ANOTHER STEP

Loredas, 23rd Last Seed, 4E 201

& Sundas, 24th Last Seed, 4E 201

We enjoyed a good breakfast inside the Bee and Barb, but it was too noisy for conversation.

When we exited, I asked Rigmor, “Do you want to talk before we head off?”

“Yeah, but where?”

“There is a seat where the horses are. I broke my fast there when I did my burglary job.”

“Cool!”

We exited Riften via the south gate.

Rigmor asked, “So, where is the seat?”

I pointed, and she ran. I strolled over.

Rigmor observed, “Wow, nice spot, except for the occasional dead Skeever floating by.”

“I like the mist on the water. As the sun rises and warms the water, the mist dissipates quickly. Sit, and tell me what is playing on your mind.”

We sat on the bench.

“Yanno, it’s really weird coming here, to Skyrim, I mean. I never got to see my homeland.”

“Well, here it is in all its glory. Just ignore the sewer outlet over there.”

“Haha. But seriously, Skyrim is such a beautiful place. I’m glad I came here to see it for myself.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar claimed you are the third target. I think we both found that alarming. Are you okay because you seem a bit gloomy, and I think that is the cause?”

“Yeah…I guess I’m okay. I try to put on a brave face, but really, deep down, I’m feeling a little scared right now. It’s all a bit too much sometimes.”

“The reason they victimised your father and family. The hatred The Thalmor have for you. It can’t be easy to accept these things?”

“I never asked for this. Sometimes I find it hard to imagine I was once a little girl, you know. I was just a normal, happy little girl playing with all the other kids. Then they took it all away. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what to do.”

“What could you have done? No matter how brave or strong, there was nothing you could have done against a squad of Thalmor thugs. Nothing!”

“My mom told me it would be okay. But it wasn’t okay! They took her, and I was…I….”

I had to look away, but it was too late.

“Wulf, are you crying?”

“I’m sorry, but I can feel your pain, Rigmor. Our Quiet does other things, I think.”

“No, don’t blame gobblygook. You are genuinely upset at what I am telling you.”

Still looking away, I asked, “What is your mother’s name, Rigmor?”

“Sigunn! Her name is Sigunn.”

“I am not going to make a flippant remark and say not to worry and that we will find her. But we shall try, Rigmor. We shall try!”

“Wulf, tell me about your Dovah half.”

“Sometimes, mercy can be a mistake and ruthlessness without pity is required. I cannot be like that, but my Dovah can. A general who refuses to sacrifice men knowingly could lose a war. I would be that general, whilst my Dovah would do what is necessary. I remember the people I kill, and my Dovah does not. In reality, I can do whatever is required, but I use my Dovah as a buffer so that I am not racked by guilt over things I have to do. It was my Dovah who killed the Stormcloaks yesterday. The mortal me could not do it, for I know they are not evil but misguided. But the logic of the Dovah is they are killing the innocent, the Legionnaires, so they must die. I hope I am making sense.”

“Yes, because it was not the Rigmor you are sitting next to that slaughtered everybody in the Bruma Embassy. I mean, everybody, Wulf. We left the civilians alive at Fort Black. I didn’t give anybody mercy at the embassy because I let my anger and need for revenge take over. So yes, I understand what you are saying. We are both capable of being ruthless killers, even though that is not who we are or desire to be.”

“You are full of compassion and empathy, and you are teaching me to see beauty in things I never really noticed. No, Rigmor, you are not that young woman who slaughtered everybody at the Bruma Embassy.”

“And you crying at my story, Wulf Welkynd, proves you are not your Dovah.”

“There are other things I would like to sit and talk about, but we had better get moving before a snitch tells on us to earn a few septim. It felt like a million eyes watched our every move in Riften.”

Rigmor stood.

She said, “Wulf, we are heading north to Windhelm, right? We can hole up in the wilderness of Eastmarch. I heard it’s pretty lawless, yanno, giants, mammoths and…stuff.”

“Oh no, I have heard that stuff can gum you to death!”

“Are you going to be a smartarse or listen?”

“My ears are all yours.”

“Anyway, despite the wildlife and the threat of stuff, it sounds like a perfect place for some rest so we can catch our breath.”

