Morndas, 18th Last Seed, 4E 201
& Tirdas, 19th Last Seed, 4E 201
I sat and stared at Rigmor’s scars for several minutes.
By pure luck, not design, I had spoken to Celestine in Akaviri, not Tamrielic. We call it Akaviri as people react with concern if we say it is Tsaesci.
Rose would be ignorant of what I said about ethereal travel.
Eventually, Celestine told me in Akaviri, “Get your act together, Wulf. You will have to judge if and when to tell Rigmor, but that time is certainly not now and maybe never!”
“I know. Perhaps if I am around enough, Rigmor will figure it out herself.”
“You can’t fall in love with a stranger, Wulf. You know nothing of her.”
“I know I found her when she needed help. I know what I saw in her eyes when she looked in my direction. I know that I am more at ease in her presence, as I am now and when I was eighteen. I had just been told I was to leave everything I knew and go to Akavir, yet in Rigmor’s presence, my anxiety was gone. It is like she is a shield against the worries that plague me. Perhaps that works both ways. There is a connection, Celestine, and even my parents could not explain how I found her.”
“Just be careful, Wulf. You have never allowed yourself to fall in love. The Divines know how many women and men find you physically attractive. But many of those also find your personality to be unique and compelling. Your compassion is endearing. What I am saying is, don’t approach Rigmor with expectation and think she is your only hope for the soulmate you crave. Pretend you never found her that night. Learn about her the old-fashioned way, and let her know what you are. Do not keep secrets, except for that one.”
“As soon as I step away, I know I will feel great rage. I will want to hurt those who hurt Rigmor.”
“If Alduin wins, every person dies, including Rigmor. We will aid Rigmor until it interferes with our main objective. I want your verbal agreement, Wulf.”
“You don’t need it. You know I serve all mortals, not just this one. That will never change. But Rigmor will be my priority until she can’t be.”
“Yes, I am sorry I asked. Rose walked off, saying she was cold and wanted to change into her furs. We are being rude speaking in this language. I think she was offended.”
“Rigmor already has a fur on her?”
“And that leaves Rose without something to sleep on. Did you hear what I said?”
“About being rude? Yes, and I will apologise.”
Rose returned, and she was wearing her furs.
- Wulf: I apologise, Rose. It is unforgivable to babble on in a language not all can understand.
- Rose: I did not need to understand the words to recognise how upset you were. Is it the scars?
- Wulf: The scars and memories. Now I must combat my anger, as it does not aid my Divine task.
- Rose: Celestine told me you are the mortal agent for The Nine.
- Wulf: A mortal agent. It is hard to tell how many they have running around.
- Rose: But you are their champion and were gifted with blessings.
- Wulf: Some would argue that the blessings received are, in fact, curses.
- Rose: Do you think they are curses?
- Wulf: No, I have always been given a choice. I have chosen my path and was not forced to be what I am.
- Celestine: Many have dedicated themselves to helping Valdr. He cannot deny his chosen path has given him close and lifelong friends.
- Wulf: Including you, Old Little Sister.
- Rose: Old?
- Wulf: Celestine is many decades older than me. I think her family line has more Mer than Man in it.
- Celestine: Breton lifespan is always a bit random.
- Wulf: Here are the bandages, Rose. And you now have a choice of furs. This one from Riverwood is of excellent quality!
Rose turned to Rigmor.
- Rose: Those marks on her back. The marks of the lash. Something tells me this girl has a story to tell.
- Wulf: Indeed, she does. Her name is Rigmor. Rigmor of Bruma is what The Thalmor call her. I assume that is her place of origin. She is eighteen years of age and wanted for murder. They are offering fifteen thousand septim, alive or dead.
- Celestine: Every bounty hunter in the land will be after her!
Rose knelt to inspect Rigmor’s stomach wound.
- Rose: Let us keep Rigmor alive to tell her side of the story. I have dressed her wound as best I can with some daub. Your healing spell has stopped the bleeding, but I can see by the colour of her lips she lost a lot of blood, as you said earlier. The bandages will help keep the daub where it needs to be, and she is warm under the fur.
- Celestine: Valdr, there was some welcome progress while you were gone.
- Rose: Yes, the good news is, Rigmor has taken some water. That is always a good sign, but there is still a fever risk, so we must keep the fire alight.
- Wulf: I am not one for inaction, Rose. What else can I do to help her?
- Rose: You will have to be patient. If Rigmor survives the next few days, there’s hope. Then we can find out her story, and I can take her home if she has one.
- Wulf: I could not let you take that risk alone, Rose.
- Celestine: You may have to, Valdr. But if some of our allies arrive in time, they can aid Rose if she wants to take on that task.
Rose sat on a stump, and I sat on another. Celestine warmed herself by the fire. I handed Rose the wanted poster.
- Rose: Well, I will not judge Rigmor till I hear her side of the story.
- Wulf: What? Don’t you believe The Thalmor? How odd!
- Rose: You two wandered by at just the right time, it seems. I am glad to have met you both.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, I am sure Rose is happy to have met you as well.
- Rose: Ha, next, you will tell me you understand your dog.
- Wulf: Meeko is not a dog. He is something, but not a dog. He acts like one, but I have no idea what he is. And yes, I can understand him via telepathy.
- Rose: So, Meeko talks in your mind?
- Celestine: Rose thinks your insane.
- Wulf: Walk far away, take Meeko with you. Whisper something in his ear, and I will tell you what it was when you return.
- Rose: No, no, if you are willing to test it to that extent, I must believe it to be true.
- Celestine: Have you always been a hunter and fisherman?
- Rose: No, I have not always been a hunter, and I hate fishing.
- Celestine: Why is that?
