FORT BLACK

Turdas, 21st Last Seed, 4E 201

Yesterday, I let Rigmor sleep as long as her body wanted. She awoke just before midday and was distraught we would not go and rescue Rose until today. But in the end, Angi, Celestine, Meeko, and I convinced her she needed to recuperate more, especially if she and I were the only two going to Fort Black.

About half an hour before daybreak, I woke Rigmor with a gentle shake on her shoulder. As with the night before, I spent it in the chair next to her bed. However, I had slept as well. My affinity for time allows me to tell myself when to wake up.

Rigmor groggily got to her feet.

“Eat something. There is a stew from last night and bread. There is no need to rush. We have a good half an hour before daybreak.”

“Wulf, I was angry and upset yesterday. When I stomped off to my tent, I cried with anger, concern, and frustration. Yet when you entered to talk to me again, I felt calm and could think more clearly and knew that you and the others were right. You have insisted on sleeping on that chair when there is a perfectly good bedroll only feet away. I have figured out why, and I want answers to what is happening. None of this, ‘You will find out about things as we go.’ Well, I have figured this bit out. Well, sort of.”

“What, Rigmor, have you figured out.”

“I have never gone a night after Baa’Ren-Dar rescued me without nightmares. It has always been that I sleep for a while, wake up from a nightmare, go back to sleep and repeat the process. I had a couple of nightmares on the first night I slept here, but nowhere near the number I usually have. And last night, zero. When you are close by, my worries are still there, but I am not in such a panic about things. I woke up last night, not from a nightmare but because I wanted to make sure you were there, my Guardian. And I saw you in the chair asleep, with a smile on your face, and I knew that your worries, which must be enormous, were dampened as well.”

“I noticed you stopped having Night Terrors when I came to check on you. So I decided to move the chair close. The effect would probably work from the bedroll, but I wanted to make sure you slept well. And yes, the calming thing works both ways, and I have no idea why. It doesn’t happen between me and anybody else, Rigmor.”

“Can’t you ask The Divines? Surely they would know!”

“There are many things about me that stump The Divines. I was hoping you would sleep well and relax and not notice. I have no answer for you, Rigmor.”

“It is not a bad thing, Wulf, and I think you do know something more but don’t want to divulge it.”

“Please, Rigmor, I don’t want to keep secrets, but I have to.”

“Celestine was aware of this thing. That is why she knew I felt safe near you.”

“Celestine knows that I calm you down. She does not know how or why either. It was noticeable even when you were gravely ill, and we first rescued you. You did not whimper or stir as I carried you or placed you in the boat. But when I was away doing things, you would whimper with pain and be restless. I think Rose noticed, but she never asked about it.”

“Have The Divines designed it this way. That we should be together for some reason? You said they seem pleased we were together.”

“No, Rigmor. No, I swear The Divines have done no such thing. They have not spoken to me about you, which tells me they are not concerned that I am spending time helping you. Please, can we accept this as gobblygook? If it makes you feel uncomfortable, I will move further away when you sleep.”

“Do you have a name for this gobblygook?”

“I call it ‘Our Quiet’ as it seems unique to us.”

“Why would I reject something that gives me a good night’s sleep? Shoo! I need to pee and eat. Then we can go rescue Rose and make a mess of Fort Black.”

“We will be walking. I still don’t want you falling off a horse.”

“Okay, now move!”

As Rigmor was busy preparing for the day, I walked to Celestine. She knows me well and could see the worry on my face.

“Okay, Wulf. What is it?”

“Rigmor figured out that we have this calming effect on each other. She suspects I know more, but I can’t tell her. Not yet.”

“Did you expect it would not become obvious? Interestingly, it doesn’t always calm her temper if it flares when you are close. However, if Rigmor walks away and you then approach, it works.”

“I don’t know, Celestine. I haven’t analysed it to that extent. And anger is not logical, while the calmness comes from logic overriding fear and uncertainty.”

“You said you haven’t analysed it and then presented a plausible hypothesis.”

“What about you? Are you still livid with me?”

“I never was! You are willing to increase the danger to you to ensure Angi is better protected. Meeko and I will stay here and protect her.”

“I can always summon you if need be.”

“Not if you are a bloody mess taking your last breath!”

“Thanks for that scenario. It fills me full of confidence.”

“You always demand the truth, Wulf.”

“And you always provide it, pleasant or not.”

I walked over to Meeko.

“Has Angi stopped calling you names yet?”

“Grrr!”

“Well, keep piling on the charm. Angi will warm to you sooner or later.”

“Woof?”

“No, I don’t think she would put an arrow in your head.”

I kept myself busy checking the fletching on my arrows then chopping some wood.

Angi came over and pleaded, “Please, look after Rigmor!”

“You saw her yesterday, Angi. She needs to rescue Rose. I know I sounded confident when I said Rose would be okay for now, but The Thalmor might lose patience and hurt her. That would damage Rigmor more than any weapon could.”

“I know. Rigmor wears her heart on her sleeve sometimes.”

“Please do as Celestine advises if people approach. If they are snooping, any aggression might make them suspicious.”

“Okay, no threats of arrows in heads, got it.”

Rigmor came over, grabbed my arm and said, “No time for lollygagging, let’s get going!”

Rigmor walked at a frenetic pace to the entrance of Angi’s property.

“Slow down, Rigmor. Without Meeko, we are relying on my senses which are good but still inferior!”

“How come you can’t do your wiggly finger stuff and make us appear at Fort Black?”

“I can only do that if I know the destination well. I have never been to Fort Black, so I can’t teleport there. And I do not wiggle my fingers when casting spells.”

“Okay, let us move at your old man’s pace then.”

“No, you run ahead, and when a troll is ripping your arm off, I promise not to laugh.”

It was a pleasant walk, and Rigmor did well, considering we were in the rarefied atmosphere so high up.

We passed some Moonstone ore that Khajiiti would love to mine. I will tell Ri’saad.

We walked in a narrow and shallow canyon, which protected us from the strong gale that continually blew this high on this mountain range.

We were walking along, and everything was quiet, then I stopped and turned around.

I exclaimed, “Oh, that is not good!”

Rigmor turned and said, “That is an odd-looking fire!”

“It is a dragon. Let me take a closer look.”

“No way, don’t you dare get any closer!”

“Dragon sight, remember. I can use Zoom-Vision to look at it. Like Baa’Ren-Dar’s Looking Glass that you broke.”

“Why did I tell you that story? I am not always that clumsy.”

“Didn’t Baa’Ren-Dar let you use it as soon as it was repaired?”

“Yes.”

“Then, if he didn’t think you are clumsy, why would I?”

“There we go with the logic stuff again.”

“Can I concentrate on the dragon and quickly decide if we should find a place to hide and empty our underpants?”

“Hehehe, that is funny, The Dragonborn being scared of a dragon.”

“Rigmor!”

“Shushing. Go ahead and do your thing.”

I zoomed in then said, “He is a cross between a Fire Dragon and a Crystal Dragon. His flesh is like glass and covered in flames. He is magnificent, and he knows we are here.”

“So, what do we do?”

