Tirdas, 19th Last Seed, 4E 201
“Rigmor, um, I said we are in a hurry and let’s go and all that, but I forgot.”
“Rose took the boat. And I teleported to Riverwood and back. So….”
“We have no boat. How could you forget a boat?”
“I was worried and upset.”
“So, what now?”
“You could walk under the lake to wherever it is you want to go. Alternatively, I can cast a spell, so we call all walk across the water, but that might attract a bit of attention. Most sensibly, I could teleport over to Riverwood, run to the hunter’s camp and retrieve Rose’s boat.”
“Of you go then. It will give Celestine and me more time to complain about The Mighty Dragonborn.”
“Perhaps she can teach you how to say please and thank you?”
“Wulf, get the boat!”
“Yes, my noble lady person. As you desire, so shall it be. Just don’t beat this poor servant.”
I walked over to Meeko and asked, “You don’t blame me for forgetting the boat, do you, Meeko?”
“Oh, I see, you have joined the anti-Dragonborn conspiracy.”
“What conspiracy? Only those involved would deny its existence!”
“Did you just fart? What kind of answer is that to my accusation?”
Meeko just grinned and knew that I would have to vacate within seconds. Which I did, coughing and spluttering and cursing whatever god sent the fleabag to me.
I teleported outside Riverwood, turned and ran.
The weather over Riverwood was fine and sunny. Perhaps by the time I get back to Rose’s camp, it will be the same there, and our slight delay will be forgiven?
I ran at full pace towards the hunter’s camp, which is, even in my armour, quicker than most people can go when naked and chased by an angry husband or wife who came home early.
I jumped into the boat and started heaving on the oars, which bent with the strain, so I slowed down slightly. Better later than arriving with a broken oar or two. That would get me an earful!
I moored the boat then ran into camp. I found Rigmor amongst the red mountain flowers once more.
“Picking more flowers, Rigmor?”
“No, just admiring them. You have the boat, don’t you?”
“Not on me as it is a bit heavy, and its colour clashes with my red armour. But it is down below, waiting for a noble passenger to climb aboard and enjoy a luxurious lake adventure!”
“Celestine told me you were dropped on your head as a child. That explains a lot.”
I looked over at the small village. Father had stopped watching after I saw Rigmor’s scars. The pivotal moment in linear time, the Ripple in the Void was now history. Mathematicians will tell you that when possibilities are infinite, you can’t make one set of events more likely than another. Nobody told time that theory. Decisions made during one of the conjunctures, the Ripples, make particular outcomes more likely. It is how The Divines will judge my progress and make or alter plans accordingly. If everything were pure chance with all outcomes equally likely, my treasured mortal free will would be worth as much as a Thalmor promise.
We piled into the boat, and apart from the odd command to change course, all I got from Rigmor was, “Row, you lazy, good for nothing, worthless trash! If I am late for my pedicure, you will eat nothing but bread for a week!”
Celestine remarked, “Well done, but your disdain still needs some refinement. The servant has to be like dog shit on your shoe. You look at it and turn away in utter disgust.”
“Yes, Meeko. I know you bury yours and away from well-trodden paths. But you are not a dog, so the analogy doesn’t match your excrement.”
We disembarked at Half-Moon Mill. I said to Rigmor, “You could have just told me this is where you wanted to go instead of ordering me around as I rowed.”
“Did you say something, servant? Do you wish to spend more time in the dog pens?”
“Of course not, Milady. Forgive me for daring to express my opinion.”
“Yes, Meeko, I have tied up the boat. What kind of idiot would forget to tie up a boat?”
Next to the mill was a prosperous iron deposit. The amounts of ore of different types I have seen on Skyrim’s surface is impressive. It is no wonder the country is so prosperous.
As we made our way to the main road, a Thalmor patrol escorting a Bosmer prisoner came into view.
Celestine warned Rigmor, “Be prepared. Wulf will not let them live.”
The patrol consisted of a Justiciar, a soldier and a mage, and the male Bosmer was of ancient heritage and had two small antlers.
I approached the Justiciar.
“Who are you?”
“I am a Thalmor Justiciar on important business that you are interfering with.”
“I have been away for some time, so I am confused as to why Thalmor are wandering around Skyrim as if they own it.”
“We’re making sure Emperor Titus Mede II wasn’t lying to his elven masters when he agreed The Empire would give up false gods and foolish beliefs. Now go away!”
“My, you do have a high opinion of yourself ordering me around, and I am not even a citizen of The Empire. What right do you have to arrest a Bosmer? Surely you are not accusing him of Talos worship?”
‘No, but his crime is within our jurisdiction. He has been arrested for supporting the Stormcloaks.”
I looked at the Bosmer, who shook his head in denial.
The Justiciar continued, “That we are superior to Man is a fact. For example, take this belief in Talos. The ‘ninth’ Divine. Huh!”
“Tell me, Justiciar, which of the other eight Divines has told The Dominion that Talos is not a Divine? After all, you also have priests and priestesses that speak to Lady Mara and Lord Stendarr. Did they tell you Talos is not a Divine and forget to tell us?”
“What about Auri-El, Magnus, Y’ffre, Syrabane or Phynaster? Did any of those Aedra tell you that Talos is not the ninth Divine?
It is interesting that Shor, Lorkhan if you like, is the god of the Nordic afterlife, and yet he has not objected to the claim of Talos divinity.”
“What about the fact I can pray before a Shrine of Talos and have diseases cured like shrines of the other eight Divines. Where does that power come from?”
“When the Hero of Kvatch needed to enter Oblivion, the only gate still viable required the blood of a Divine to open it as written within the Mysterium Xarxes. The Hero of Kvatch travelled to Sancre Tor and retrieved Tiber Septim’s armour. Priests recovered some of Tiber Septim’s blood from inside the breastplate, for he was injured in that great battle. That blood allowed the opening of the Oblivion Gate. Explain that. Surely you do not blaspheme and say that Xarxes was incorrect?”