- Rose: My father would always take me fishing and make me sit there by the bank, staring into the water. It made me feel dizzy and sick. Then one day, he caught this huge fish and forced me to take it. I could barely hold it, and he’s yelling at me, ‘Rose, put it back, quickly, throw it back into the river.’ I panicked, and it slipped from my fingers and dropped onto a piece of driftwood, killing it. When I saw the blood seeping into the water, I began to cry. He never took me fishing again. So, I do the hunting, and Hedren does the fishing.
- Celestine: Is Hedren your partner. If so, you have my permission to punch Valdr for what he told Hedren earlier.
- Rose: No, hahaha, nothing like that. He is a good friend, that’s all. I suppose you two get asked the same thing?
- Celestine: Nah, people can see my eyes work perfectly.
- Wulf: And I don’t like all the whips and chains involved with Celestine’s fetishes.
- Celestine: So, what did you do before you became a hunter?
- Rose: Oh, a little bit of this. A little bit of that.
- Wulf: A little bit of military?
- Rose: Good guess.
- Wulf: Not a guess but logic.
Rigmor groaned, and Rose was instantly by her side.
“Hey Rigmor, everything is going to be fine. Have some water. That’s it, there you go.”
Rose was smiling when she stood and faced me. Rigmor was progressing well.
- Wulf: Okay, I have sat still for five minutes. What can I do to help Rigmor?
- Rose: I need to make some stew for her. Venison and cabbages have always been my favourites for making recuperation stews. We’re gonna need to build her up.
- Wulf: There is plenty of deer around here, or I could make another trip to Riverwood.
- Rose: And Anise makes a special potion made from nettles. That will help Rigmor if she gets a fever.
- Celestine: Who is Anise?
- Rose: An old lady. She has a cabin east of here. Valdr, if she isn’t talkative, tell her Rose sent you and take what you need. She knows I am good for the trade and will soon deliver her favourite fish.
- Celestine: So, Anise is some local wise woman? To live in the wilds, she must have some way of protecting herself.
- Rose: There are rumours. Valdr, it is best not to pry and don’t go snooping in her cellar!
- Celestine: Valdr is no snoop, Rose. Do not mistake him for some immoral scum!
- Rose: Oh, I didn’t mean it to sound like that!
- Wulf: Aww, Celestine, can’t I just have a quick peek?
- Celestine: If anything, Rose, Valdr is an idiot.
- Rose: And yes, Valdr, I was in the Legion. Rigmor is not the first time I have had to do something like this.
- Wulf: You do not have to talk about those times if they are uncomfortable.
- Rose: Maybe I will tell you about them one day, but not now.
- Wulf: Right, east to Anise’s cabin. Barge in and head into the cellar. Got it!
- Rose: Oh, I nearly forgot. Rigmor’s cuirass needs repairing. Anise’s cabin is near Riverwood. Could you drop it off at Alvor’s after visiting Anise?
- Wulf: I could repair it myself and not get Alvor involved.
- Rose: You can blacksmith?
- Celestine: It is quicker to ask what Valdr can’t do. It is sickening how quickly he learns things.
- Wulf: Alvor would keep quiet, but why put him at risk?
- Rose: Well, Hedren works at Alvor’s part-time as a sort of senior age apprentice, you might say. He should be there tonight, doing the mundane stuff so Alvor doesn’t have to.
- Wulf: Am I going to get a whiny complaint?
- Rose: Most likely.
- Wulf: Well, it means I won’t be as quick to defend myself if lugging around that breastplate. Therefore, I shall take Meeko with me.
- Meeko: WOOF!
- Wulf: No, it is not a fun stroll in the forest. You are my bodyguard.
Using Night-Vision, the night-time forest was as bright as midday.
We stumbled upon a Lynx that had just killed a pheasant for dinner.
Meeko scared it off, but then a Spriggan Matron appeared. It had been summoned but by who? As Meeko leapt to tackle it, a tremendously powerful lightning bolt hit and killed it.
Swearing in several languages told me the bolt was meant for Meeko. Meeko growled, and I followed his gaze. There I saw an old lady standing outside the only shack for miles. Anise was attacking us!
I raised a ward around Meeko and me, and we ran towards Anise.
I called out, using the Thu’um, “We mean you no harm! I am a friend of Rose’s. She wants to trade some things.”
Anise screamed, “Nobody is going to know my secret!”
She cast a lightning bolt of a strength I have never experienced before. I am a Master in Destruction, but my best would be a fraction of what the old lady could muster.
“Stop, Anise. I mean you no harm, but I will have to defend myself if you continue!”
Anise cast another bolt, and Meeko yelped. Without the protections on my armour and my best ward, that single bolt would have reduced me to ash. I had no choice but to kill or be killed. I stared at Anise and ignited her soul.
She yelled, “What have you done? Is this Dawn Magic? No, I only wanted to keep my secret!”
A small flame appeared. Anise screamed in terror but managed to cast one final bolt.
Then she exploded. The power within her soul removed every fragment of her from the mortal plane and every other. She simple ceased to be.
There was no pile of ash or bone fragments. Nothing!
Such power she wielded was not natural. It was somehow augmented.
I looked around the simple hut, and there was no sign of Daedra worship. So, I checked Anise’s cellar.
Again, there was no sign of Daedra worship.
A note on a table gave me a clue.
“Helgi, dear, why do you hesitate? You can feel the power coursing through your blood! You have only to reach out and grasp it! Renounce that boy of yours and come, come live with me in the forest. My sister will be here soon. Together, we can form a proper coven, and your training will truly begin.”
Helgi’s secret will remain with me, as would have Anise’s. I did not have time to investigate if she was part of a known Wyrd. She should have moved to The Pale if she was worried about detection.
I picked up some venison, cabbage, and the nettle balm on the way out.
My arms were pretty full at this stage. But I did not need to cast a spell to cross the river. I Blinked across then summoned Meeko.
We arrived at Alvor’s, and my least favourite person was making nails.