“Nothing, he is not going to attack us. Many dragons will come out of hiding and not be our enemy. If he is one of Alduin’s, he has not been told to attack me on sight. If we didn’t have to hurry, I would go and have tinvaak with him.”

“Tinvaak? Is that a type of dragon Sweetroll or something?”

“No, Rigmor, it is Dovahzul for a chat, a chinwag.”

“Ahh, a gossip session.”

“I suppose it could end up being one.”

“Have you ever spoken to a dragon?”

“No, but I can speak, write and read Dovahzul fluently. Their syntax and grammar are weird, but I don’t think I would have too much trouble being understood by them.”

“Well, if we are not going to be his breakfast, let’s keep going.”

“Yes, Milady. And you are noble, so don’t argue with the title. Emperor Titus Mede II knighted your father.”

“Call me Rigmor, or I will show you how unladylike I can be!”

“Yes, Milady, of course.”

We passed an old fort, and I had no idea what it was called.

A bit further along, a small pack of wolves attacked. I watched as Rigmor used sword and bow to end their lives.

Rigmor said, with great sarcasm, “Ahh, thanks for the help, Guardian.”

“You didn’t need it.”

“A gentleman would not let a lady do all the work.”

“But you are no lady.”

“I hate you.”

“I have no doubt that will not be the last time you make that declaration.”

Rigmor laughed, and we continued.

We turned right onto the trail that should lead to Fort Dark. On our left was a substantial and ancient structure.

Rigmor asked, “Okay, know it all. What is that place?”

“It is called Eye of Cyrodiil and is a bit of a mystery. Nobody has been able to enter it since The Oblivion Crises, and its purpose is unknown.”

“In other words, it is exactly the type of place you would love to explore. Celestine told me about your visit to Azura’s Temple and thought it was normal for you to climb a mountain in the middle of the night. Well, there is nothing normal about it!”

“I explore to learn. And there is a thrill of discovery, like picking your nose and coming out with a wonderful booger!”

“How many times did you get dropped on your head?”

A bit further on, we came to some stairs.

Rigmor said, “I think they lead up to the mine we have to go through.”

“I didn’t see them marked on that wonderful map of yours. You were probably too busy doing the squiggly mountains and forgot.”

“We are here, aren’t we? There is nothing wrong with my map!”

“I didn’t say there was. It is a beautiful abstract rendition of something.”

Rigmor shook her head then proceeded towards the stairs.

I could hear and see some people battling several large predator cats and a troll.

We hurried up the stairs to help, and an idiot blocked our way. Why do they see this huge, well-armed person and think they can intimidate him? Hence the generic name, idiot.

“Alright, that is far enough! What can I do for you, friends?”

“If they are your friends fighting for their lives, you can let us pass so we can help them.”

“They are quite capable of defeating a couple of cats and a troll.”

“Then why are they screaming, ‘Rokkir, help, we are going to die!’?”

“Aha, they are just joking around. Now, what can I do for you, friends.”

“Wow, that was a very convincing scream. Are you sure your friends are playing a joke?”

“You wanna get past, well, we control this mine, and the toll is one hundred septim.”

“Rokkir, you have two choices. You can stand aside, live, and not get the toll. Or you can die and not get the toll. What will it be?”

“I’ll have your head!”

Rokkir didn’t realise how tall I was as I spoke to him a few steps down. He looked worried as I drew my sword and casually walked up to him. He swung his two-handed spear with little skill. I blocked it with my shield and skewered him through the middle.

The sounds of fighting had ceased, but we rushed up the stairs anyway in the hope we could save somebody.

A pride of large Sabre Cats did not agree with our plan. Lightning removed them from our path.

We found Rokkir’s friends, and I don’t think they were joking when calling for help. That idiot cost more than his own life. I hope they kick him in the goolies if they meet in their afterlife.

As I examined the bodies, Rigmor saw another Sabre Cat approaching and shot it as if it were mere feet away, not several levels up.

I said, “Good shot, Rigmor. Very impressive.”

“Yeah, the troll is up there. Let’s see if you can do as good a shot!”

“Okay, let’s see.”

I sent a ball of lightning, and the troll was turned to ash.

Rigmor shook her head once more. It seems to be easier than inventing new names to call me.

We passed the Sabre Cat and then the troll.

Rigmor commented, “With an arrow, you can utilise what you kill. Your spell just left a pile of ash.”

“A very desirable product for the avid ash collector.”

“Why do I talk to you?”

“For my whit and intelligence?”

Rigmor laughed loud and long.

We came to the entrance of the mine. A familiar smell wafted from under the doors.

Rigmor asked, “What is that pong?”

“Charred people. Not a smell that should come from a mine.”

“It is horrible that you can recognise it.”

“I had almost forgotten it till Helgen the other day. That was an unpleasant reminder.”

“I won’t ask where else you know it from.”

“Good, as it is not a pleasant tale.”

“Well, my Guardian, after you.”

We entered and discovered the support beams were not the best. Still, the ceiling stayed where it was supposed to be.

We passed a small iron ore deposit. I don’t think a remote mine would be worthwhile just for iron.

Dozens of Skeever attacked us, which is not their normal behaviour. Something had driven them into a frenzy.

Chain-Lightning killed most of them with its first discharge.

A second discharge finished the rest.

A pile of partly charred bodies was heaped in front of a crucifixion.

I turned to Rigmor, who asked, “What has happened here?”

“Torture and murder, which are hobbies of our Dominion friends. A weak Destruction mage used a Flames spell to kill the miners. It looks like one of them got special treatment and was crucified.”

“Why would anyone do this?”

“The Thalmor don’t need an excuse. But at a guess, the miners posed a security risk, and this was the economical solution.”

“Bastards!”

“Yep.”

I warned Rigmor, “More Skeevers through the door.”

We entered the next part of the mine, and Skeevers attacked.

A troll joined in the fight and fared no better than the rodents.

Signs of the miners’ simple lives reminded us who was murdered. Hard-working people trying to make an honest living were killed by the arrogant bastards who hurt Rigmor. Their death was approaching, with a smile of anticipation upon his face.

I randomly open chests in my search for gems. They are one of the few items I remove from places such as this mine.

I opened a nondescript chest, and within it was an odd dented sphere about eighteen inches in diameter. I picked it up. It was of crystalline structure, and I knew it was of Daedric manufacture. An entity encountered my mental block. It tried several times to break through it.

I said aloud, “Whichever one you are, you will have to do the spooky, disembodied voice routine.”

Rigmor looked at me with alarm and remarked, “Speaking to yourself is the first sign of madness, you know!”

“Shh, Rigmor. It will give up and speak in a moment.”

After a couple more attempts at bypassing my mind block, a voice echoed from nowhere. Rigmor squealed in surprise.

“A new hand touches the beacon. Listen. Hear me and obey. A foul darkness has seeped into my temple. A darkness that you will destroy. Return my beacon to Mount Kilkreath. And I will make you the instrument of my cleansing light.”

I replied, “Sorry, too busy. Plus, you didn’t say please.”

I put the sphere back in the chest and closed it.

I looked at Rigmor and asked, “Anything wrong, Rigmor?”

“Who was that?”