“I talk to The Nine quite regularly. I have spent a lot of time with Lord Talos in Aetherius and upon Nirn. I can assure you, Justiciar, that he is one of The Nine and loved by the other eight.”
“Listen to this liar! Gods would not speak to you or allow you into Aetherius.”
“Look into my eyes and tell me I lie, Justiciar. You claim that worshipping Talos is heresy. As I have just demonstrated, what you Thalmor claim about Talos is pure blasphemy. And I know why The Thalmor oppose Talos, and the truth makes you an enemy to all mortals.”
The Justiciar looked into my eyes and was shaken, but to her credit, she continued the charade and said, “Are you saying you worship Talos?”
“How stupid can you be? Yes, I do, for as certain as I am that you are about to die, I am equally certain of his Divine status.”
“And so, you will die a heretic’s death.”
The Justiciar drew her short sword.
Rigmor ran around her and fatally wounded the Dominion soldier with a mighty two-handed downward chop.
I parried the Justiciar’s sword and let my Dovah eyes be seen.
They were the last things she saw upon Nirn.
Before her body reached the ground, I pivoted and grabbed the mage who was engaging Rigmor. My sword entered his back, and I pushed it to its hilt.
As he stared cross-eyed at my blade suddenly appearing in front of him, Rigmor disembowelled him with a precision slice across his abdomen.
The fight was over in seconds. I wiped my sword on the mage’s cape and sheathed it. A duck and her brood came to inspect the dead Dominion soldier.
I warned, “Don’t peck her, Mother Duck. I have no idea what diseases Thalmor carry.”
I searched the Justiciar’s corpse. She carried no wanted poster or other information relating to Rigmor.
The mill’s owner had watched the fight but did not approach or show any interest after it was over. There was something odd about him. I approached the rescued prisoner.
- Wulf: I am Valdr, Guardian to Lady Ramsbottom. The young mage is Celestine and also serves Milady. Who are you, and I hope the Justiciar was mistaken about your support for The Stormcloaks?
Rigmor looked at me with daggers in her eyes. We had not agreed on her alias, and a goat in the background gave me the inspiration for an appropriate one.
- Daenlyn: Thank you, Valdr, Lady Ramsbottom and Celestine.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, he thanks you as well, Meeko.
- Daenlyn: I am Daenlyn Oakhollow, and this is what I get for trying to please my audience.
- Wulf: Explain.
- Daenlyn: It may not be apparent by my present choice in attire, but I’m a bard, and I take requests.
- Wulf: Oh, I see where this is going. Wrong lyrics in the wrong place.
- Daenlyn: Yes, somebody in Falkreath asked me to play ‘Age of Oppression’ and the next thing I know, I’m part of this unholy quartet. You’ve met the other three band members, Ugly, Angry and Dead. Their name for me, the undoubted star of the band, was Traitor.
- Celestine: Oh, did you sing Age of Aggression instead?
- Daenlyn: Officially, I play what the patrons ask me to play. Unofficially, let’s say I’m not so good with the lyrics to certain songs. Aggression, oppression, who knows what these words mean? Certainly not a poor, uneducated bard who only speaks in melodies.
- Rigmor: Bard Oakhollow, what is your honest opinion of The Thalmor?
- Daenlyn: Lady Ramsbottom, I dislike The Thalmor with an intensity approaching that of your Guardian. Anything that annoys them is fine by me. People who worship Talos seem to be high on their list.
- Wulf: Their oppression of your people is brutal. In particular, those faithful to The Green Pact.
- Daenlyn: Yes, I hate Thalmor almost as much as vegetables. It’s in the blood.
- Celestine: Oakhollow is an ancient name amongst the Tree Sap People.
- Daenlyn: It is pleasant to meet people of above-average knowledge. Yes, I am of the old Bosmeri tribe.
- Wulf: Do you realise that most Imperial Legionnaires also worship Talos and recognise his divinity.
- Daenlyn: Yes, I do and have no bias to one side or another. Although the rumours I hear about Ulfric Stormcloak are disturbing.
- Wulf: You are now a marked Mer, Daenlyn. You will more than likely be blamed for the demise of these Thalmor. We have placed you in an awkward situation, and performing in public would undoubtedly prove unwise in any city or town.
- Daenlyn: Lady Ramsbottom, if you employ me as your travelling companion, I swear by the woodland gods that I will be loyal and trustworthy.
- Rigmor: What skills do you possess, Bard Oakhollow.
- Daenlyn: I am a jack of all trades and a master of none. I’m good with the bow, but I can’t say I’m great. I know a few spells, but I don’t know enough.
- Rigmor: Guardian, what do you recommend?
- Wulf: Without a fuller set of skills, Bard Oakhollow would soon meet his demise with the strength of the enemies pursuing us. May I suggest he hide in our Safe House until such a time as it is deemed safe for him to pop his head out, so to speak?
- Rigmor: Make it so.
I opened up my small, four-dimensional journal case, which was bigger inside than out. I plunged my arm into it up to my elbow, making both Daenlyn and Rigmor’s eyes widen and Celestine giggle. I finally found the loose sheets of paper, never-ending quill and writing board I searched for.
I wrote an introductory letter to Auryen and asked that he provide Daenlyn with access to the Safe House. I sealed the letter with wax which I melted with Magicka and imprinted with my ring.
I handed the sealed letter to Daenlyn.
- Wulf: Head for the museum in Solitude, it is not far from The Bards College. Ask to speak to Chief Librarian Auryen and pass him the letter. He will give you access to our Safe House. There you can remain until it is safe for you to return to your craft, or perhaps, we may find other employment for you.
- Daenlyn: That is reportedly a place of history and lore, like The Museum of Artefacts before it was sacked.