“Hedren, my good friend, Rose said you can help us.”
“Sure, what’s the problem?”
I plonked Rigmor’s breastplate on the workbench.
“We need this armour repaired.”
“Are you mad? The Bruma crest is a dead giveaway!”
“Then move aside, and I will fix it. I should have known your cowardice would get in the way.”
“You don’t understand the risk you took bringing it here. The Thalmor have their spies everywhere, including that thug, Morion.”
“Sounds scary. Should I shit myself now or wait till later?”
“He is some distant relative to the Jarl of Falkreath. Morion has been sniffing around here lately, asking questions about the girl in the posters.”
“Yes, blah blah. Are you going to fix the armour or not?”
“Okay, give me a couple of days. Hopefully, The Thalmor will have left by then.”
“It is an hour’s work at the most. I will come by in the morning to pick it up. And thank you, Hedren. I appreciate the risk you are taking.”
“If anyone asks, you came here to check out the shop. And tell Rose she owes me big this time.”
“Hedren, I rescued Hadvar from Helgen and have been inside this very house. I need no alibi for legally visiting the blacksmith.”
“Yes, I know Meeko. As soon as you think somebody has grown some balls, they turn into eunuchs before your very eyes.”
I was going to walk back, but then my mood was soured. I balanced the cabbage on my head and teleported to Rose’s camp.
“Tada! One fine-looking cabbage via special delivery!”
The women just stared at me as if balancing a cabbage on one’s head while teleporting was strange.
I handed the cabbage, venison and nettle concoction to Rose. She immediately added the meat and vegetable to her stew.
- Rose: So, how was Anise?
- Wulf: Insane, and now she is dead.
- Rose: WHAT?
- Wulf: She attacked Meeko and me before we were even close to her cabin. The strength of her Destruction magic was greater than I have experienced before. She posed a threat to our lives, so I defended us.
- Rose: How did you kill her? Have you left her remains to the wild animals? She deserves better than that!
- Wulf: How many people has she killed defending her ‘secret’? A secret that nobody would care about anyway. She was a witch. Big deal, there are many witches in Skyrim, especially in The Reach. She had no reason to attack us. But do not worry about her remains as there aren’t any. Not one scrap of Anise exists anywhere.
- Celestine: Did you ignite her soul?
- Wulf: I had no choice. She was wearing down my wards, and I could not afford to try regular spells on her. It was her or me. I chose to survive not because I fear death. Every person on Nirn needs me to survive to combat the dragons. Every single person! And if there were remains, they would have been treated with respect!
- Rose: I…I had no idea.
- Wulf: Hedren will fix the armour. He said it would take days because he was scared. I told him we would pick it up in the morning. It is one hour of work at the most.
- Rose: You don’t need to hang around here if you don’t want to. Rigmor is stabilising every hour, and it shouldn’t be long before she recovers enough to begin helping herself.
- Wulf: I cannot leave Rigmor’s side until she is safe. Saving Nirn will have to wait.
Rose sat and nodded to the other stump. So, I sat as well.
- Rose: You have a connection to Rigmor, don’t you? The way you reacted to her scars made that obvious.
- Wulf: Rigmor will not know me by sight. But maybe, one day, she will remember how I watched some of those scars be given by a Thalmor brute with a horsewhip. How I begged her to ask for mercy rather than let them kill her. Falling off that cliff is nothing compared to what she suffered at their hands. And I will kill every single one of them before I let them touch her ever again! But Rigmor’s knowledge of who I am must come from her memories. We cannot tell her.
- Celestine: Wulf, calm yourself. Your eyes are changing.
- Rose: So, Valdr is not your real name?
- Celestine: Oops.
- Wulf: It is the name Mother gave me. But I prefer Wulf. They are both ancient variants of Wolf. One Atmoran. The other Ayleidoon. And Celestine, you do not slip up like that. It was deliberate.
- Celestine: Yes, but now your eyes are normal once more.
- Rose: How were your eyes changing?
- Wulf: That I cannot tell you. Not yet.
- Celestine: This is quite a pleasant setup you have here.
- Rose: Pleasant and secure. The locals keep away because of the sunken fort.
- Wulf: Fort Ilinalta, or as they call it after it sunk into the lake, Ilinalta’s Deep.
- Celestine: Did you memorise every dot on the map?
- Wulf: Routine preparation. You should know that after your wartime adventures.
- Celestine: One of Wulf’s more annoying talents is remembering everything he reads.
- Wulf: I assume the locals think it is haunted or some nonsense?
- Rose: I have never seen anything to worry about, but such persistent rumours must have some truth to them.
- Celestine: Meeko will let us know of any approaching danger. Usually, Wulf would wander over to the fort for curiosity’s sake. But he will be a good boy and forget all about it for now, won’t you, Wulf?
- Wulf: Yes, Madam.
- Rose: Oh, it sounds like you wouldn’t be interested in something else.
- Wulf: I might be, but that is hard to tell without knowing what something happens to be.
- Rose: Well, actually…no. No, it is too dangerous.
- Celestine: You might as well tell us, Rose. Wulf will bug you more than Meeko seeking an ear scratch if you don’t.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Celestine: You do and don’t deny it.
- Rose: No, forget it. It is only a rumour anyway, and you two, sorry, you three have already done so much.
- Wulf: But Rose, I wanna know. Pleeeease?
- Celestine: I warned you.
- Rose: There are many dangers around here. Necromancers, bandits, all kinds of things. Well, lately, they’ve been getting a little too close for comfort.
- Wulf: I can clear them out for you. It is what we did for a living not long ago. We never charged for our services, but food donations were appreciated. So, what do you say, one potato per bandit?
- Rose: Help me out here, Celestine.
- Celestine: We were more like the local sheriffs, not mercenaries.
- Wulf: Old Little Sister spoils it again.