“The traitorous bitch, Meridia.”

“The Daedric Prince?”

“Yes. I had heard that she was arrogant. It is a wonder The Thalmor don’t worship her!”

“Please, Wulf, in plain Tamrielic, explain what just happened.”

“I picked up Meridia’s relic, what she called her beacon. She tried to speak in my head, but I have blocked all beings from doing so except Meeko, my Father and Hashire, my horse.”

“That is why she had to do that spooky, disembodied voice thingy?”

“Yes, and please learn something vital from this. No god, Daedric Prince, Divine or other, can force you to do anything. Meridia hates mortal free will and always orders mortals rather than asking for co-operation as other Dark Lords do. She is not a ‘good’ Daedra just because she hates the undead. She sent her minions to murder Priests and Priestesses of The Nine during the Oblivion Crises and is no friend of mortals. She is an et-Ada who abandoned her kind and became a Daedra. All the other Dark Lords are slaves to their nature imprinted at the start of the Kalpa. Meridia is different. She chose her speciality and personality. Good and evil are meaningless labels attached to all Dark Lords except her. She is truly evil by choice.”

“What shall she do now you have refused to help?”

“Probably throw a tantrum and go crying to Mehrunes Dagon. If there is genuine evil infecting her temple, I will remove it when I am ready and not at her command. However, there is no way I will lug around her beacon till then.”

“Is she now your enemy?”

“No. Meridia wants to dominate mortals, not see them eliminated. She would know what danger Alduin poses.”

“I am glad I don’t have to deal with gods.”

“It is the same as dealing with mortals. You have to understand their motivations and politics.”

“Politics?”

“Oh, yes. Not amongst The Nine. But the Dark Lords are continually making alliances, breaking them, etcetera.”

“Can we concentrate on the mortal flesh and blood bad guys now?”

“Yes, of course, but I did not invite Meridia, so don’t blame me for her interruption.”

“You opened the chest and picked up the thingy. Who else is to blame?”

“Harsh!”

“But true.”

“Okay, smarty pants. If Meridia needs help with evil in her temple, is she randomly going to place her beacon and wait forever for some random person to find it?”

“No. So she planted it for you to find!”

“Am I still to blame?”

“Yep, you saw it, you touched it and are totally at fault. And what kind of weirdo talks to his horse?”

“Oh, you noticed I mentioned Hashire. Wait till you meet him. He is unique.”

At the next door, I said, “This criminal does not feel like telling his accuser that there is another troll on the other side of this door.”

“You just did.”

“Damn, you are just too clever for me, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier!”

“Hahaha, you are in fine form today.”

“I serve to please, Milady.”

I opened the door and zapped the troll. Rigmor hit it with her sword and set it alight. All in all, not a good outcome for the troll.

At the mine exit, Rigmor breathed in and declared, “Fresh air!”

She rushed and opened it quickly before I could warn her. I managed to grab her around the waist and swing her back onto the narrow platform before she became Rigmor smear on the ground way down below.

RIgmor giggled and said, “Wow, watch that first step!”

“Let’s try not to kill ourselves. The Thalmor would cry.”

“Good idea, and thanks.”

The dragon was watching with interest. I must visit him when I can.

We moved away from the mine exit a bit. Steps led to our objective, the valley with Fort Black, and some led to the summit. I was waiting for Rigmor to ask what I knew she would.

“Hey, these steps lead to the summit. Wanna take a look?”

“What could be more fun than climbing rickety steps while gale winds try to blow you to your death?”

“So, that’s yes?”

“DUH!”

We made it to the top, and Rigmor showed no fear as she lent over the sides to admire the view down as well as across.

“This is so cool!”

“Yes, it is rather cold.”

“No, cool as in good.”

“Is that what it means? I have heard you use the expression a few times and thought it was some sort of speech impediment.”

“Guess what, Dragonbum?”

“You hate me?”

“Well done. But in all seriousness, isn’t the view amazing.”

“Yes, it truly is. I can’t wait to see it from the Throat of the World.”

“I am absolutely, definitely coming with you when you go there.”

“It has been a lifelong ambition to be the first person to fart from the very top!”

“Could you do a Thu’um fart?”

“No, but if that was possible, how many privies would the Greybeards have broken?”

Rigmor laughed again, and I was one step closer to doing what I promised not to do. But is Rigmor still a stranger? Yes and no, but she is my charge, and I am her Guardian.

I opened a satchel, and inside was a diary of sorts. I read it to Rigmor,

“A Mountaineer’s Journal.

We made it!

By the gods who would have believed it! This surely must be the highest peak in the Jerall Mountains. To think after everything we have been through, the months of planning the attempt at the summit, the setting up of the base camp below the abandoned mine, building the frame, here we are.

That view! 

Cyrodiil to the South, Skyrim to the North, Hammerfell to the West. We will never forget this moment. This is undoubtedly a view to die for. The sun is setting, and we are about to make the descent before we freeze to death on the mountain top. That shouldn’t be a problem, all that timber in the mine we used to build our way up here. So, it will be easy to make our way down. Without those resources, it would have been impossible.

Poor Vidngar, Rokkir was right about the South face being too dangerous. The wind would have blown us all to our deaths. He was wise to abandon that attempt and build our frame up the west face. It is a pity the other three were not here to see this. A strange fellow came to see us, a nice friendly chap. He informed us that our missing companions had been tragically killed when part of the rotten wood edifice collapsed on the east face. That old mining frame should be avoided. Poor Sorella! The child insisted on going with her parents.

We have decided to stay at the base camp for now. There are ample ore deposits, and as long as we avoid the Saber Cats and that stupid dumb Troll, we can start a new life as ordinary citizens.

We have decided to keep them unharmed to deter the new gold prospectors from muscling in on our patch. We have been told we can trade the ore in Falkreath, and the Jarl has decided to overlook our bandit status as we are Nords! As long as we don’t cause trouble or rob the locals and pay him a small tribute.

It’s so good to drink the local mead, and we are planning on building ourselves real homes soon, and Frikka is with child. I love her so much. Who knows, one day I might make a respectable woman of her and ask her to marry me.

Oh well! The others are calling, and it is time to go.

To you who are reading this journal, I say you are well met!

We are the first, and not the last, to conquer this peak, may it be written so:

Jakkob of Windhelm, Frikka Kjannsen, Siggi Kjannsen, Rokkir of Riften and Inga Argeldssen.”

Rigmor gasped and said, “Wulf, they were the people killed by the Sabre Cats and troll, and one of them was with child!”

Rigmor started to sob. She was distraught over total strangers, one of who tried to kill me.

I held her to me, and she cried into my shoulder.

When she stopped and stood back, I offered her a kerchief to help with the snotty nose. She could have waited ten seconds, and it would have frozen. Then she could have broken it off, but this was more civilised.

She wiped her eyes and then blew her nose into it before offering it back to me.

“Ahh, you can have that one, Rigmor.”

She laughed, then tucked it under the rim of her gauntlet.

She said, “You must think me a big baby, crying over strangers like that?”

“No, Rigmor. It shows you have copious compassion, something that others who have survived your ordeal might have lost.”