- Wulf: Yes, and Auryen believes many of that museum’s exhibits have made their way to Skyrim. If you are interested in the gobblygook behind that, Auryen can talk your ears off in explanation.
- Daenlyn: Gobblygook?
- Wulf: The metaphysical laws that make no logical sense but exist nonetheless. The stuff gods say as if it was natural for up to be down and down to be up.
- Daenlyn: It is an excellent word! From what language is it?
- Wulf: Ayleidoon.
- Daenlyn: I believe you told the truth about meeting Talos here and in Aetherius.
- Wulf: Yes, it is true and on many occasions. As with all gods, only his avatar can appear in Mundus, the mortal plane due to the Liminal Barrier. In Aetherius, he appears to me in a mortal form as the actual appearance of any god can send us insane.
- Celestine: You will find trunks full of new clothes and a freezer full of meats within the Safe House. We have a lot of friends who will be needing its security. Do not be surprised if other odd people share the accommodation with you.
- Daenlyn: I believe I will find inspiration for many new songs during my stay there.
- Wulf: Indeed, and it may be a lengthy stay. The Thalmor do not like escapees.
- Daenlyn: I thank you, Lady Ramsbottom, for the rescue and your generosity. Your use of that enormous sword was genuinely inspiring, but your Guardian’s swordsmanship, brief though the demonstration, was a thing of legends. You have chosen well.
- Rigmor: He has his moments even if his hygiene is suspect.
- Wulf: Hey, I had a bath last month, or was it the month before that?
- Daenlyn: I may rest here for a while, then travel via the forests. The Thalmor have no hope of tracking me through them, and any tracker dogs would suddenly find they like me more than their masters.
- Rigmor: That would have been handy a few days ago!
- Wulf: Do not stay here after sunset, Bard Oakhollow. The man chopping the wood is not as he seems.
- Daenlyn: From the hints, he is a Daywalker! How fascinating.
Daenlyn did a slight bow to Celestine and me and a large bow to Rigmor. He whistled a jaunty tune as he walked towards the vampire. He sat to watch the wood chopping, waiting to talk to the Daywalker.
I used Heat-Vision to confirm my suspicion.
Then I spoke to Rigmor.
- Wulf: I had to come up with a name. There are a lot of Ramsbottom in Solitude.
- Rigmor: I am not concerned about that, although revenge shall be mine. I am concerned about your claim of actually meeting Talos.
- Wulf: You will learn many things about me in time, Rigmor. But I do not want you to bias your opinion of me due to my unique upbringing and abilities. Our concern is Rose, and we shall have plenty of time to discuss things as we travel.
- Celestine: Wulf is a mortal like you, as he has explained before. He bleeds like you and can die like you. Anything he doesn’t say at the moment is to protect more than himself. But to do as The Divines require of him, they gave him blessings. He was tutored by masters of various disciplines on many subjects.
- Wulf: The Divines guide me, but I choose my path. I chose to deal with those Thalmor for many reasons. But Rigmor, they did not know about you. I would expect every Justiciar to be carrying your wanted poster, but she did not!
- Rigmor: That is strange.
- Wulf: Perhaps when we visit Fort Black, we might find a reason for that.
- Rigmor: Yes, you are right. I trust all three of you, and my curiosity can wait. But, ahh, what is a Daywalker?
- Wulf: A vampire who is powerful enough to withstand the rays of the sun and not disintegrate.
- Rigmor: That bard knows that and is chatting to it?
- Celestine: Many bards are inherently curious. They like to speak to people and obtain information suitable for new stories and songs. It can often lead to their early demise.
- Wulf: Daenlyn is a devotee of The Green Pact. That means he only eats meat. Some Bosmeri tribes eat their enemies after a battle.
- Rigmor: I was getting an excellent education before…well…before my life was interrupted. But I learnt a lot, along with handling a sword, in the last four years, and I remember reading about that.
- Wulf: It is not something they often mention, especially if they want to make a living as a bard.
- Rigmor: How big is your Safe House?
- Wulf: I am beginning to think it will prove to be too small. Oh well, we shall find additional properties when need be.
- Celestine: Come, Lady Ramsbottom, we dare not dally any longer.
I was surprised at the pace Rigmor was comfortable maintaining. The dweomer on her armour helps, but I think her willpower and natural constitution were significant contributors.
A Breton with a red pallor approached.
- Wulf: Good afternoon. You look ill. We are physicians and would be pleased to assist with no charge or obligation.
- Afflicted: I am one of The Afflicted. I would have died from this plague over a year ago if not for Peryite’s protection.
- Celestine: Valdr, there is nothing we can do for him. It is a Daedric infection. I have seen similar, and always the product of Lord Peryite.
- Wulf: It is contagious?
- Celestine: That Dark Lord usually uses plants or infected animals to spread his gifts. I doubt this gentleman is a threat to anybody.
- Wulf: So, where are you going?
- Afflicted: I am returning to High Rock. I just want out of Skyrim as quickly as possible.
- Rigmor: Why flee Skyrim?
- Afflicted: Our shepherd lost his way, and I fear Peryite’s wrath may consume those who remain with him. Kesh could tell you more.
- Rigmor: But won’t you die anyway, since you have removed yourself from your master’s protection?
- Afflicted: Yes, but I will die at home, amongst those I love and abandoned.
The Breton continued on his way. I will pursue Kesh later when time allows.
The lack of patrols was evident in increased banditry, but other dangers also encroached on the roads of Skyrim. We came upon a lone traveller assailed by black Skeletal Warriors with glowing red eyes.
I yelled to him, “Run! We shall deal with them!”
He managed to disengage from the skirmish and ran.
I quickly disposed of the first three undead, but Meeko had run ahead to tackle others that approached. We all hurried to join him.