- Rose: I don’t want any of them cleared out, but I was thinking, once Rigmor is safely back to where she should be, what then?
- Wulf: Apart from us having to end the dragon problem? Well, we will probably have to help wipe out Ulfric if he still lives. Then I am sure The Divines will keep us busy by pointing out problems that need attending.
- Celestine: Rose is wondering what is next for her, you oaf!
- Wulf: Oh, of course. I knew that.
- Rose: I can’t carry on doing this for the rest of my life. It gets more dangerous every day! Now you have come along, and there’s a chance for me to get out of here, once and for all.
- Celestine: Keep going, Rose. There is no harm in asking a favour.
- Rose: There’s a rumour of an ancient temple on the very top of a nearby mountain. It is said to be full of gold and treasures.
- Wulf: I would not defile a temple, Rose. No matter who the deity is. But you have sparked my curiosity, for I can’t recall one marked on the maps we have.
- Rose: Nobody who has ever tried to climb to it has survived. Not even the bandits dare attempt the summit. All have perished.
- Celestine: Now you have done it. You have made it impossible for Wulf to ignore this place.
- Wulf: It makes no sense to have a temple nobody can reach. And if nobody has ever reached it, how is its existence known? There must be more to it than just a rumour.
- Rose: Well, nobody really knows what’s there.
- Celestine: We have a museum being built in Solitude. There may be things of historical interest up there. We have replicas made if we don’t take something because it would be grave robbing or desecration.
- Rose: That huge museum the news sheets have mentioned?
- Celestine: That is the one. Our partner, Auryen, has wanted to construct the museum for decades but never had the funding till now. Jarl Elisif knows it will generate income for her Hold and be a prestigious asset to her city.
- Rose: I won’t ask you to rob a temple. But if you can recover loot, we split it three ways.
- Wulf: We don’t need money, Rose. But if there is wealth to be recovered, morally, I will be more than happy to help you achieve your goals. And don’t fear, I climb mountains for the fun of it. Now, which one is it?
- Rose: Well, there is a path, but I am not sure how far up it goes. Not far to the north is a vein of gold ore. You should be able to see the path from where it is.
- Wulf: Climbing sheer mountains in the middle of the night! What have I done to deserve such pleasures?
- Celestine: Wulf really will enjoy the challenge. If you haven’t guessed already, he is not quite right in the head.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: No, my furry friend. You can’t come this time.
- Rose: Please, be very careful. As I said, we don’t know what’s up there.
- Wulf: And that makes it exciting, doesn’t it!
Rose shook her head. A typical response to my eccentricity. Celestine checked on Rigmor and said, “There is no sign of fever, and her colour is better. You are doing a fine job, Rose.”
The women started discussing various alchemical formulae and other such riveting stuff, and I set off to discover something new, which is a passion of mine.
I looked over at Fort Ilinalta and was disappointed no ghosts, or other fascinating entities were visible.
I didn’t find any gold ore, but plenty of silver ore. I looked up and could see flags.
Not far from the silver ore were steps. I decided that must be the path and proceeded to climb.
Well maintained steps meant that whatever was at the summit was supposed to be visited and quite often was. I was probably chasing a local myth with no substance in reality.
I could see Rose’s camp. And the gold ore. I was tempted to use the Thu’um and say hello, but that would not be wise and probably earn a lengthy lecture about responsibility from Father and Celestine.
I soon discovered one reason nobody returns from the climb. They were feeding a giant troll! I wasn’t keen on becoming troll dung, so I killed it with a single arrow.
A few bodies were scattered about, preserved by the below-freezing temperature at this height. I wonder if the troll was the one spreading rumours of great wealth?
The view was spectacular!
Evidence of ancient structures, large, rectangular support beams, lined the route. They dated from the time of the Snow Elves, before Ysgramor and his murdering horde needlessly slaughtered them all. I wonder what tales he tells in Sovngarde?
“Well, there was a mother and her children hiding in the basement, but we found those stinking elves! We slaughtered the children in front of the mother. Then we had our way with her before ending her worthless life!”
The other Nords would cheer at such a heroic tale.
I am not a Nord, so that senseless afterlife is not for me. It sickens me how such a butcher is revered in the country of Skyrim. But that is not the only genocide in Nirn’s history, just the local one.
Another troll blocked my progress.
It, too, fell to a single arrow.
It, too, had its larder of fortune seekers.
I eventually saw the temple. It was Dunmer made so would be dedicated to one or more deities of the Tribunal or the Reclamations. Since the temple was of Ashlander design, I would guess the latter.
But the temple would have to wait, for it was not at the summit. I didn’t make the trip just to be almost at the summit.
So, I climbed the sheer rockface to the summit, and the view was worth the effort.
At the summit was a small casket.
I opened it and retrieved a large rose, as fresh as if it had just been picked.
A Daedric dweomer preserved the rose. Sanguine is keen on roses, but so is Azura. Evidence was pointing to the temple being dedicated to Azura. There is already a colossal shrine and temple to her near Winterhold. It was made by some Dunmer who fled the eruption of Red Mountain and settled in that area. Another temple seems superfluous unless this one is part of a pilgrimage. That would explain its difficult location.
There was only one way to tell, and that was to visit it.
I made my way to the temple’s entrance and entered.
It was dedicated to Lady Azura. An Ashlander shrine of Azura dominated the small space.
Ashlanders are cremated rather than buried. But usually, the cremation is thorough, and no bones remain. I assume that others, even Nords, have requested their remains be placed within the temple.
Bags of coins and gems were in abundance and were not the usual offerings of Ashlanders or any Azura worshippers I have read about.
There was another rose and a note next to the rose.
The note read,
“A gift from Azura
Do not waver, weary traveller. Accept this gift with only the truest of hearts. Take it with the love and blessings of Azura.