“They sounded like they were decent people, so why the extortion from Rokkir?”

“Who knows, perhaps they were finding it tough going? Not everybody can survive off the land like Rose and Angi. But I gave Rokkir a chance to step away. He chose his fate.”

“That was sad, but the view is spectacular, and I am glad we are here.”

“So am I, but we had better get moving before the light starts to fade.”

I put the journal back into the backpack, and we made our way down to the main landing.

There were a lot of miners on the platforms, but also a lot of armed men who were not miners.

I said to Rigmor, “I think I might summon a couple of assistants.”

I summoned two Dremora Lords.

Rigmor asked, “What, or who, are they?”

“Dremora Lords. They are powerful Daedra. Since I summoned them and am a powerful mage, they are loyal. If I were weak and summoned them, they would kill me.”

“I think I remember. Dremora society is stringent, and leadership comes with conquest. The weak end up as nothing more than enslaved beings.”

“Yes, that is their basic philosophy. There are different nations of Dremora, each with its customs. Some are loyal to a particular Dark Lord. These two are loyal to whoever is stronger.”

“Maybe we can talk our way down without conflict?”

“The Thalmor would not leave anybody alive but toadies this close to Fort Black. Remember the other miners? Why kill them and leave these alone?”

“Your brain is so agile when dealing with this stuff. I would figure it out, eventually, but you just come up with answers immediately.”

“My logical brain is a trait I was born with and not gifted by The Divines. But once it was recognised, much of my training was designed to exercise it so I can analyse things quicker and make decisions quicker.”

“So, the smart arse became smarter arsier?”

“Yes, you could say that.”

“I know, I just did so logical that!”

I laughed, which made Rigmor smile.

A weasel in Imperial uniform came up to us when we started descending.

“And where do you think you are going? This area is off-limits to citizens. Turn around and go back the way you came.”

“That is strange. I don’t think this is a restricted area, certainly not on any map I have seen. Do you have one showing otherwise? If not, we shall continue to pass through with no trouble.”

“Not through here, you’re not. Last warning, go back the way you came.”

“Ahh, no. That is not going to happen.”

“You just don’t get the hint, do you? Alarm!”

I leapt down and said, “You didn’t get the hint, not me.”

Then I cut the little turd from belly to throat, and he dropped dead.

The Dremora Lords, Rigmor and I cut down miners and guards quickly. A few fireballs sped up the extermination. They all had a choice, and they chose wrongly, which led to their deaths.

The Dremora Lords were peppered with arrows that would otherwise be adorning Rigmor and me. I dismissed them.

Rigmor said, “Dozens more killed.”

“I am used to it, Rigmor. I seem to attract death.”

“Don’t be an idiot! They were Thalmor toadies and not worth guilt or remorse.”

“I remember every mortal I kill with sword or bow or magic. Every single one! I believe it is a safety measure so that I don’t turn into a mindless killing machine like Pelinal Whitestrake. It does not matter how deserving or otherwise their deaths. I can see their faces and killing blow or spell.”

“Every one of them?”

“Every death caused by me. If I use a spell that kills many, I cannot remember them all.”

‘Oh, that is a terrible burden on you!”

“I don’t think it has anything to do with The Divines. I think it is my soul protecting itself.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It is complex. Perhaps we can speak of it another time. It is not a secret, Rigmor, but too complicated to discuss in the middle of enemy territory.”

We proceeded downwards to the path leading to Fort Black. I heard a howl, so I used Heat-Vision.

I warned Rigmor, “There is a large pack of wolves waiting for us. Why is everything out to get us?”

“They heard your jokes?”

Rigmor and I ran towards the pack and systematically killed them all.

Rigmor once again flowed from bow to sword like she had been doing it for years, which she had not.

It was so routine now we cleaned our weapons, sheathed them and continued like a well-oiled machine.

Fort Black came within sight, and I was surprised by how few guards I could see patrolling its ramparts.

Rigmor said, “I will follow your lead.”

“There are less than a dozen sentries. I was expecting far more. This infiltration may be easier than I envisioned.”

“How are you going to do this?”

“I will get them all together and then invite them to a party.”

“Huh?”

“Watch and learn.”

We were hard to spot with the dweomer on our armours and perfectly silent. This advantage allowed us to approach far closer than would have been otherwise possible.

I fired an arrow at a wall, and it made a lot of noise. Sentries converged from many directions.

I stood then said, with a bit of Thu’um, “Excuse me. Is this the Temple of Talos, or have I taken a wrong turn somewhere?”

The Thalmor finally noticed me and charged.

I said to Rigmor, “See if you can take care of the archers. The rest are mine.”

“Okay.”

One after another, The Thalmor came within easy bow range and died.

Rigmor took care of the archers.

We had a look around to make sure no coward was hiding.

Rigmor remarked, “This is much easier when you use tactics. I just barged into the embassy and hoped for the best.”

“That works if you take them by surprise. It is not so effective again Legionnaires as their training and discipline are second to none. They react with speed and, more importantly, confidence in their abilities. Many others, such as bandits, often rely too much on directions from their leaders. The Thalmor are often unprepared as their arrogance makes them overconfident.”

“I can only see one entrance.”

“Yep, and we aren’t going to knock and wait for permission to enter.”

Heat-Vision showed nobody waiting in the atrium.

We entered, and Heat-Vision, plus listening, told me all I needed to know.

I whispered, “There are five below and one on a balcony. Some of those below are civilians. Let’s try not to kill the innocent.”

“Okay, as long as they stay neutral.”

“Oh, they will. I don’t think the average High Elf regards The Thalmor with affection.”

We barged in and soon disposed of the armed combatants.

I grabbed a key from a table then spoke to one of the civilians.

“What will happen to you two?”

“We will be asked why we didn’t fight and then sent to a penal colony if not summarily executed. I take it you disposed of the rabble on the walkways?”

“Yes, none of them lives.”

“Then we shall head that way and find our relatives in Rorikstead. I can tell you there are not many Thalmor here. We had better be going.”

A tattered Empire banner hung from a wall. It made my skin crawl to think Thalmor infested the place.

The key I had picked up gave us access to most rooms. I could track the locations of Thalmor with Heat-Vision, so we were not concerned about an ambush or walking into a room full of the enemy without being prepared.

The next group of Thalmor we encountered numbered five in total.

“Okay, Rigmor. There are three in the middle of the room. One of them seems to be pointing out things to the other two. There are two more, on the extreme right and left of the room. The one on the extreme left seems to be sitting. I will deal with the three in the middle.”

“Okay, I will take the one sitting down, then deal with the other.”

We burst into the room, and I laughed when I recognised the Justiciar at the table.

I took care of one guard while asking, “Did you ever remember your name? Well, it doesn’t matter now that you are about to die, you pompous twat!”

The Thalmor all died in seconds except for one that lost her nerve and cowered in the corner. I had no hesitation in putting her down.

I walked over to the Justiciar and turned him over.

I searched his pockets and found another key, different from the first.

I said to Rigmor, “This Justiciar was in charge of the hunting party near Riverwood.”

“Are you sure? I never got to see him close up.”