Vampires attacked with Destruction spells. Some were Daywalkers. Others relied on hoods and risked the sunlight with that scant protection.
The vampires were weak, and the fire dweomer on our weapons proved fatal to them. Mortal necromancers also attacked and died as quickly.
Meeko, with his usual charge without care, became a target of bow and spell. He could take a lot of damage, and the embedded Ice Spears only made him angrier. I don’t think he has organs to damage, but that is speculation since I have not cut him open to find out.
Rigmor was switching between blade and bow with ease. So much for not being able to hit the side of a mammoth.
When all the enemies were no more, I approached the traveller, an elderly Wood Elf.
“Greeting, it must be the day for rescuing Bosmer. You did well to survive their onslaught!”
“I thought I was a goner. I was having trouble with the first three, and then the others came running.”
“Well, we are glad to have helped. Things will be back to normal once the Civil War is over.”
“I hope so. I have travelled this stretch of road hundreds of times and never been accosted by the undead!”
Just then, more undead attacked from the opposite direction. The hunter made himself scarce. We ran over to aid the well-armed militia fighting Skeletal Warriors.
I could see the danger was not the undead but the necromancer summoning them in large numbers.
I positioned myself then decapitated her.
It did not take long to destroy the remaining undead.
The militia leader came up and said, “Thank you for your assistance. I am Captain Calin of the Whiterun Militia.”
“You are quite a way outside Whiterun Hold.”
“The arsehole Jarl of Falkreath has not helped his people, so we are.”
“The roads around here can certainly do with your presence. We are finding a simple trip a test as every few miles we seem to come across trouble.”
“Yes, and I can only hope we survive long enough to make a difference.”
The captain barked some orders, and the militia continued their patrol.
I had a quick look at the last necromancer I killed. I don’t think that she was associated with the vampires. But it doesn’t matter. She is dead, and so are they.
A bit further along, we came across a type of undead neither Celestine nor I had seen before. Celestine took some samples of its flesh for further analysis.
Twilight was approaching when a wild boar came out of the forest with the green tinge of possession upon it. A Spriggan was controlling it.
I took care of the boar then saw several Spriggan, including a Matron, attacking us for no reason. We were not harming wildlife or vegetation and posed no threat to their grove. A person could get paranoid with all of these attacks.
I used a spell taught me by the Psijic, called Bombardment, which is probably unknown by any of the mages of The College of Winterhold. Balls of fire left my hands, one after the other, in a stream that would continue till I ran out of Magicka. With my natural Magicka reserves and the dweomer on my armour, I would never run out.
Rigmor and Celestine were safe from the fire due to their clothing and armour dweomer. Meeko was relatively resistant, but I had to be careful not to injure him.
The Spriggans and their controlled animals were soon destroyed.
Celestine was concerned and said, “Rigmor is tiring. Let us hope that is the last random encounter.”
“If we have more, concentrate on protecting Rigmor. Meeko and I will take care of the enemy.”
I walked over to Rigmor.
“Rigmor, you are looking exhausted. Use your bow and let Meeko and me do the close up fighting. That is if we have any more encounters.”
“I am surprised how well I am doing with the bow.”
“Some of the dweomer help, but marksmanship is greatly influenced by confidence. As your confidence in your ability increases, so will that ability.”
“Why did the Spriggans attack. I hate killing animals and beautiful things. The Matron was beautiful, and now she is not.”
“I am sorry, but I don’t know, Rigmor. Neither do I know why the vampires attacked or that other necromancer.”
Another wild boar seemed unconcerned about us and trotted past. That put a smile on Rigmor’s face. As we crossed the lake earlier, she had pointed out families of swans and ducks and seemed delighted by their very existence. There is a natural empathy within Rigmor that contradicts the careless and selfish attitude she sometimes displays. Rigmor has seen the darkest side of life yet finds beauty in the natural world. I find that endearing.
As we passed the turnoff to Falkreath, Rigmor announced, “Angi says the Jarl is an ass!”
“But Lady Ramsbottom think his in an uncouth fellow, am I right.”
“Nah, he’s an ass!”
A little bird ran in front of us.
Rigmor asked, “What kind of bird is that?”
“Well, it is on the road and running. Does that give you a clue?”
“Ahh, Running Bird?”
“Road Runner. Watch how quickly it can move when it wants to. It has to outrun foxes, wolves, coyotes, the various big cats etc.”
The little bird ran with impressive speed up the road, and Rigmor laughed with delight. Such joy from her was mesmerising, and Celestine looked at me with concern. She was worried I had not listened to her sage advice about falling in love with a stranger. Old Little Sister need not worry, for I would be very cautious. I am Rigmor’s Guardian, and she needs me for that, not anything else. I have taken it on as an oath-bound duty, and I do not break my oaths.
We did not get a chance to talk as much as I hoped as we travelled. Although Rigmor did not show it, she struggled, even with the dweomer on the armour. Without the dweomer, we would have had to stay in Falkreath overnight as Angi’s was up high, and Rigmor would never have made it.
As she often did, Celestine had summoned a Storm Atronach as an extra bodyguard. It always looked miserable, like there are a million other things it would rather be doing.
We encountered several nobles with a single guard on our walk to Angi’s. That might have been enough protection when the roads were patrolled. Any of the encounters we had today would have been too much for a single guard. They were foolish or ill-informed of the dangers.
A turkey ran past with its tail feathers up and its rear-end exposed.
Rigmor called out, “Hey, Valdr, where are you going? Oh, you’re here. I mistook its arse for your face.”
“Keep trying, Lady Ramsbottom. You may yet say something witty.”
“Celestine is giggling, so stick that up your….”
“Your posterior. I am a lady, after all.”
The mountains loomed large on our right, and I stopped to ask Rigmor for directions.
“When do we turn off?”
“A bit further along. The turnoff is hard to see from a distance but well-marked.”