Take it only with the purest of intentions less you become corrupted. Take heed this gift does not become a curse.”
I said aloud, “I thank you for this gift, Lady Azura. It will allow a compassionate, selfless and kind woman to begin the life she has earned. Her name is Rose, which should please you.”
I felt no probing of my mind and did not know if Lady Azura heard.
I placed the note back and took a couple of bags of gems and the rose. Having dealt in gems for years, I knew their worth to be at least eight thousand septims.
I placed the rose with the other one in my journal case.
I checked one of the Ashlander jars, and as expected, it had Ash Yams inside. They were the usual offerings of an Ashlander to the Reclamations.
I climbed halfway down the mountain. As soon as I could see Rose’s camp, I Blinked there. There is no limit to how far I can Blink. All I need is to be able to see my destination. Father says I might even be able to Blink to places I can’t see like I can with teleporting, but cautioned it would be risky to attempt.
The Nine seem ignorant of what my full potential is. Father, I can excuse, as he is still learning all the metaphysical gobblygook of the Aurbis. But the other eight, or well, seven of them, were born et-Ada and still I stump them. Arkay joined their ranks almost from the beginning of this Kalpa. The Thalmor have no answer when you ask why Arkay can go from Man to Divine but Talos can’t.
Father is hesitant to talk about his apotheosis. He says there are many aspects I have no hope of understanding, which may be accurate, but still, he wants to keep secrets, even from his son.
Mother was more forthcoming with her tale. Alas, it has been years since I have been able to speak to her, and nobody, god or mortal, will tell me where she is. All I know is she is alive, which is strange to ponder when talking of immortals. But she can be destroyed, as can The Nine.
I am mortal. Anise could have easily have killed me. Therefore, I am acutely aware of how easy it would be to waste whatever potential I have.
I didn’t intend to Blink in front of Rose. My sudden appearance startled her. There is a bit of sound and light with teleportation to announce a person’s arrival. Not so with an Ethereal Shift. And I aimed for the middle of Rose’s camp, not thinking of the consequences. I have to be more disciplined.
- Celestine: Wulf, think before you leap, or Blink!
- Wulf: I am sorry, Rose. Perhaps these will earn forgiveness?
I handed Rose the bags of gems. She looked inside one and gasped.
- Wulf: They are a gift from Lady Azura. If you take them to reputable gem dealers, and I highly recommend Ri’saad and his Khajiit caravans, you will pocket at least eight thousand septims.
- Rose: But Lady Azura is a Daedra, and you are Champion of The Divines?
- Wulf: I respect all religions. The Dunmer and Khajiiti worship Daedric Princes and are not evil people.
- Celestine: Don’t let Wulf start his lecture about gods or historians in the future will find skeletons gathered around this fireplace with bored expressions.
- Wulf: I was not going to go into lecture mode!
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Nobody asked for your opinion, traitor.
- Celestine: Rose, what are you going to do with your newfound wealth?
- Rose: I can plan and make a better life with this. I don’t know how to thank you, Wulf.
- Wulf: Your smile is all the thanks I need. You are a good person, Rose, and remember, the gift is from Lady Azura, not me.
- Rose: I have always wanted to visit the Gold Coast. Once I am done here and Rigmor is safely home, I will travel through Cyrodiil and see where the adventures take me.
- Celestine: Will you be a hunter in Cyrodiil?
- Rose: No, I have always fancied owning a guest house or inn.
- Wulf: That would be something I would enjoy. Meeting different people and hearing their tales is appealing.
- Celestine: We both, oh, all three of us, desire only the best for you, Rose.
- Rose: Will your tasks for The Divines ever end? And if so, what would you do, Wulf?
- Wulf: I have no idea. But I hope my future is shared with a soul mate, another person who can understand me without words. Then any future would be marvellous, even if I still have an annoying Old Little Sister hanging around.
- Rose: And you, Celestine?
- Celestine: Children. Lots of children. I have a partner I love dearly, but he is far away now, and his arrival will be bad news for others, as it would mean the dragon problem has worsened. I am a Blade and, therefore, an outlaw in Empire provinces. I am not protected by the laws of The Empire I risked all to protect, yet you see I wear our symbol with pride, for Emperor Titus Mede II had no choice but to sign the White-Gold Concordat. Even Ulfric Stormcloak knows that.
- Wulf: Did Rigmor eat while I was with the clouds?
- Rose: Yes, she has taken to the stew, and the nettle potion has helped a great deal. The tiny signs of blossoming infection are gone. It shouldn’t be long before she is sitting up.
- Wulf: Her will must be strong. I hope it is more than hate that fuels it.
- Rose: I have seen soldiers who never stop hating.
- Wulf: If you ladies, and Meeko, don’t mind, I will sleep. I can go for days without it, but I need to be sensible now the dragons have returned.
- Rose: Of course. Everything is under control.
I lay in the tent, and sleep came swift.
I was woken just after 9:00 AM by Celestine.
I shook the sleepiness out of my head and asked, “Is there something wrong?”
“No, quite the opposite. Rigmor is sitting up. She is a bit confused, though.”
“Where is Rose?”
“She went into Riverwood to pick up Rigmor’s cuirass and check on Thalmor activity. She should be back within the hour.”
Rigmor called, “Hey, stop talking about me. I am right here, you know!”
I walked over to Rigmor and had to suppress the enormous grin that threatened to break out.
“Good morning, Rigmor.”
“Hey, where’s my stuff?”
“I do believe your undergarments are drying on a rock nearby. Your trousers have been stitched, patched and also cleaned. Your armour is being repaired in Riverwood. Rose has gone to pick it up.”
“A Thalmor patrol was pursuing you with hunting dogs. Close to Riverwood, you leapt from a cliff into a tree in the hope of breaking their pursuit. You received a bad gash across your stomach that we treated with magic and herbs. Is there anything else you would like to know?”