“Yes, Rigmor. I am positive. I saved him from some goblins not long before helping Rose with you. But that is a story for a campfire and pint of mead, not the middle of an enemy fort.”

“Wulf rescuing a Thalmor? Oh, I do want to hear the story behind that!”

“Anyway, let’s have a look around and see if we can find information about Rose and your father’s sword.”

Rigmor searched one side of the room while I searched the other.

I found the Justiciar’s journal and called Rigmor over to read it to her. What follows is my translation from Aldmeris to Tamrielic.

“Journal of Jovon Joror, Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath.

21st Sun’s Height, 4E 201

I have arrived at Fort Black and immediately set about my tasks. Even though the originals were stolen when that Nordling girl sacked the Bruma Embassy, the experiments have gone well. I managed to replicate the advanced forging on the duplicates we had made. This merging of Daedric relics could also be used on armours to ensure our troops have optimal protection and their weapons superior to any underlings they encounter in battle. I have sent word to The Order for more gold to start production.

27th Sun’s Height, 4E 201

Those pesky miners have been busy again. They were seen at the forest edge this time, and our guards had to warn them off. I sent a couple of scouts to find out what they were doing. It seems they have found gold ore deposits at the mountain’s base and have built an elaborate wooden frame to transport the ore.

We can’t have them around the vicinity. The activities here at the Fort must be kept an absolute secret and can only result in dire consequences for the New Order if the Empire or Dominion find out. I’ll send word to General Aedriath to inform him of this pesky nuisance.

7th Last Seed, 4E 201

General Aedriath has instructed me to dispose of the miners. He doesn’t want to risk our operations being snooped on. I went up to the mine with some guards using the same framework they built. It was imperative to find out if they knew anything.

I had the foreman crucified and tortured and the others…I incinerated myself. They begged us to let them live…fools, if only they had kept their inquisitive noses out of our business. They didn’t know anything about our operations after all. Oh well…

14th Last Seed, 4E 201

Some bandits have been hanging around that old mine and have been very busy extending the framework to the summit. Three were seen snooping in the forest and were captured and brought here. If they knew of anything, they would have talked. They had a child with them. Maybe a clean, quick death would be the best thing to do for her. The others bandits have been quiet. We told them their friends had been tragically killed in an accident due to the rotting framework and told them to stay on the Skyrim border side.

Maybe they will be helpful by deterring other nosey trespassers.

17th Last Seed, 4E 201

Gold prospectors have arrived and are occupying the framework, I had intended to put them all to death, but only more would eventually come. So, I have relented and negotiated a percentage and have appointed trusted supervisors to oversee the work. They seemed a little reluctant at first, but as death was the only alternative, they soon saw the immediate benefits of a mutual agreement. The deposits will help fund our work here at Fort Black.

18th Last Seed, 4E 201

The Nordling girl was spotted near Helgen by that unscrupulous scoundrel Morion. I must think of an excellent way to despatch him promptly when I have the chance. We caught up to her on the outskirts of Riverwood, then apprehended and disarmed her, thereby retrieving the original sword. Alas, she managed to escape.

19th Last Seed, 4E 201

I suspected someone was helping the Nordling, and my suspicions were found to be correct when Morion informed us that he had acquired a cuirass that belonged to this ‘Rigmor’ girl.

We waited and apprehended some wastrel called ‘Rose’ who we found most unhelpful in our investigations and have brought her back to Fort Black for a friendly chat. I will deal with her tomorrow once I have rested.

20th Last Seed, 4E 201

‘Rose’ has gone. It turns out she had promised one of our torturers a special favour for extra rations. Once he opened the cell, she broke his neck and escaped through the outlet. General Aedriath arrived and briefed me on the next phase of the plan. It shouldn’t be too long before the Citadel is at last in Mer hands once again. He has instructed me to carry on with the research and has sent some bounty hunters. Supposedly they are some of the best available. All I see is filthy Orc scum. Their leader informed us a woman with red hair matching Rose’s description was seen crossing the border into Cyrodiil. I have given them the wanted posters of the Nordling girl with specific instructions to bring her to me so I can have her impaled on a spit, and personally…very slowly, roast her alive.”

Rigmor growled, “That lying piece of shit! They never captured me!”

“It is pretty sad when you lie in your journal. It was your father’s sword you dumped to get away?”

“Yeah, that was a difficult decision.”

“So was leaping off a cliff.”

“Survival instinct, huh?”

“Yes, you certainly have plenty of that!”

“Rose has escaped, so his bullshit doesn’t matter. Even that crap about roasting me alive. I feel like kicking his corpse and asking who is still breathing!”

“He said he was a seer! Well, he didn’t see us coming, did he?”

“I never got a chance to thank Rose. It’s good to know she is okay, at least for now. So, what about you, how are you feeling?”

“Rose had plans, and the gems I gave her would have allowed her to realise them. But she can still head for the Gold Coast as she planned, and perhaps things will turn out for her. Maybe one day you will meet her again and be able to thank her. I am sure she will be thinking about the girl she helped rescue from certain death.”

“Did you like her…yanno?”

“Like her how, Rigmor? She is a compassionate and caring woman, and I admire her for that. But I never thought of her romantically, and I would never bed a woman I just met if that is what you are implying.”

“No…I…ah…well, some men do!”

“Some of us don’t. Anyway, did you find anything?”

“Yes, I found this letter, but I can’t read it. Some words are familiar. Wasn’t Tamrielic derived from Altmeri, the early form of Aldmeris?”

“Yes, and you must have read a lot to learn that fact!”

“Baa’Ren-Dar knew I loved to read and would bring back books from his journeys. Can you interpret it?”

I quickly read the letter to myself, then told Rigmor my interpretation,

“To High Justiciar Joror, New Order of Alinor.

The Order is waiting to hear of your progress concerning the three targets. They must be eliminated to move to the second phase of the plan, and I do not have to impress on you the importance of the task. Once the seeds of discord are sewn, that fat Emperor will have no option but to move his army north to crush the Stormcloaks. Then we will be able to take control of the situation here on the Isle and complete the third phase.

Can I assume you will employ only the best bounty hunters and assassins to accomplish this task? Expense is not an issue, and they must be eliminated at all costs.

If you want to keep the last “high profile” target alive as your plaything, you will have to march on Solitude yourself. Do with her what you will.

I will be relying on you, Joror, to keep that army occupied as soon as it becomes apparent it was a ruse. We will then be able to take what belongs to us by birthright. Failure is not an option.

Long Live New Alinor!

General Tilar Aedriath.”

I said to Rigmor, “They are so arrogant they don’t even use code! I don’t mind as it will be their undoing.”

“So, what do you think?”

“I think there is a danger to The Empire, and the Emperor needs to know as soon as possible.”

“It mentions three targets but not who they are. What in Talos’ name is going on?”

“The Dominion did not win after four years of The Great War. They could have if they kept going, but they didn’t. This New Order of Alinor wants to sow discord then invade. Two of the targets should be easy to guess.”

“By the gods! Do you think…The Queen?”

“She is the possible Queen, Rigmor. Elisif hasn’t been chosen by moot, which won’t happen until the civil war is ended. Pro Empire citizens regard her as the natural successor to her husband, and yes, she would be one of the three targets.”