“And how are you feeling?”
“The path to Angi’s is steep and not very direct. It will be challenging, but I think I will be okay.”
“You have done far better than Celestine, and I thought possible.”
“Rose is with them because of me. I won’t stop till she is saved.”
“Rose is with them because I didn’t listen to her friend, Hedren. If I had, Rose would not have walked into their ambush. We shall get you to Angi’s and determine our next step then. Do not assume we are going to set off for Fort Black immediately.”
“The Thalmor do not start with the worst of their interrogation methods. They would prefer to have an undamaged Rose at the end, and you know why.”
“Slavery. Rose would be worth more.”
“And The Dominion count every gold coin with meticulous care. We have time to be cautious and not compromise your health.”
A lone knight battled several bandits not far from the turnoff to Angi’s.
The confidence of bandits when there are no patrols is high. This gang built a structure spanning the road and populated towers with archers. They had dropped rocks, perhaps in the hope of killing the knight who had probably refused their demand for a toll.
We ran to the knight’s aid, who had done well and managed to disarm one of his opponents.
The disarmed bandit had several embedded arrows from his unskilled accomplices on the towers.
We quickly dispatched the bandits assailing the knight, then Rigmor yelled, “The bastards squished a turkey! Kill them all!”
Celestine took care of one archer with fire from one of her staves.
I killed the other with a Fireball.
The knight thanked us and went on his way. Not far past the bandits was the turnoff to Angi’s.
Darkness arrived quickly, and I was forced to use Night-Vision. We were hesitant to use torches or lanterns as they warned enemies of our approach and ruined normal night vision for those who did not have my ability
Rain poured down, and I could tell Rigmor was wet, miserable and struggling. But she did not complain. She was a Nord and no milk drinker. Such was their philosophy, which proved needlessly deadly on occasion.
The climb was very steep, but the rain eased from torrential to annoying after a while.
I stopped and asked Rigmor, “How are you doing? Is it much further?”
“I am okay, Guardian. We are halfway there.”
We plodded on with strong winds trying to blow us off the mountain.
We were near the summit when Meeko barked. I heard a faint “Wait for me!” from Rigmor, who had fallen far behind.
Rigmor slowly made her way to us, and I asked her, “If you want, I can carry you or piggyback you the rest of the way.”
“No, Wulf. If Agni doesn’t see me walk in, she will want to mother me for a week. The steepest part is over, and it is not far.”
“Okay, but don’t let us dictate the pace.”
“If you haven’t figured it out, I am a bit stubborn.”
“As stubborn as a Nord.”
“And what are you, a milk-drinking Imperial?”
“I was born on Roscrea, but my parents were not. How about that for an answer that isn’t one!”
“And you aren’t an Imperial citizen?”
“No, Roscrea and its islands are the private property of Elisif, Dowager Jarl of Haafingar. She was never the queen, by the way, but the King’s Consort.”
“It must be terrible having all those useless facts rattling around in your head.”
“Yes, especially since they were shaken lose when I was dropped on my head.”
“Ha de haha. Keep moving before I find the energy to kick you.”
We had reached the summit, and the last part of the hike was relatively flat. Still, Rigmor kept moving, so we did as well.
I laughed when I saw a welcome sign.
I asked Rigmor, “Your artwork?”
“Yeah, Angi wanted some signs. You didn’t notice the other one or the traps I set up.”
“I was too busy looking behind to make sure you were okay.”
“I was too pooped to warn you. But nobody stepped in one, so no harm done.”
We arrived at Angi’s, and she came running to intercept us. She was a blond Nord of late thirties in age but might have been younger. Harsh living ages people prematurely.
Angi stopped in front of us. A winded Rigmor staggered past her and warmed herself in front of a campfire. I could hear her wheezing as she recovered from hours of walking and fighting.
I finally looked at the petite lady in front of me who said, “Name’s Angi. I think you might be in the wrong place, friends, and if you try anything stupid, I won’t hesitate to put an arrow in your heads!”
“What would be stupid is you trying to arm your bow, knock an arrow and draw before I cut you in half, or Celestine gave you a Fireball enema, or Meeko tore your throat out. There is no need for such a rude greeting or threat. We are here with Rigmor!”
“Nah! I don’t think so. Rigmor is under my protection, so don’t get any bright ideas!”
“What is that supposed to mean? Have you kept her alive for the last few days? Did you fight and kill those who wanted to harm her and make yourself wanted by The Thalmor? Your protection has been pretty piss poor from our perspective, so cut the crap!”
“Well, she is with me now!”
“Calm down and we shall tell you what is going on. We are friends!”
“Very well! Consider yourself warned, and keep your hands to yourself!”
“If Rigmor wants us to administer to her, we shall do so, and your permission will not be required!”
Rigmor finally had enough breath to speak. She said, “Angi, this is my Guardian, Celestine and Meeko! They saved my life, and it’s okay. Relax!”
Angi stormed away, muttering, “Quiet solitude one minute. A barbarian, mage and huge mutt the next.”
Rigmor started walking towards a tent and said, “Come, we can talk in my tent, out of the cold.”
Celestine replied, “I will set my tent up here if you don’t mind. Go, Valdr, talk to Rigmor. Meeko will help me.”
“You can give moral support, you fluffy idiot.”
Celestine was giving me a chance to talk to Rigmor alone, and I silently blessed her for it.
I had to duck to enter Rigmor’s tent. She managed to clear the doorway by several inches. I must look like a giant to her.
Rigmor sat on her bed. I sat on a wooden chair and hoped it could take my weight.
“You should be proud of yourself, Rigmor. You were close to death, yet here we are at Angi’s after hiking all day and fighting several battles.”
“Yeah, I know the magic stuff on the armour helped but, as you can tell, I have a pretty strong will.”