“I have always wanted to visit the volcanic hot springs!”

“So, I take it the answer is yes, we can spend some time there before that hole called Windhelm.”

“I have the feeling you can do impressive pleading.”

“Wulf, can we visit the hot springs, please! PLEASE!”

“You forgot to bat your eyelids, but yeah, why not.”

“Okay, then let’s go!”

“We have to go around Riften, as we did at Helgen, to get to the road we want.”

We were on the road we needed, barely past the last guard towers, when the first suicidal bandit of the day attacked.

And, as was predictable, died.

I said, “I am not even going to wonder why he decided to attack an armed warrior astride a horse.”

“But you are wondering why!”

“Who is the smartarse?”

“I am just the apprentice, Master Smartarse.”

We approached what was supposed to be an abandoned fort. Bandits had claimed it and, as usual, demanded a toll. When I told them, ‘Suck an egg!’ they were initially confused. Eventually, they realised that meant no, and attacked.

I instructed Rigmor, “Ride back a bit, so we are out of range of those on the ramparts. Then the idiots will come into our range one by one.”

We rode back a bit, leapt off our horses and as predicted, the idiots ran into bowshots, one by one.

Some refused to co-operate and stayed on the ramparts. They looked a bit cold, so I warmed them up with a Fireball or two.

One sneaky bandit had played dead. Rigmor saw him move and put a shaft in him.

I gave him a Fireball as well.

I killed another archer with a Fireball.

Then we ran into the keep’s courtyard, where I watched Rigmor give a quick lesson on how to stay alive.

Oops, the bandit failed the exam.

Another archer appeared and was about to take a shot.

Then one of Rigmor’s arrows hit him in the forehead.

I drew my sword and ran to the top of a tower where another archer had been hiding.

He fired. I blocked the arrow with my shield then ended his life.

Another down below fired.

I blocked the arrow as I leapt down.

Then I sliced him three times, and he dropped dead.

I smashed all the barriers, so the road was clear.

Corpses lined the road, and the only people who will remember the living people is me.

We rode through the empty fort and observed Skeevers and carrion birds already inspecting their next meal.

Rigmor exclaimed, “Look at the beautiful elk! I don’t think I have ever seen a black and white one before.”

“I don’t think I have seen one either. He is magnificent, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, much prettier than those moose thingies.”

As we rode through a small mining town, Rigmor remarked, “This place is cute!”

“It is called Shor’s Stone, and I doubt anybody else in history has called it cute.”

“Well, I am sure it appreciates the compliment, don’t you, you widdle cute townie wownie?”

“Albatross!”

“Wulf, why did you yell that out?”

“I can’t have you being weirder than me.”

“Well, that makes sense.”

As we rode past a Riften guard, I said, “We have cleared the bandits out of the fort. No need to thank us, we will send the bill to the Jarl later.”

As we approached a guard tower, Skeletal Warriors came to greet us.

I cut the first two down, then said to Rigmor, “Watch as the skeletons reassemble and attack.”

“No way!”

Bones crept along the ground and reassembled into Skeletal Warriors.

Rigmor stood fascinated then said with awe, “That is so fucking amazingly cool!”

Many others, including veteran warriors, would have soiled their britches. Rigmor ran down the hill and took care of the reassembled enemies with a smile on her face.

We destroyed another four Skeletal Warriors, two that needed smacking down twice.

We returned to our horses, and a travelling mage and guards walked past, oblivious of the danger we had just eliminated.

A bit further on, a bear had just killed the black and white elk that we had admired earlier.

The bear charged and died.

I could hear Rigmor’s sniffles. Who else would find reassembling Skeletal Warriors cool one minute and cry over an elk the next? Despite warnings and personal caution, I found Rigmor fascinating and was deeply in love. I am, after all, a mortal.

We passed wildlife that Rigmor would typically comment on, but we both heard the sounds of battle not far away. We rode on silently, knowing that we would have to kill once more.

I leapt off Hashire but did not kill the first soldier who died in front of me.

I held his arms so a Legionnaire could thrust his sword into his guts.

I had no qualms fighting dirty. If a Stormcloak back presented itself, I stabbed it.