“And one of the other targets would be General Tullius.”

“Yes, that is the most obvious conclusion. We would need more information to figure out the third.”

“How would they get away with it?”

“They would frame Ulfric Stormcloak. But that is such an obvious ruse that I doubt the Emperor would fall for it in the first place. They expect him to realise at some stage. However, the citizens might believe the ruse and demand that he take action. Pressure from The Elder Council, who always side with the populist view, would force Mede’s hand.”

“But why go to all this trouble? Why not just invade and be done with it?”

“They wouldn’t have the numbers. As I said, The Empire resisted the entire Dominion for four years. Think about it, Rigmor. This General Tilar Aedriath has spelt it out in his letter. Why have Mede move his army north?”

“They hope the Northern invasion force will keep the Emperor’s army in Skyrim and that Cyrodiil will be unprotected.”

“It is a stupid plan. Mede would use a couple of Legions at the most and leave far more behind to defend Cyrodiil. Legions would pour down from High Rock. They think that simply capturing the White-Gold Tower would win the war. It was captured during The Great War, and The Empire kept fighting! Plus, you can’t just march into the Imperial Capital. A single Legion could hold off a force many times bigger for months. There must be more to it. Something that we are unaware of that bolsters their chances.”

“We had better get back to Angi’s.”

“Not until we have searched the rest of Fort Black. There may be prisoners that I will not leave behind, plus your father’s sword is here and should be in your hands, not theirs! Let’s take that map and see if this key I found gets us into the dungeons.”

I took a good look at the map.

“Rigmor, this does not make sense. Something stinks, and we need to sit and think about it when we get back to Angi’s.”

I folded the map and put it in my journal case with Joror’s journal and Aedriath’s letter.

The key I retrieved from the Justiciar unlocked the other exit from the room.

We made our way downstairs to a cage door. The key unlocked that one and the door behind it.

Rigmor mumbled, “I got a bad feeling about this.”

I used the universal sign for “SHHHH!”

An Alik’r warrior had been tortured to death. They didn’t even bother removing his armour.

Heat-Vision told me that two enemies were in the next room.

I drew my sword, snuck up and cut the throat of an Imperial torturer.

Rigmor rushed past and cut down the Thalmor soldier.

We had accomplished the killing with minimal noise, so the guards were unaware of our presence a bit further along.

I rushed them and cut them down.

One of them managed to scream, and that alerted others of intruders.

I said, “They know we are here, Rigmor. There are two waiting just through this door. Another couple is waiting further away, and by their arm actions, they are preparing spells.”

I burst through the door and laughed at an executioner in his full garb.

I mocked, “What the hell? Don’t you ever change out of that idiotic uniform? Oh, and I fight back, not like the poor bastards with their heads on the block!”

I cut down the executioner, and a guard then moved further along the corridor.

I then killed a Thalmor mage and another Imperial torturer.

Two recently killed Nords were in the room with the torturer, who I assumed were the snooping bandits caught days earlier. There was no sign of the child that was with them. I hoped we did not find her body as it would shatter Rigmor.

In the room with the Thalmor mage, I found a note. I read it first, intending to interpret it for Rigmor, but decided to wait before telling her its contents.

“Dungeon Master’s Notes (Fort Black)

The prisoners, as I suspected, knew nothing of our operations here at Fort Black. Malik set about his work with skilful zeal, and if the bandit miners knew of anything, they would have talked.

Even the Alik’r fool who appeared at the gate looking for some Redguard woman proved not to be a spy.

The replica artefacts are now locked away, and work on them has ceased altogether.

We are to move to a new secret location very soon, as a newfound commodity is proving much more worthy of our hard work to strengthen military hardware.

Sadly, the huntress, Rose, I think her name was, has disappeared. I placed the loot we took from her in the chest along with the heirlooms. It is next to the enchanting table.

Even though it pains me, Joror has ordered the disposal of the orphaned girl. I will make sure Severus gives her a quick and clean death. It’s the kindest thing I can do.”

Before Rigmor asked about the note, I retrieved the bags of gems and other items from the chest.

I inspected Ragnar’s sword. It had been made using Akaviri Steel-Folding techniques. That made the steel more robust than average. That is why I can block much heavier weapons with my katana without it breaking or shattering. A Daedric dweomer kept Ragnar’s sword sharp, but it could still do with some honing. It was a fine weapon, but I had no idea why The Thalmor thought it remarkable. The copy was not bad, but any first-year Akaviri blacksmith apprentice could have made better.

I handed the sword to Rigmor and said, “It is a fine weapon, but please, use the sword I gave you until I can hone your father’s.”

“Thank you. It has Daedric properties and is very powerful.”

“And what about this?”

I help up a unique looking Amulet of Talos.

“That has Daedric qualities as well and acts as full body armour.”

“A Daedric amulet of Talos?”

“I know, right!”

I burst out laughing but quickly controlled myself when Rigmor looked upset.

“I am sorry, Rigmor, but who said it was in any way Daedric?”

“The Thalmor.”

“If I said that was impossible, that Talos’ blessing could not be applied to a Daedric artefact, what would that suggest to you.”

“That those arseholes lied.”

“Tell me the story of these artefacts.”

“They are family heirlooms passed down to my dad. They were found buried in a chest by the Thalmor when they arrested my dad. My mum and I didn’t even know about them. All I know is they are around two hundred years old and have something to do with The College of Winterhold. One day soon, I hope to go there and find out more. It’s also one of the reasons I came to Skyrim. Maybe we could check it out sometime?”

“Certainly, if you have not got sick of me and told me to go away.”

“Or discovered your secrets and ran away screaming?”

“Haha. A master Sparksmith made your father’s sword, but it is no better than a good Akaviri weapon. It has some minor Daedric dweomer to keep it sharp, but it is far inferior to the sword I gave you unless I put my dweomer on it. If I hone it and put dweomer on it, it will be slightly better than the one I gave you. I shall do that for you so you can wield it again.”

“Okay.”

“The Amulet of Talos is beautiful, but it has no Daedric properties. It has some minor dweomer, a fraction of the strength of what I placed on that armour you are wearing. But I would wear it proudly if I were you, as it meant something to your father. But it needs a new chain. I will repair it for you at the same time as I work on your father’s sword.”

“The Thalmor made up that story about the amulet being Daedric to discredit my father and Talos!”

“Yes. How could Talos be Divine if Daedric relics with his blessing existed? According to the White-Gold Concordat, it was illegal to have the amulet, yet they found it hidden in Ragnar the war criminal’s house.”

“Those bastards!”

“If they have spent years trying to replicate these items, then they are stupider than I thought possible. The Akaviri produce thousands of similar weapons each week. A Master of Alteration can enchant the weapons with similar properties of perpetual sharpness, as I have on my sword and yours. The Steel-Folding is also obsolete if you heat steel to a high enough temperature to remove imperfections. Two hundred years ago, it was the best steel. Today it is not. The Akaviri still do Steel-Folding out of tradition, plus their ores are not as good a quality as on this continent. The technique does not apply to armour, so I have no idea what these morons were trying to achieve. The Akaviri have armour stronger than most steel armour made from wood! The New Order would have been better off spending coin on ebony.”