“How did I get here, wherever here is.”
“You are next to Lake Ilinalta, close to Ilinalta Deep. I carried you to a boat, then rowed you here.”
“Yeah, hey…thanks for that. Sorry if I sound grumpy or ungrateful. I can be an arsehole at times, and my social skills are somewhat lacking.”
“Then we shall get along just fine.”
“I was falling…and it all went dark….”
“Relive the event when you are stronger. Put it at the back of your mind for now.”
“Can you remember Rose and Celestine?”
“Is that their names?”
“They both worked long and hard to save your life.”
“Didn’t the little one say Rose was going to Riverwood? That area is crawling with Thalmor.”
“Not since Jarl Balgruuf kicked them out, again. In any case, Rose can look after herself.”
“I think she told, whatshername?”
“Yeah, she told Celestine that now I am sitting up, she would check if the coast is clear because we aren’t going to be moving at a great pace.”
“No, we won’t be. I used magic to heal you, but that left you physically weak. Rose used her skills to make sure you regained some of your strength and prevented your wound from infection. Celestine expects Rose to be back within the hour, but I might go and hurry her along. This place will soon be crawling with bounty hunters.”
“Looking for me?”
“Yes. Therefore, the quicker we get moving, the safer you will be.”
“So, how are you feeling?”
“Damn, it hurts, but I’m okay, I guess.”
“Alright then, I am going to get Rose, but Celestine and Meeko will guard you.”
“Meeko lay by my side for hours. I always wanted a dog like him when I was a child.”
I moved over to Celestine and said, “Let Rigmor do as she wishes. Offer help if she looks like she is struggling but not until. I think she is one hundred per cent Nord and full of independence.”
“Rose took the boat.”
“That is okay. I know Riverwood well enough now to teleport.”
“Don’t worry, Wulf, Rigmor is safe with Meeko and me.”
I teleported to the entrance of Riverwood and immediately knew something was amiss.
Many of Whiterun’s guards had joined either the Imperials or Stormcloaks and left Jarl Balgruuf with few to garrison in smaller places, like Riverwood. Riverwood’s streets were almost deserted.
I walked toward Alvor’s, and three thugs came out of the shadows. One of them was wearing Rigmor’s armour.
In a smarmy voice, he said, “Well, well, well, what do we have here? Hedren has been telling us all about what has been going on.”
“You must be Mary Ann.”
“It is Morion.”
“Forgive my mistake, but you are wearing a girl’s breastplate. Do you have frilly knickers on as well, Moron?”
“It is Morion!”
“That is what I said, M O R O N. Moron.”
“Listen, if you don’t want to join that skank Rose in some Thalmor torture chamber, you’ll pay us one hundred gold and be on your way.”
“That is not what is going to happen, Moron.”
“Hahaha, hey lads, it seems we have a little problem. I’ll wager you don’t have enough gold, right? Or maybe your brain is addled with mead? Hahaha.”
“I could afford a million septim, but I don’t want to give you any. You see, I would prefer to cut your heads off. Three strokes, three rolling heads.”
“Come on, Moron. You don’t want your boyfriends to know how much of a milk drinker you are.”
“Get him, boys!”
I let Moron swing with his battleaxe, parried it easily, then cut his head off.
I ducked, and Idiot One lost track of me.
I stood and lopped his head off.
I ducked again, and Idiot Two lost track of where I was.
I stood, said, “Boo!” and then removed his head.
A young Argonian came running to my aid, but the fight was already over.
She said, “That was fun to watch! Those three have been causing problems all night and this morning.”
“Thank you for coming to my aid. It was selfish of me not to leave one for you.”
“No, no, I would only have looked clumsy compared to you.”
“My name is Valdr, and you are?”
“Dar-Ma. I am heading to Whiterun to offer my service in the City Guard.”
“I am sure Jarl Balgruuf will welcome you. There is no prejudice in that fine city.”
“It was good to meet you, Valdr. Even better to see the end of those three.”
Hedren timidly approached and almost peed himself when I marched up to him
“What the fuck did you do, Hedren?”
“You killed them! You killed them all!”
“Are they dead? I didn’t think that would happen when I chopped their heads off. Now, tell me how you ratted out Rose.”
“I didn’t know at the time, but Morion had been spying on me. He saw me working on the armour and told The Thalmor. When Rose came to fetch it, they were waiting.”
“Morion said you told him all about what has been going on. Did you sell us out to save your skin?”
“No, no. I swear. The Thalmor only think Rose has been helping the girl. I told them she was camped at the far end of Lake Ilinalta, nowhere near her favourite place near Ilinalta Deep, where I assume you have been. I have no idea where you are camped, but I guessed there. I hope I am right.”
“They might return and take you for questioning. Therefore, you will remain ignorant of where we are.”
“I understand. I will make myself scarce in case they do.”
“Where did they take Rose?”
“Morion bragged he had been to their base, which is a fort in the mountains on the border. South of here, I think.”
“Is there anybody else who may know more?”
“Delphine, the owner of the inn. Morion was causing problems in there last night, and she threw him out, literally.”
“What is she, part Inga?”
“No, she is a middle-aged petite lady, but I wouldn’t mess with her.”
“Keep an eye on the bodies. I will search them and collect the armour in a minute or two.”
“It…it wasn’t my fault.”
“No, it wasn’t. You were worried about Morion, and I didn’t listen. This mess is on my shoulders.”
I looked through my gem bag and picked out two excellent quality diamonds.
“Take these, trade them to one of Ri’saad’s Khajiit caravans. Tell them Valdr sent you. They will get you at least a thousand septims. Use the money to run, Hedren. Make yourself scarce. I don’t know why The Thalmor left you behind, but I wouldn’t rely on them leaving you be. Especially if Rose does not crumble under their questioning.”