“You told Angi I am your Guardian. So, does that mean I have passed the test and have been granted the position mentioned, Lady Ramsbottom?”
“Yeah, it seems so, my Guardian.”
“Angi seemed a bit overprotective.”
“I got myself seriously injured after the Bruma thing and barely made it across the border. Angi found me when she was hunting in the forest. I was almost dead, and if it weren’t for her, I would have bled out where I lay.”
“It seems that a Rigmor in trouble attracts hunters who can heal.”
“Yeah, it is a bit creepy with the coincidences.”
“And Angi brought you back here?”
“Yes, and she nursed me and sat with me through the fever. She treats me like I am her daughter.”
“That would explain why she is so protective of you. However, my instincts tell me she doesn’t live way up here in the off chance she can save a fugitive from Bruma.”
“Perhaps. Maybe Angi will tell you why when you get to know her better. Don’t be put off by her abruptness. She really is a nice person once you get to know her. Mention to her about those practice targets near the ‘Keep Out’ sign. She will enjoy that very much, and discussing archery will help break the ice. It might even give her a chance to get rid of that damn bow she is always on about.”
“Angi might be amazed at your new-found skills with the bow.”
“She would probably faint. She was in more danger of being hit than those targets and gave up trying to teach me.”
“Did you choose Skyrim to run to simply because of its border with Bruma?”
“No, I don’t think so. I am not quite sure. It is not safe for me in Cyrodiil, and Skyrim is my ancestral home. I’ve never been here before, so perhaps that was what decided my destination.”
“I only arrived in Skyrim just over a month ago. I had not stepped on Tamriel before then. Therefore, everything is fairly new to me as well.”
“Well, I want to explore a little and see it for myself.”
“Let’s see if we can make it safe for you to do.”
“Ha, today showed me how unsafe it is, even without dragons and Thalmor.”
“It will be much better once the civil war is over and regular patrols can be resumed.”
“We didn’t see any evidence of the war today.”
“No, at the moment, they are manoeuvring around each other. I assume both sides are afraid of committing to the first major battle. The morale after a win or loss could determine the rest of the war.”
“And in the meantime, the average citizen suffers.”
“That is the inevitability of war, civil or not.”
“Which is unfair.”
“May I ask, what happened to your mother?”
“My mother and I were sold into slavery. I was a young teenager when we were separated. I haven’t seen her for four years and don’t even know if she is still alive.”
“But somebody in Riften has information?”
“Yes, Baa’Ren-Dar, who is very special to me, managed to send me a note. He has some information on my mother’s ring, but he will have to wait. Rose needs us, and I want to get my father’s sword back.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar is an ancient form of Ta’agra naming convention. Dar is a rare honorific reserved for very well respected Khajiit. I am very fond of Khajiit, so I look forward to meeting him.”
“Hah, it will be fascinating to see what he makes of you!”
“What happened to you, Rigmor. Who made those scars?”
“I’m sorry…I don’t want to talk about that right now. Maybe some other time.”
“Whenever you feel comfortable. You will find I am quite a good listener.”
“What about your parents?”
“Father is healthy. I have not seen Mother in four years, but at least I know she is alive.”
“Oh, why haven’t you seen her?”
“Rigmor, you don’t want to talk about things as they are difficult memories for you. I can’t talk about some things because they will colour your perception of me and will be difficult to understand or even accept.”
“Like talking to Talos, in person, here and in Aetherius?”
“Yes, Rigmor. I could do that because of who I am. You know part of what I am, Dragonborn, but that is just part of my story.”
“So, the better I know you, the more I will accept your weirdness?”
“Haha, yeah, that’s about it. At least there will be less chance of you running away screaming.”
“Why are you determined to help me and make me safe once more, even if it takes some time. Shouldn’t you be concentrating on the dragons?”
“Oh, I wasn’t expecting that question. I can tell you this, The Divines took an interest in our meeting and seemed pleased that we have done so. Perhaps there is a reason Celestine, Meeko, and I just happened to pass by Rose when she needed help with an injured girl, who turned out to be a wanted woman, hunted by those I despise.”
“So, I am a convenient way to get up Thalmor noses.”
“No, don’t ever think that. You have suffered at the hands of The Thalmor, and there is no way I will let them get their hands on you ever again. If it just so happens that pisses them off, then that is a bonus and not my motivation!”
“I am sorry, my cynical side emerges once more.”
“Why did you shave your hair?”
“Haha, a diplomatic change of subject. When I came of age and left Elsweyr, the first thing I wanted to do was take revenge on the Thalmor that kept us hostages. Shaving my head was a symbol of renewal.”
“And the killings in Bruma were your revenge?”
“Yeah, the ones in Bruma arrested my dad for war crimes, and he ended up dead.”
“He was a soldier?”
“He was a brigade commander and led the Nord volunteers against The Dominion during The Great War.”
“You must be very proud of him.”
“Hell yeah! He was decorated by Emperor Titus Mede II and fought under General Jonna. Then, after the White-Gold Concordat was signed, he went to Hammerfell and helped the Redguards take on The Dominion.”
I sat stunned, and Rigmor looked at me worriedly.
“Wulf, is something wrong?”
“Rigmor, is your father Ragnar Fjonasson?”
“Yes. Do you know of him?”
“I spent a lot of time learning strategy and tactics. I studied famous commanders from many eras and wars. Your father and The Sons of Talos have been an inspiration to me. Ragnar’s determination and tactics against overwhelming odds in Hammerfell are legendary, and now you tell me he was convicted of war crimes. This subject must be hard for you to talk about, Rigmor, but as I said, I have never been in Tamriel till recently. That is the worst injustice I have ever heard, and I bet there is more. But you don’t have to tell me now.”
“I will tell you a little. The details are difficult for me.”
“Tell me only what you are comfortable with.”