Most Stormcloaks had no hope of ever landing a blow or parrying my sword.

I moved swiftly and economically. No time was wasted in seeking an enemy or deciding how to kill them. Each adversary’s death was planned and executed in a constant rhythm of death.

Stormcloaks liked two-handed weapons. Those weapons were too slow compared to a Legionnaire’s sword. They might as well have been barehanded when facing my katana.

Many I killed had no idea I was behind them till my sword burst from their chest.

Over half of those I killed were decapitated as I optimised my movements. Thrusting my sword in and out takes longer than a swing that flows into the next.

A couple of merchant guards found themselves in the middle of the melee as they pursued a troll that killed their employer. They managed to take down the troll and avoid being targeted by either side.

A Stormcloak veteran was killing Legionnaires and laughing as he did so.

I stared at him as I leapt into the air, and he knew it was time for him to die. 

That was the end of the fight. I had killed dozens and saved many lives.

A standard-bearer came up to me and said, “I saw you in action yesterday, and you didn’t give your name. Will you today?”

“No, soldier. But it will be known soon.”

Rigmor and I rode away in silence.

In stark contrast to the death just dealt and witnessed, we came across three Nords who thought it was a good idea to get drunk where many predators roam.

Next to a giant’s camp was a wrecked Khajiiti caravan. It was one of Ri’saad’s.

Next to a destroyed wagon was a female Khajiit pretending to be injured. I could tell that she didn’t have a scratch on her. I quickly turned to Rigmor and mouthed, “Fake!”. She nodded.

“Ungh…help me.”

“Oh, you poor thing. What happened?”

“Bandits…they sacked the caravan…killed S’drassa….”

“Mmm…they were pretty sloppy bandits. I can’t see that much of your stock was taken.”

“Maybe they were scared and ran away?”

“Yeah, but why are you still alive when poor S’drassa is not?”

“By playing dead. Lucky for me, all the bandits wanted was the gold.”

“Oh, so it was gold they were after and not your trade goods. Still, there was no need to kill S’drassa and wreck the carriage. I can’t recall bandits behaving like that. Wanton destruction and murder only ensure a larger bounty on their heads.”

“Ungh!”

“What is your name?”

“Tanita.”

“Tanita, I know Ri’saad and all his caravan people very well. You are not one of them.”

Tanita stood and said, “Do you think this one could do this by herself?”

“Yes, if she pretended to be S’drassa’s friend and killed with a knife in the back. I think I shall go and inspect S’drassa’s body.”

Tanita drew her weapons and approached Rigmor.

She squealed as my sword thrust out of her chest.

Tanita fell to her knees and then keeled over.

I searched her and found a letter from Lajjan, one of Ri’saad’s guards. It was written in Ta’agra. I read it to Rigmor in Tamrielic.

“Tanita,

Lajjan hopes this is a joke. If so, she is not laughing. She will not help you and your bandit friends sack the caravans. And if their paths cross, do not think she will spare you because Khajiit are friends.

Lajjan.”

S’drassa had been stabbed in the back as I had predicted. Ri’saad takes criminals, drug addicts, prostitutes and others and gives them a chance at a better life. He will be heartbroken over S’drassa but proud of Lajjan.

I was contemplating what to do when a Dovah roared a challenge.

“Krif zu’u Dovahkiin! Zu’u los Nilunslaad ahrk zu’u los hin dinok!”

I warned Rigmor, “Do not use your sword! Fire your bow as quick as you can.”

“What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Fight me, Dovahkiin! I am Nilunslaad and I am your death!’ His name means unending void. Dovahkiin is Dovahzul for Dragonborn.”

“Don’t you dare die, Wulf Welkynd!”

“I don’t intend to. Now start firing those arrows!”

Dragonfire hit me and dissipated. That was Nilunslaad’s primary weapon, and I shrugged it off.

He landed, and I ran at him full tilt.

Nilunslaad would lunge, his mouth snapping shut where he hoped my flesh would be. But I would dodge then slice him several times with my sword. Avoiding a dragon’s maw is far easier than reading a Swordmaster’s intent. It is even possible to use a shield to deflect it with the correct feet placement. There is an art to fighting a dragon on the ground. One I learnt without ever seeing one.

