstrated by the guffaws from the officer’s subordinates.
“Have you seen her or not?”
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Well, take a good look at it, and if you do, make sure to report it to the authorities.”
I took another close look at the poster then said, “Mr Thalmor, sir, I would like to report I have seen it.”
“The poster. You said to report to the authorities if I have seen it. Well, I have, there, on the post next to you.”
The subordinates laughed more.
“As you can see, there is a sizable reward being offered for information leading to her capture. She is eighteen years old, around five feet six inches tall, with shaven hair.”
“An eighty-pound teenage girl on the loose! How terrifying is that? It makes today’s dragon attack pale in comparison!”
“She is extremely dangerous and wanted for murder.”
“If she killed Thalmor, I would hardly call it murder. Justice, perhaps, but not murder.”
“Careful citizen, we can place you under arrest and ask these questions in a more intimate environment.”
“You can try and die.”
The humour was gone as the lieutenant, and his troops realised that I was serious.
“Well, umm, anyone involved in aiding her will be summarily executed, and their families arrested and sent to Valenwood.”
“Lieutenant, your jurisdiction under the White-Gold Concordat does not cover such sweeping powers of illegal arrest, detention and execution. Not only that, you are acting illegally within Whiterun Hold, where the White-Gold Concordat has been suspended. Now get out of my way, or I will leave your stinking corpse behind and still go about my legal business.”
Another gift from The Divines is Soul Gaze. I can use it to paralyse enemies or simply let them know what power they face. The lieutenant stared into my eyes, went pale and said nothing as I shouldered him out of the way.
The Justiciar was in heated discussion with a Dunmer woman outside the blacksmith.
“Jarl Balgruuf the Great of Whiterun, is waiting for an explanation. Why are the Thalmor hunting Empire citizens in his Hold?”
“What is your name?”
“Irileth, I am the Jarl’s housecarl. Now Justiciar, answer my question.”
I doubt the Justiciar knows with whom he deals. Irileth, the infamous housecarl of Jarl Balgruuf! I could tell by Irileth’s stance that she is a formidable warrior. And she has a good reserve of Magicka as well. I would guess she is a Spellsword, or as the Dunmer call them, a Nightblade. The Justiciar is playing with fire.
“There is a dangerous criminal in the vicinity. I am deploying my troops in the immediate area to find and capture her and any accomplices.”
“The Jarl has informed your Embassy that no Thalmor troops are welcome in Whiterun Hold at the moment. Whiterun has remained neutral during the current conflict, and your presence endangers that. We are more than capable of finding and apprehending a young woman. Please leave Whiterun Hold at once!”
“Am I hearing this correctly? You are demanding I leave?”
“You heard correctly.”
“This is preposterous! Are you insane? I am well within my jurisdiction as Justiciar to deploy my troops in this area. I shall speak to the Jarl myself!”
“I have the Jarl’s authority to speak for him on this matter. Whatever you think you want to say to him, say to me. If you insist on talking to him directly, I am afraid his calendar is pretty full. Perhaps we could book a time for your meeting with him for some time next week, maybe.”
“This is outlandish!”
“Currently, the White-Gold Concordat is suspended within Whiterun Hold. You have no legal rights here. Remove yourself or be arrested.”
“Do you know who I am?”
I couldn’t resist and said to the Justiciar, “Look inside your underwear. That is where I write my name. If you have forgotten yours, that might jog your memory. Especially if your name is Tiny Dick!”
Irileth looked at me, and a smile almost broke through that beautiful but stern face. She then turned back to the Justiciar and said, “I’m not going to warn you again.”
The Justiciar spluttered, “You haven’t heard the last of this! I shall be filing a report, yes… then you’ll be sorry.”
The Justiciar stormed off to join the other Thalmor.
Irileth said to me, “You must be Valdr. Hadvar filled me in on the dragon situation. I am sure the Jarl would like to hear what you have to say about it all.”
“If you please, tell Jarl Balgruuf that I am checking some things out. I will come and visit him soon and tell him what I know.”
“You step on dangerous grounds playing the fool with the Thalmor. Be wary.”
Irileth headed for Whiterun, and I knocked on the door of the blacksmiths.
Hadvar answered the door and said, “Valdr, I had given up hope of seeing you once more. Please, come inside and sit. My father has a million questions.”
I entered and followed Hadvar to the dining table. His father was already seated. His mother stood with arms crossed and listened to the conversation.
- Hadvar: Valdr, this is my father, Alvor and Sigrid, my mother.
- Wulf: I am honoured to meet you, Sparksmith Alvor, Goodwife Sigrid.
- Alvor: Well, that is an honorific I have not heard in many years.
- Wulf: A title earned should be respected.
- Alvor: And do you have a title, Valdr?
- Wulf: Yes, I am Champion of The Divines amongst other titles. But call me Valdr. That is the name Mother gave me.
- Alvor: Champion of The Divines is a lofty title indeed, and blasphemous if not true.
- Hadvar: I have already seen a tiny part of his Divine powers, father. It is no blasphemy.
- Alvor: Fair enough, it is not my place to question the honesty of a guest at my table.