“After The Dominion left Hammerfell and the fighting stopped, he met my mom, settled in Bruma, and they had me. Then, after many years had passed, they came after him.”
“They probably blamed him for their embarrassment in Hammerfell.”
“He sacrificed himself to save my mom and me. That’s what he thought. But they betrayed us. I slew them all at the embassy near Bruma. They’ve had the hots for me ever since. Haha.”
“You killed a platoon of elite guards as well as the mages and others! After witnessing you in action, I have no doubt you could do so. But Rigmor, not everybody could do as you did. But not everybody has lost their father to such deceit.”
“You don’t think less of me, do you?”
“No, Rigmor. I am in no position to judge you for seeking revenge on those who harmed you and your family. I am an efficient killing machine designed by The Divines to protect the mortals of Nirn. I have killed far more people than you can imagine and most of the time, for far less of a crime than you have outlined.”
“So, do think less of me?”
“Have you ever murdered somebody in cold blood? Have you been an assassin?”
“No, Rigmor. I only kill the guilty, but I so outmatch most opponents, you might as well call it an assassination.”
“Then we are the same. So, no, I cannot think less of you.”
“I know assassins, Rigmor. They are also good people when they kill to protect others, not for profit.”
“Of course. Celestine told me she is a Blade and that many of her friends are assassins.”
“As are many of the Penitus Oculatus. But they are not like the Morag Tong or Dark Brotherhood.”
“Yes, I have heard that about them as well.”
“Is there anything else, since we couldn’t talk on the walk, you can tell me about yourself?”
“My story isn’t a happy one, as you probably already know. I spent some years in slavery. Baa’Ren-Dar rescued me and smuggled me out of Valenwood. I spent a few years in Elsweyr before I took my revenge and ended up here.”
“I won’t ask about your slavery. I can tell that is another thing difficult for you to express.”
“I am going to rest for a while, Wulf. Please have a look at my map in Angi’s shack. It’s on the table. Take the opportunity to break the ice with Agni. Let me know when you’re ready to move out.”
“Okay, and thank you for sharing with me, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, daughter of a hero to all who know the truth.”
“And thank you for saying that about my dad. He never did say much about the war.”
“Many soldiers are like that. I suppose it takes a soldier to understand a soldier fully.”
As I made my way to Angi’s hut, I saw Celestine had pitched her tent and was fast asleep. She won’t be happy, but I will need her to remain behind with Meeko and guard Angi. If The Thalmor took Rose, Angi is not exempt from their hunt for Rigmor. There are Thalmor snitches in every corner of The Empire.
I knocked on the entrance of Angi’s shack. She did not have a door.
I walked in and introduced myself, “Hello, my name is Valdr.”
“As I said, the name’s Angi, and I’ve been living out here for a couple of years now.”
Angi moved away from the cooking pot she was attending to and sat down. She patted the chair next to her. I sat and, once again, hoped a piece of furniture could take my weight. It creaked a bit but held.
“Rigmor tells me you are pretty good with a bow.”
“I’ve been hunting and fishing in these parts for years. There’s enough for everyone if you aren’t greedy.”
“I noticed the targets. What are they for?”
“I set up those targets a long time ago. I shoot at them from time to time. I don’t want to get rusty with my bow. Do you know how to use one?”
“Yes, but there is always room for improvement.”
“Well, let me know if you ever want to practice.”
“I would like that, but first, I think you need to know what happened to Rigmor.”
“She was on her way to Riften when ambushed by a Thalmor hunting party with trackers and dogs. She leapt off a cliff and into the canopy of a large tree to escape them. The tree broke her fall, but she almost died. The ambush happened very near Riverwood. A huntress called Rose found her and asked Celestine, the Breton Mage, and me to help. Celestine and I are Restoration mages, amongst other things. Celestine inspected Rigmor and said she could be moved after some healing. I cast my best healing spell on Rigmor, and then we took her to Rose’s camp. Rose tended her wounds with skills she learnt in the Legion, which complimented the healing I had done with magic. Together we saved her life. Now she is fairly healthy but still needs to recover her stamina.”
“That is uncannily like my experience with her.”
“Yes, it is very similar, except we managed to avoid any infection or fever. It sounds like you were too late to avoid that when you found Rigmor. The Thalmor have captured Rose, and we are going to rescue her. We will head for Fort Black after Rigmor has had a bit of a rest.”
“Just you and Rigmor?”
“We can do it, I am sure. There is a huge bounty, fifteen thousand septim, for the capture of Rigmor, dead or alive. There will be many bounty hunters after her. For that reason, Celestine and Meeko will remain here to protect you. She is a skilful mage, and Meeko is far more than he seems.”
“Do you think that is necessary?”
“No matter how good you are with a bow, Angi, you could not prevail against a platoon of Thalmor or a large group of bounty hunters. On the other hand, they would be slaughtered by Celestine’s Destruction spells.”
“While Rigmor is resting, I would love you to tell me all about archery!”
“Follow me then. I see you have your bow, but you must use the practice arrows, or this may prove too easy.”
We walked to the practice area in silence. It was pretty late, so I used Night-Vision to make things easier. I picked up a quiver of practice arrows along the way.
Once there, Angi started demonstrating techniques while saying, “My father was rarely home, so it was my mother who taught me how to use a bow. She always said composure was the key to a successful archer. If you can remain calm, even amid the chaos, your arrow will most likely find its target.”
After Angi’s demonstration, I was required to hit the three closest targets without any time limit. I had been watching the trajectory of the practice arrows. They were heavily fletched, which increased accuracy but made them dip quicker than the ones I used. Angi’s bow had nowhere near the draw of mine. I did not think the arrows would dip at all when shot from my bow.
I was correct with my assumption, and I did not aim high to hit the targets.