Nilunslaad was close to death when he took to the skies. Several arrows from Rigmor brought him crashing down.

I hacked into Nilunslaad till he started thrashing in his death throes.

I warned Rigmor, “Stand back, and do not be concerned!”

Nilunslaad’s life ended.

Then his flesh turned to ash as I absorbed his life force.

I looked to the sky and yelled, “No, I do not want this! It is wrong, and if you want me to be your champion, you must find another way!”

Rigmor came up to me as I ranted.

“Wulf, what is wrong? What was all that about?”

“The stupidity of The Divines, Rigmor. They know me well yet ask me to do things not in my nature.”

“Your eyes, Wulf. They are yellow dragon eyes!”

“Not blue?”

“No, they are yellow.”

“Then my anger is great indeed.”

“Please, Wulf, explain. I can’t help you if I don’t know what this is all about.”

“When a dragon loses a fight against normal mortals or another dragon, they do not permanently die. They are in a sort of limbo and can be resurrected by using the life force of other beings. When I kill a dragon, I absorb their soul into mine. The dragon ceases to exist. They can never be resurrected, and they have no afterlife. They are no longer.”

“Why? There must be a reason this terrible thing happens?”

“I absorb the knowledge of The Thu’um possessed by the defeated Dovah. It is how my Dragonborn powers increase in strength and how I learn new Shouts, the spells of The Voice.”

“The Voice being the same thing as The Thu’um?”

“Yes.”

“How many dragons would you have to kill to become powerful enough to fight and defeat Alduin?”

“I have no idea. Two, ten, a hundred? I don’t know, but I can’t do it, Rigmor. The Divines will have to find another way. I refuse to hunt dragons that show no aggression to mortals. Meanwhile, dragons will appear in large numbers, and many will be aggressive and will not always be hunting me. People will die while I struggle to become powerful enough to tackle Alduin. The Divines should just give me the knowledge I need, and soon!”

“What if Alduin attacks you?”

“I would die. Alduin cannot be harmed in the air, and I would have no way of bringing him to the ground. His Thu’um is powerful, and he knows a lot of Shouts. He would not need to fight with tooth and claw. Nilunslaad was weak, but still, he could have killed many with his Dragonfire.”

“Then perhaps we should head straight for Windhelm and get out of the open.”

“No, I want you to experience Skyrim! As for poor S’drassa, this caravan will be missed at the next location on its itinerary, and Khajiiti sent to investigate. I will cover the bodies and hope that keeps the predators away.”

I spent ten minutes securing the bodies as well as I could. Rigmor watched, and my Dovah slowly rescinded.

Before we moved on, Rigmor asked, “Why is the grass in neat rows?”

“The roads along here were continually being covered by mud after a lot of rain. High King Torygg provided funds to be used for a specific purpose. A type of grass that will hold the ground together more effectively was planted here. I think most of it was done before he was murdered.”

“Wow, and you know this how?”

“Read the new sheets, Rigmor. The new sheets from competing publishers give vastly different accounts of the civil war. They sometimes carry the truth. It can be amusing to read them side by side.”

“You read old ones, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I read them going back ten years. I never read one that mentioned your family. I would not be surprised to find out the whole thing was hidden from the public. The Sons of Talos would have caused a stink, I would imagine.”

“I would like to talk to some of those who fought alongside my dad.”

“Well, maybe now you are in Skyrim, you might find a few. Remember this, Rigmor. The people of Hammerfell are free from Thalmor oppression because of what your father and his troops did. False histories can’t eliminate that fact!”

Rigmor smiled as we mounted our horses.

It was not long before we came to a small camp. It seemed to be for those who wished to bath in the hot springs. There were tents with furs you could place bedrolls upon and a campfire. Somebody must have just vacated the camp as the campfire was alight.

Rigmor said, “I have heard about these hot springs. People bathe in them all the time.”

“Yes, but you have to choose carefully which pool of water in which you bathe. This camp looks to be a popular spot. Therefore, I assume the nearby water will not boil you alive or emit poisonous fumes.”

“The water is meant to have rejuvenating properties. Hey, you never know, they might help with my back…yanno, the scars.”