- Wulf: I would be sceptical too, so that is why I keep my other more outlandish titles to myself.
- Alvor: Ha, as if that one was not outlandish enough. Anyway, Hadvar, tell me again what happened.
- Hadvar: We were stopped in Helgen when a dragon attacked us. The dragon arrived and wrecked the whole place. It wiped out a battalion of elite troops and most of Helgen’s population. I doubt Skyrim, or even The Empire, has ever experienced such a single loss of life in such a short space of time.
- Wulf: They have, but still, not for a few centuries at least.
- Hadvar: Valdr says some got out alive. Irileth told me that General Tullius survived, but nobody knows if Ulfric Stormcloak did. I would not have survived without Valdr and his friend’s aid.
- Wulf: Alvor, there is no need for Hadvar to go rushing off to Solitude. He must rest or the healing I did will be for nought. They have everything under control at the moment.
- Sigrid: I will make sure my son does not leave the house till I think he is fit enough.
- Hadvar: Terrific, chicken soup for a week at least.
- Alvor: Hadvar says this dragon will be one of many. How do you propose that we fight such as they?
- Wulf: I will need to gather more information before answering that. Other dragons will come, but their numbers will not be as large as the Dragon War. That war and the one against the Khajiiti has reduced their numbers. The four peoples of Akavir have also reduced the number of dragons available for a renewed war.
- Alvor: And they have nothing to do with Ulfric Stormcloak?
- Wulf: No, he has not befriended the dragon that attacked Helgen, I can assure you of that. That one has no love for mortals and would see no need for an alliance.
- Alvor: Is there anything I can do to help?
- Wulf: Normality is what is needed. If things change too much, people become uncertain and ill with worry. Dragons use fear as a weapon. That only works if we let it.
- Alvor: So that is your advice? Be as if giant winged terrors are not in the skies of Skyrim?
- Wulf: It is preferable to panic.
- Alvor: Yes, of course. It is the wise thing to do.
- Wulf: Well, I thank you all for your hospitality, but I must attend to urgent matters.
- Sigrid: Thank you for saving my son. If he dies in battle, so be it. But to die from a bear attack? That is not something to drink over in Sovngarde.
- Wulf: I don’t know. It would be more amusing than some endings, I am sure.
As I went to leave, Alvor grasped my arm and nodded. That was as close to emotion the old Nord would display. You don’t want to be a milk-drinker, even when your son was saved from certain death.
As I crossed the road to the Riverwood Trader, I grabbed one of the wanted posters.
I entered and immediately noticed a jewel-encrusted gold ewer on a shelf. That alone would be worth a typical stores inventory in value. I suspected that Lucan and his sister, Camila, have a weakness for the finer things. Lucan’s refined Imperial voice confirmed that.
“My good man, I was informed this place sells only quality at reasonable prices.”
“Well, yes. We have got something for just about everybody in here. What we can do for you.”
“I require some clean linen, suitable for many purposes including bandages. I also need a treated fur suitable as ground cover or blanket, depending on the weather I encounter.”
“I have just what you need. Wait a minute, and Camila, my sister, will fetch your goods for you.”
As Camila headed upstairs, I took the opportunity to snoop.
“What is all this worry about the girl on the poster?”
“All they will say is she is wanted for murder, but fifteen thousand septims is three times their normal reward. And dead or alive? The girl will not survive a bounty hunter who does not want the hassle of a live teenage girl. They would slit her throat and deliver her cold for that amount of gold.”
“Yes, it makes you wonder why they want the poor girl.”
“Camila thinks she must have killed an important Altmer. The Thalmor would not offer even fifteen septim for somebody who murdered other species. It is noticeable they have not offered a reward for the capture of Ulfric Stormcloak.”
“The Dominion benefit from a drawn-out civil war. It weakens The Empire, and we all know it is only a matter of time before they renew hostilities.”
The Valerius’ warehouse must be well organised as Camila returned with the linen and fur far quicker than I expected.
I paid Lucan the fair price he asked for, with a bonus for the excellent service, and left behind potential allies due to my ‘generosity’.
I was enjoying the scenery when Hedren spoiled the view.
“Good evening Hedren. On your way to Riverwood for a pint or two of warm milk? Or perhaps you seek a backbone? Try the Riverwood Trader. They stock something for just about anyone.”
My Dovah laughed. He enjoys my pettiness on occasions.
I made quick time back to Rose’s camp. Father was still watching from the village. I am not as attuned to timelines as a dragon, but still, even I could sense a pivotal moment neared. It is what some call a Ripple in The Void.
I walked towards Rose then stopped. The girl’s back was exposed. Rose said something, but I did not comprehend what it was.
I approached and stared at the girl’s back. No, not a girl, a woman.
I fell onto my rump and continued to stare at the scars.
Celestine came up to me, and her voice finally penetrated my thoughts.
“Valdr, what is it? The scars are bad, but you have seen worse.”
“This is the girl I saw when I first travelled the ethereal plane. I watched when some of those scars were inflicted. She is Rigmor of Bruma, and I swore to be her guardian, and that is what I am from this point forward.”
“Oh my, that does complicate things!”