“Will they torture her?”
“Oh, yes. And then they will kill her even if she tells them all they want to know.”
Hedren could not hide his tears. He took the diamonds and absently put them in his pocket. A thousand septim is probably more than he has ever had, but I could see he would rather have his friend back.
“Hedren, I am not going to leave Rose there. When she is rescued, Rose will head for the Gold Coast. That may be a good place for you to establish new roots as well.”
“Do you really think you can rescue Rose?”
“Yes, Hedren. Even if they have an army in the way. Look into my eyes.”
Hedren did as asked, then stepped back.
“I am Champion of The Divines. I will unleash their wrath on those who blaspheme against them and dare to kidnap innocents from our streets.”
I walked briskly to the inn. Time was of the essence.
I entered the inn, looked around and saw a woman with the grace of a warrior in every move she made. I approached her and knew she was expecting me.
“Greetings. I am Valdr, and I assume I am speaking to Delphine.”
“Yes, and you must have noticed all my customers are staring at you. They say you just beheaded Morion and his goons with one stroke each of that magnificent katana you carry.”
“They weren’t the most competent foes.”
“If you are suicidal and want to try and rescue Rose, try Fort Black. That is where they keep their favourite torturers. I know it is south of here, on the border, but I can’t give you any more detail than that.”
“You seem well informed about Thalmor deployment.”
“Let’s just say it is in my self-interest to know such things and to keep an eye on who enters this inn.”
“And what will your notes say about me?”
“You are a dangerous man, Valdr. I would not be surprised to hear you have rescued Rose and that Rigmor escaped safely back to Bruma.”
“Yes, I hope whoever is helping Rigmor manages to accomplish that.”
Delphine smiled. She was used to this game of not saying anything but confirming all.
“Good luck with your hunting, Valdr. We are all fond of Rose, and those animals deserve to die. Every single one of them!”
I nodded and left the inn.
“You can go, Hedren. Do not bother saying goodbyes or gathering too much gear. Just go!”
Hedren did not need any more encouragement and ran as if his life depended on it, which it may well do.
I searched all three bodies, but they had no useful intel on them. I removed Rigmor’s armour from Moron’s corpse.
I then teleported to Rose’s camp.
Celestine pointed to where Rigmor was.
I walked behind the lean-to and discovered Rigmor smelling and touching red mountain flowers.
“Is red your favourite colour, Rigmor?”
“Yes, but I don’t know why I am picking flowers. Does that seem strange to you?”
“No, they are beautiful, and perhaps they help against the darkness.”
“You have my armour. Is Rose with you? And how did you just vanish before?”
“Come and sit, and I will tell you what you want to know.”
Celestine came over and stood next to me as I sat on the stump opposite Rigmor. Meeko got up, started walking around the camp perimeter, and guarded us as we talked.
- Wulf: An informer told The Thalmor about your armour being repaired. When Rose went to retrieve it, The Thalmor illegally arrested her.
- Rigmor: Then we must go after her! Do you know where they took her?
- Wulf: I think she has been taken to Fort Black, on the border.
- Rigmor: Fort Black? I know that place and was planning to go there. Angi told me how to get there. I have a map at her camp.
- Wulf: Who is Angi?
- Rigmor: It is a long story.
- Wulf: Perhaps you can tell me as we walk, for you cannot ride for some time.
- Celestine: Your energy levels are still low. If you fainted while mounted, it would not be ideal.
- Rigmor: Okay, you two are the wiggly finger magic people.
- Wulf: The Thalmor have accused you of murder and placed a fifteen thousand septim bounty on your head, dead or alive.
- Rigmor: What! Are you going to hand me in? Well, here I am, and it will be the only chance you’ll get!
- Celestine: Rigmor, think about what you just said. How many opportunities have we had to hand you over to The Thalmor?
- Wulf: I can understand your outbursts, but you owe us an explanation.
- Rigmor: Oh yeah! How do you figure that out?
- Wulf: Celestine, Rose, Meeko and I risked our lives to protect you and treat your wounds. We don’t ask for anything in return but civility and the respect we have earned. If not for us, you would be dead or in the hands of The Thalmor.
- Rigmor: Yeah, I’m sorry….
- Celestine: You don’t need to apologise, Rigmor. We are physicians, and we understand trauma. You leapt off a cliff to escape The Thalmor. That tells us a lot. We will not let them take you and do all we can to protect you. You could not ask for better bodyguards.
- Rigmor: I…I killed some Thalmor in Cyrodiil. In Bruma. They were responsible for my father’s death…and for…
- Wulf: That is enough for now. You can tell us more if and when you want to. We never thought you guilty of an actual crime. What you described is what we surmised.
- Celestine: How did they track you from the border to Riverwood?
- Rigmor: I think I know how they tracked me to Skyrim. But I had slipped their cordons. Then they got lucky as I was on my way to Riften when they jumped me.
- Celestine: Is that a place you need to visit?
- Rigmor: Yes. I was going there to meet someone who had news about my mother. We were…I was…
- Wulf: You were guests of The Thalmor. Once again, you can tell us more if and when you desire.
- Rigmor: I don’t even know why I am telling you this. I don’t even know you!
Celestine looked at me and could see how that stung. How stupid was I to think Rigmor would recognise her Guardian?
- Celestine: You are telling us this because you feel safe in our presence. Tell me that is not the case.
- Wulf: Bite our heads off as much as you want, Rigmor. We are not in a position to judge your paranoia or fears.
- Rigmor: I do feel safe. Safer than I can remember being for a long time. But Celestine, I know. Meeko, I also know. You have yet to tell me your name.
- Wulf: Call me Wulf in private. In public, I am Valdr, at least for now.
- Celestine: You are not the only one hiding from those who wish you harm, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Who is hunting you?