“What about the copy of the sword?”

“It is not worth lugging out of here. I have dozens in my collection worth more.”

“What else did you get out of that chest?”

“The bags of gems I retrieved for Rose. They are a gift from Lady Azura, and I will keep them in the hope of handing them back to Rose.”

I placed the amulet and bags of gems into my journal case.

“Now, let me read you the note I found.”

I read the note, and Rigmor yelled, “They killed a child! No! I refuse to believe they would do that!”

“They would, and you know it.”

“No!”

Rigmor ran out of the room and down the corridor. I ran after her. She stopped in front of the end cell and said, “Wulf, quick!”

I caught up and could see what she found. A child was curled up on some furs. I quickly checked with Heat-Vision, and the child was alive.

Rigmor pleaded, “There’s a little girl in there! Please, get her out!”

“Calm down, Rigmor. The girl is alive, and we don’t want to frighten her.”

“Hurry up!”

“Calm down!”

The key I had opened the cell door.

The little girl stood and faced me.

“Please, have mercy, I beg you!”

My heart lurched. My hatred for The Thalmor increased, which I thought was impossible. A child should never have to beg for mercy!

“Oh, little one, you have nothing to fear from us. We are not going to hurt you.”

“You promise?”

“I swear on The Divines. Is your name Sorella?”

“Yes.”

“That is a pretty name. I am Wulf, and the lady is Rigmor.”

“Have you seen my parents? The bad guys brought us here.”

“I’m afraid your parents are gone. But we need you to be brave and come with us, okay?”

“Okay.”

I turned to Rigmor and whispered, “Angi wouldn’t turn away an orphan, would she?”

“Never. We’ll take Sorella there. And how did you know her name?”

“The mountaineer’s journal. They thought Sorella and her parents died in an accident.”

“Yeah, I remember now.”

“That would be her parents in the cell with the Imperial torturer.”

“That is so sad.”

I turned back to Sorella.

“Hey, Sorella.”

“Yes?”

“We are going to take you with us to Angi’s. She is one of the good guys.”

“I know that place. It’s where the crazy lady lives.”

“Angi only pretends to be crazy to keep away nosey people. But she is nice and will take good care of you till we sort things out. Okay?”

“Okay. But what about the bad guys?”

“Rigmor and I got rid of them. They won’t bother you again.”

“Good!”

“We need to go. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I think so. The bad guys use this tunnel, and we can use it to get out of here. This way!”

“Come on then, but don’t run too fast for us old people!”

Sorella sprinted past us. They might have intended to kill her, but they kept her healthy in the meantime.

Sorella stopped at the exit.

“Okay, I will go first and make sure there are no bad guys. Then you can come out after Rigmor, okay?”

“Okay.”

I stepped outside, saw no enemies and gave the all-clear.

When Sorella stepped outside, she breathed in deeply.

“Is it good to smell fresh air again, Sorella?”

“Yeah, it was a bit pongy in there.”

“I don’t think bad guys have baths or even change their undergarments.”

“Yuck!”

We moved down the hill a bit, and I ducked.

I said, “Whoa, I almost bumped my head on Masser!”

Sorella giggled, which was a most precious thing.

A bit further on, I whispered, “Everybody stop and be very quiet.”

A camp had come into view. I used Zoom-Vision and Heat-Vision to see who it was.

Rigmor asked, “Who are they?”

“Orsimer Bounty Hunters, the ones mentioned in the Justiciar’s journal.”

“I wonder what they are doing out here?”

“Waiting for their fifteen thousand septim bounty. The Orsimer probably guessed you would give Fort Black a visit but come from the Cyrodiil side.”

“Oh. Well, what are we going to do?”

“You are going to stay here and keep Sorella safe. I will give our friends a visit, and if they are hunting you, it will not turn out well for them.”

“How many are there?”

“Seven.”

“You can’t take on seven Orsimer by yourself!”

“Rigmor, if I were sure they were bad guys, I would kill them from here in seconds. Instead, I will approach them invisible and listen in. Then, if they are after you, I will kill them all in seconds down there.”

Rigmor said to Sorella, “Stay here with me, Sorella. Wulf is going to see if they are bad guys.”

“Okay.”

I cast Invisibility and moved towards the camp.

They were pretty stupid for supposedly expert bounty hunters. Even without Invisibility, I could have gotten close. They had made themselves night-blind by staring into a roaring fire.

When I was in the camp, I used Night-Vision to examine their weapons and armour and plan my attack.

I listened in on their conversation.

  • Balborz: Hey, Naszug, why do you think the Justiciar wants us to give him the girl alive?
  • Naszug: Why do you think, idiot?
  • Balborz: Well, he won’t mind going slops, I hope, because I am going to claim my rights.
  • Shurub: How can you? Piggies are so damn ugly!
  • Balborz: Easy, Shurub. You either turn em’ around and bend em’ over or put a bag over their head.
  • Shurub: Fifteen thousand! I wonder what she did to be worth that much?

My Dovah screamed in my head, “Kill every fucking one of them, now!”

I cast Inferno. Half the Orsimer died immediately, and the others ran screaming.

I used Heat-Vision to see where they were. Then I ran at them and slaughtered them whilst laughing.

On the leader was one of the wanted posters.

I walked past the dead around the campfire. At least they won’t add to the tally in my head.

I walked up to Rigmor and held up the poster.

“As expected, Rigmor, it was you they were after.”

“Well, that’s no surprise.”

“We were fortunate and saw them before they saw us. There will be many bands of bounty hunters like them.”

“Well, you are my Guardian, right?”

“We won’t always be lucky, and I won’t always be able to take them on alone.”

“Whatever!”

“Don’t get overconfident, and don’t underestimate the enemy we face.”

“Do I look bothered to you?”

“Listen to my advice, Rigmor. You ran ahead down the corridor earlier, and that recklessness will get you or others killed.”

“I can take care of myself!”

“So, you didn’t need Baa’Ren-Dar to rescue you? And you didn’t need Angi to find you and spend days if not weeks caring for you. Tell me you didn’t need Rose, Celestine, Meeko and me to risk our lives caring for you. You can’t care for yourself, but others care for you. They will do it even if you want to spit in their faces and show zero respect for their efforts!”

“Wulf…I…”

“This bitterness is not you, Rigmor. Find where it comes from and discard it. There is another who now relies on you. Do I need to point out who that is?”

“I…I’m sorry!”

“Prove that through actions, Rigmor. Not words. I just killed for you once more, and all I want in return is for you to care enough about yourself to survive!”

I said to Sorella, “There are no more bad guys in the way. We will walk along a few mountain trails in Cyrodiil, another country, then come back into Skyrim. If you get tired, let us know. Okay?”

“Okay.”

It would have been good to know about the other way to approach Fort Black. It was a bit more of a walk but not too strenuous. Less killing would have been needed.

Rigmor did not say a word all the way. I chatted to Sorella, but I had to keep watch for danger simultaneously.

What I needed to do was figure out my next step. What do I do with the information we gathered?