Angi’s second lesson was about speed while maintaining accuracy. As she demonstrated, she said, “My older brother took me out hunting a lot when I was little. At the time, it was difficult to keep food on the table, let alone have enough left over to sell at the market. So, whenever we came across more than one deer in a single location, we needed to kill as many as we could.”
My test was to hit all three targets in eight seconds or less. I did that. I think Angi was surprised I had yet to miss a target.
Angi’s third lesson was about precision. She demonstrated by consistently hitting the furthest target while explaining, “We’ve talked about speed and composure. Now we’ll go over precision. Often, you won’t be able to get as close to your prey as you’d like, and you’ll have to settle with a long shot. However, with such a long shot, it’s more than likely that’s the only shot you’ll be able to take before your prey runs off.”
My test was to hit the furthest target. I had to aim a little high to compensate for the practice arrow, but I hit it first shot.
Angi’s eyebrows raised a bit at that feat.
Angi then challenged me to hit all four targets in ten seconds. She was more than a little surprised when I accomplished that first try and exclaimed, “You did it! All four targets in ten seconds. Nice job. And you never missed a target once!”
“Thanks for the lessons, Angi.”
“I think you already knew all I tried to teach you. You are a far better marksman than me. That is kind of scary when I think about it.”
“I have the motivation of having actually to shoot people in the head. A lot.”
“If you don’t mind, can you tell me why you live out here by yourself?”
“I moved here from Helgen after my family was killed. At the time, I couldn’t stand to be around anyone. They all felt sorry for me, and I didn’t want them to. It was my problem, not theirs.”
Angi did not want sympathy, so I did not give her any. I asked, “How did your family die?”
“Two Imperial drunks who thought they were above the law.”
“Were they ever brought to justice?”
“You could say that. That is part of the reason I’m living out here now.”
I could see why she would bond with Rigmor. Both of them have killed to revenge their families.
I asked Angi, “Do you still have friends or family in Helgen?”
“Not anybody I care about very much. Why?”
“Helgen is no more. A dragon destroyed it. Nearly all the people were killed, and a battalion of Legionnaires was wiped out.”
“Yes, and on top of the civil war, that news is causing great consternation.”
“I might not have particularly liked some people, but… was it bad?”
“Celestine and I arrived not long after it happened. I can only imagine the terror that was experienced. So, in answer to your question, yes, it was bad. Very bad.”
“I cannot honestly morn those I did not like. But I am very sorry for all of them.”
“It is only the start, Angi. There will be more dragons.”
“Well, that is a worry for another day. It is not often I get visitors out here. Let alone pleasant ones. I know it isn’t much, but here, take this bow. It was given to me by my family. It is special to me but brings back too many painful memories.”
I took the bow, and it was of superb quality. I said, “This is a most precious gift, Angi. Be assured it will be used and not locked in a cupboard somewhere.”
I could see Angi was close to tears. I said to her, “I must look at Rigmor’s map.”
“And I must finish my cooking.”
We walked back to her shack without another word.
Rigmor’s map was, to be polite, different. The depiction of the Jerall Mountains was artistic and very squiggly.
Next to the map was a note written in Aldmeris. Rigmor had somebody interpret it and write the Tamrielic for her.
“To Justiciar Milen, New Order of Alinor.
The Order requests that the Daedric artefacts be moved to Fort Black immediately. High Justiciar Joror has now been assigned to replicating the weapon and amulet.
Too much time has been taken to duplicate the items, and although a breakthrough has been made to fuse Daedric relics with advanced metallurgy, four years for only one of each item is not acceptable.
High Justiciar Joror believes he can quadruple production time to furnish our military personnel as soon as possible. Ensure both the originals and duplicates are dispatched. Too much time has already been wasted.
General Tilar Aedriath.”
I suspect Rigmor found the note in the Bruma embassy. Is her father’s sword the Daedric weapon they are trying to duplicate? And was the amulet also her father’s?
The New Order of Alinor is unknown to me. Perhaps it is some religious sect within The Dominion. Perhaps our visit to Fort Black will tell us who or what it is.
I was busy speculating when I did not have enough information. A habit I despise and generally abstain from doing.
I did know that the events that wrecked Rigmor’s life occurred approximately four years ago. That is when I found Rigmor in her cell via ethereal travel. And now I know that terrible place was in Valenwood and that the Khajiit I saw carry her to safety is named Baa’Ren-Dar.
I quietly approached Rigmor’s tent and could hear her amid a nightmare. I entered with all the stealth I could muster, which is substantial. As soon as I was within a few feet of Rigmor, her nightmare ended.
I quietly left the tent and waited. Within seconds, Rigmor was in the midst of another nightmare. I entered but stood further away so I could observe. It was not a nightmare but a Night Terror. Her breathing, voice and vital signs were as if she was experiencing the event. I crept closer, and Rigmor calmed. Her respiration returned to normal, and she settled into a deep sleep.
I should have been battling with my conscience. What am I doing helping Rigmor when Alduin has arrived? Am I doing it for the right reasons or being selfish? Those questions plagued me when Rigmor was further than a few feet away during our walk. When she was close, my mind was clear of confusion, and I was confident I was doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Now I know the calming works both ways. Even Rigmor’s subconscious stopped driving the Night Terrors.
What does it mean? Could Father or any of the other Divines explain it to me?
I pulled a chair close to Rigmor so we could enjoy what I have decided to call our ‘Quiet’.
I did not need sleep, and Rigmor’s breathing took on a familiar rhythm. I recalled the rhythm from years before when I was her Guardian in the Thalmor dungeon. There, I watched over a small girl, who was, I have since found out, fourteen years of age and whose name I heard from the lips of Baa’Ren-Dar when he rescued her.
I closed my eyes and smiled as I sifted through all my reserves of knowledge. I could not find the answer to these questions, but that did not disturb me.
What is the connection between Rigmor and me, and what does it signify?