- Wulf: Well, I assume The Thalmor soon will be. The dragons will hunt me. There are still those who worship dragons who will hunt me. Those who worship certain Daedric Princes will hunt me. The rulers of the lands I have recently left are certainly hunting me. The list will steadily grow as I become known.
- Rigmor: Dragons?
- Celestine: While you were unconscious, a dragon destroyed Helgen. It demolished an entire battalion, the town and most of its residents.
- Rigmor: And why would dragons hunt you, Wulf?
- Wulf: They will hunt me because I am The Dragonborn of legend. It is my duty to stop them, and I am the best hope against them. You are the first person in Skyrim I have told that secret. The dragons are a problem to be tackled later. Our priority at the moment is to see you safe, Rigmor of Bruma.
- Rigmor: Rigmor Ragnarsdottier. Bruma is where I was born and raised and killed The Thalmor.
- Celestine: Wulf is looking stunned. You accepted his claim of being The Dragonborn without ridicule or disbelief.
- Rigmor: Despite my appalling manors and ungrateful attitude, I believe you are what you say and know you have my best interests at heart. I would not last long without your protection, even if healthy. Hundreds will relentlessly hunt me with that size bounty on my head.
- Wulf: So, do we agree our priority is rescuing Rose from Fort Black?
- Rigmor: Yes, we can’t leave it too long if we want to save her.
- Celestine: We have to consider your health, Rigmor. You are not out of the woods yet. But what would be the use of having two Masters of Restoration with you if we couldn’t get you to Angi’s in a reasonable time?
- Rigmor: Yes, get me to Angi’s, and we can make further plans from there, considering my health, or lack thereof.
- Wulf: It will be a long walk. But I have a plan to help you. You might not like it, but hear me out.
- Rigmor: Okay.
- Wulf: The bounty hunters and Thalmor have your description circulated far and wide. You must travel in disguise, and I think being a Lady of means, with two bodyguards, is the ideal cover. You may be fond of your armour and maybe even your lack of hair, but both will get us in trouble.
- Rigmor: I am no lady!
- Wulf: All you have to do is look down your nose at people and treat us as barely tolerable servants. That should be easy and even fun!
- Rigmor: Hey, I can do that!
- Wulf: Of course, you can. Celestine did it for years.
- Celestine: I was never a snob!
- Wulf: I will get you an appropriately expensive suit of armour.
- Rigmor: And how will a heavy suit of armour help me with the long walk?
- Wulf: I will place dweomer on it to aid stamina and protect you against many types of attack.
- Rigmor: And my hair?
- Wulf: What colour and style do you want. I have access to many wigs.
- Rigmor: Brown, short and shabby, but not in my eyes.
- Celestine: You did not have a weapon with you.
- Rigmor: I dumped my sword so that I could run faster. I won’t feel right without a replacement.
- Celestine: Scimitar? Cutlass? Short sword?
- Rigmor: A full-size greatsword. Not a hand and a half. Not a bastard sword. Full size. That is what I have trained with since a little girl.
- Wulf: A greatsword it is. It will be finely honed and covered in destruction dweomer. Even in your currently weakened state, few enemies will withstand more than one hit.
- Rigmor: Ahh, where are you getting this stuff from?
- Celestine: Our museum in Solitude. It will take Wulf seconds to get there. A few hours for him to hone the sword, adjust the armour and place the dweomer.
- Rigmor: Can I do this magical travelling thingy?
- Wulf: No, not at the moment. It would be too dangerous in your condition as there is a bit of a shock to the system in the ethereal plane. Celestine can explain why if you wish. We need to get moving. I will be back as soon as I can.
I teleported to the safehouse and then made my way to the armour display rooms.
I chose a set of armour any noble would be proud to wear. I then selected a superb greatsword from the collection. The armour and sword were part of the generic displays and had no historical significance. I tried a few wigs on the dummy before choosing one.
I also chose a bow, not knowing if Rigmor is proficient in its use.
I honed the sword and placed my usual set of dweomer on weapons and armour.
I teleported back to Rose’s camp. The sky was overcast and little light filtered through the clouds. But there was no rain. Celestine helped Rigmor into her new gear.
Rigmor came into view, and the transformation was stunning. There is no way a casual observer would think she is the woman on the posters.
Rigmor asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“You look like a well to do Breton noble. You are about the right height to pass for one as well.”
“I feel much stronger and more capable. I was worried it would weigh me down.”
“It is the dweomer I placed on the armour. When wearing it you are protected against fire, ice, electricity and disease. It will help with fatigue and healing. You can breathe underwater and will find your accuracy with the bow much better.”
“That is good since I can’t hit a mammoth from ten feet away.”
“Did you try the sword?”
“Not yet. Hang on….”
I watched in awe as Rigmor transitioned from one complex sword form to another without pause and with the grace of the best Swordmasters. She must have been training much of her eighteen years to master what she just casually performed.
Celestine had been watching, and she applauded. She might be a mage but is no slouch with a sword. She has seen enough Swordmasters to know the quality of what she witnessed.
I said, “Rigmor, that was outstanding!”
“Hey, the sword is pretty cool. And I started training to use a greatsword before the age of ten with my father. Then…well…later on some costly trainers were provided for me.”
“Okay, it is like midnight at the moment. Let’s take advantage of the weather and get moving.”
“Ahh, won’t we risk running into ambushes if it is this dark?”
“Not with Meeko’s senses, and I can see in the dark, and people’s body heat and auras. We will not be ambushed.”
“Ahh, why can you see in the dark?”
“Dragonborn means part of me, my soul and blood, is that of a dragon. That also means I have some of their senses, including their eyesight. But I am a mortal, and you only know what I am because I told you. You could not tell otherwise. Plus, these clouds will clear soon enough.”
“And now you are my Guardian.”
“Yes, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, The Dragonborn is your Guardian.”