Celestine had a spell and staff ready in case we weren’t friendlies, despite Meeko not showing any alarm.

I knocked on Angi’s doorframe and waited for her permission to enter.

When I did, she was busy making another stew.

Angi asked, “Is Rigmor okay?”

“Yes, she is back safe and sound. We rescued a little girl called Sorella from the Thalmor. She is eight years of age and newly orphaned. We were wondering if she could stay here for now until we can find her a home?”

“Oh! Yes, certainly.”

“Would you like to come and meet her?”

Angi followed me outside.

I said to Sorella, “Angi is going to take care of you for now. You will be safe here, okay?”

“Okay!”

“Why don’t you introduce yourself to Angi. She isn’t crazy, I promise.”

“Okay.”

I watched Angi’s face, and she smiled when Sorella approached.

“Hi, Angi. I’m Sorella.”

“Oh, hi! Oh, you’re sweet…um!”

“This place looks cool, like a real home.”

“How can I argue with that? Don’t you worry, Sorella, I’ll take good care of you.”

Angi and Sorella headed inside. Rigmor said, “Wulf, please come and sit by the fire.”

I replied, “Sure. Celestine, please join us.”

I sat and waited for Celestine before talking.

  • Wulf: Are you okay, Rigmor? That was another long day of walking and fighting.
  • Rigmor: Yes, and about what you said earlier. I will try.
  • Wulf: That is all I ask.
  • Celestine: Okay, Wulf. That creased forehead tells me you are worried.
  • Wulf: I am at a loss about what to do next. Let me fill you in, Celestine.

Thirty minutes later, Celestine knew as much as I did about the problem.

  • Celestine: Wulf, if you approach General Tullius, Jarl Elisif or any other senior official, you will get dragged into it and not be able to help Rigmor or deal with the dragons.
  • Wulf: That is what I think. There will need to be investigations made by people with the right resources, and I am not interested in doing their footwork for them.
  • Rigmor: What about using Baa’Ren-Dar?
  • Wulf: I thought of that, but he is an Emissary of a member of The Aldmeri Dominion.
  • Celestine: There is no possibility, zero, that the Thalmor do not know everything about this ‘New Order’. They have the most extensive intelligence network on Nirn!
  • Wulf: They will sit back, see what damage The New Order do, and either deny they knew about them or take advantage of any success.
  • Rigmor: I still think we should hand this stuff to Baa’Ren-Dar. Yes, Elsweyr is part of The Dominion, but like Valenwood, most of the population don’t want it to be. The Thalmor look down on Khajiiti religions and treat them as inferior.
  • Wulf: How well known amongst The Empire leaders is Baa’Ren-Dar?
  • Rigmor: Very well known. He has the ear of Emperor Titus Mede II and The Elder Council. He is trusted, Wulf. And I am asking you to trust my judgement. Baa’Ren-Dar will know what to do and get it done.
  • Celestine: I think the biggest problem Wulf and I have is that the plan can’t work. Not without something to add to the forces they might land. Mede would only have to commit a fraction of available troops to crush The Stormcloaks even if he fell for their ruse. The only reason he hasn’t done that so far is to maintain stability in some areas. The bigger the New Order’s armies, the more likely Thalmor leaders know about them. They would have to field a huge army even to siege The Imperial City.
  • Wulf: The threat to Elisif and Tullius is real. Something has to be done, and I trust Rigmor’s instincts about this. We shall hand the materials to Baa’Ren-Dar. That will wash our hands of the problem for now, and I can help Rigmor and then tackle the dragons.
  • Celestine: I agree. It seems the logical step.
  • Wulf: Get some sleep, Rigmor. We will be leaving, on horseback, for Riften at first light. We shall get the information about your mother from him, hand him this problem, and go from there.
  • Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar stays at the Bee and Barb, the city’s main tavern. He said we should enter via the south gate, as he has paid off the guards there.
  • Wulf: Despite the Holds that support Ulfric banning Khajiit from their cities, I guarantee there will be plenty walking the streets of Riften.
  • Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar also said guards have been shaking down people on arrival.
  • Wulf: Okay, south gate it shall be.
  • Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar knows a lot of people. It goes with his job as emissary.
  • Wulf: Emissaries don’t usually deal with ordinary civilians, Rigmor. Not unless they are doing more than what their role entails.
  • Rigmor: Have you been to Riften before?
  • Wulf: Yes, and it is not an unsafe city. The Thieves Guild do an excellent job nullifying the more violent and dangerous criminals. That is why they continue to exist. Many cities do the same and leave the underworld to police itself.
  • Celestine: They can also be excellent intelligence sources if loyal to the leaders or well paid.
  • Wulf: So, decision made, and now I need to check the Safe House and see if there is any news from my friends, hone Ragnar’s sword and fix the amulet.
  • Rigmor: Will you be back before we leave?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, Rigmor. Hopefully. But sleep, even if it is not ideal.
  • Rigmor: Okay, and Wulf, I will try harder to control my bitterness, and I do want to live and appreciate what everybody has done for me.
  • Wulf: I only spoke so harsh because I know that behaviour is not the real Rigmor.

I teleported to the Safe House. Fugitive Blades, Bashita and Sakiya, came running up to me from opposite directions.

  • Wulf: What are you two doing here?
  • Bashita: The Tsaesci discovered our headquarters.
  • Sakiya: They attacked with a large force led by several Swordmasters.
  • Bashita: Our Swordmasters were cutting down the enemy in large numbers, but it was only a matter of time before they would be overwhelmed.
  • Sakiya: The Blades have been ordered to come to Skyrim, even if they are now Dragonguard.
  • Bashita: We teleported to Dawnstar and made our way here.
  • Sakiya: If the others obey orders, they will arrive soon and hide around Skyrim.
  • Bashita: Like when we first went into hiding, we do not know where each Blade will be.
  • Sakiya: We don’t know who will obey.
  • Bashita: Some wanted to stay and fight.
  • Sakiya: They will die if they do not obey.

My friends. My teachers. Celestine’s soulmate, Vayu. They could all be dead! And I must continue with my task.

4 thoughts on “FORT BLACK

  1. It only gets better! Rigmor and Wulf already sound like two old married people! So funny! The additional changes are most welcome. Thank You Mark

  2. I’ve been busy the last couple of days getting my Skyrim up and running again (it had become corrupted), so I didn’t have a chance to read this until now. Very nicely done. I wish they could have saved the people with the pregnant lady. Made me sad. But that’s what a writer is supposed to do: get the readers invested emotionally, even if the emotions aren’t always good ones. So, well done, indeed! Looking forward to the next entry. Thanks, Mark!

    By the way, I’ve been using the Northern Experience modding guide on the Nexus as a basis for my newest build and naturally created my own flavor. Would you believe I have over 1,000 mods installed now? And it runs better and more stable than any of my previous builds did. I’m not done testing yet, but the game hasn’t crashed once. The DynDOLOD output is still a bit wonky, so I might have to revert to the tree mods I used for my last Ultra Trees installation. But all in all, it’s running much smoother than I thought it would, and the frame rate is almost always at a solid 60 FPS. Never got that on my previous builds! Just thought you might be interested…

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