“Then our time here will be well spent. I shall sit here and face the other way till you tell me. Then I can turn and watch your things and make sure you are safe. If you bathe just beyond that clump of reeds, only the mammoths will be able to see you. Hashire will act as our lookout.”

“Yeah, right! Make sure they’re the only things you’re watching!”

“If you don’t trust me, Rigmor, then let us continue onto Windhelm.”

“I’m only joking!”

“Right, turning my back. Let me know when I can watch your things without seeing your things.”

I could hear Rigmor undressing and placing her armour and weapons in a pile. I was amused by an elk trying to climb down a cliff.

After a while, Rigmor said, “You can turn around now.”

I did so, and Rigmor was strolling into the water with a deliberate wiggle of her hips.

One part of my brain said, “Be a gentleman and turn back around.”

The other part said, “Look at that hip movement!”

I decided to watch the hips, just in case something jumped out and attacked Rigmor.

“Wulf, I hope you are watching my things carefully!”

“I…ah…well…umm….”

Rigmor giggled as she disappeared behind the reeds.

I could hear Rigmor splashing and having a seemingly enjoyable bath.

I used Zoom-Vision to make sure Rigmor was safe but quickly stopped.

I busily thought of the most unerotic things my mind could conjure. The thought of Naked Hagraven and female Sloads helped my trousers feel far less tight.

After about fifteen minutes, Rigmor said, “Coming out now!”

I quickly turned around and listened as Rigmor approached, dried herself in front of the fire, and dressed.

Hashire started sniffing the air and looking around.

I asked him, “Is there danger nearby?”

“There is an old lady on the ledge above me, but I can also smell Orsimer approaching.”

“From what direction?”

“The ridge to my left.”

“Okay. Let me know if you think the Orsimer are trouble.”

Unfortunately, the Unicorn’s keen senses made them an irresistible target for Hircine’s hunts. They are challenging to catch unawares. What was supposed to protect them almost led to their extinction.

Rigmor sat next to me, so I felt safe to turn around.

“Did the water help with your scars?”

“Yeah, better than I thought it would.”

“It’s quite nice here.”

“I think the giants and mammoths might put off tourists.”

“Giants are generally docile unless you threaten their mammoths or cows. The Stormcloaks enslave giants and make them fight for them.”

“How can they justify that?”

“Ulfric says jump, they jump. Blindly obeying somebody allows you to convince yourself it was they and not you that made bad things happen.”

“I was only obeying orders!”

“Yep, that sad excuse.”

“So, you and Celestine are healers. What did you think of my scars?”

“I wanted to strangle the people who inflicted them.”

“They are quite something, right. Courtesy of my stay in Haven.”

I had assumed all of Rigmor’s scars came from her stay with The Thalmor. I knew very little of her ordeal except for the tiny part I glimpsed.

I asked, “Have you ever been able to sleep on your back?”

“You must have noticed I only ever sleep on my side. So no, I cannot sleep on my back.”

“Celestine and I think we could repair your back if you wanted us to.”

“Maybe one day. At the moment, they are part of my motivation.”

“They are a badge of honour, Rigmor. They demonstrate that no matter the brutality, you survived. You were stronger than them.”

“I knew you would understand.”

“The scars are deep, and the lashes came close to your spine. The blood loss would have been extreme. They almost killed you, Rigmor.”

“There must have been someone looking after me. A guardian angel or something.”

“What is a guardian angel?”

“A spirit that protects you from harm.”

“I have never heard of that term. However, I am certain no god or other supernatural being saved your life, Rigmor. You survived because you wanted to! The healing Rose, Celestine and I did on you would have failed if you did not have a strong will to live.”

“Yeah, Angi said the same thing when I finally awoke at her place.”

“Are you ready to tell me who beat you and why?”

“No, but I promise I will tell you about it sometime.”

“I understand. As Baa’Ren-Dar said to me, ‘To tell is to relive the horror. Rigmor will tell you then you may wish to have remained ignorant.’”

“What else did you two discuss about me?”

“Only the usual things a protective father would ask of a huge barbarian travelling the countryside with his daughter.”

“No! Really?”

“Well, a tiny bit of that, but he did tell me something that relates to a question you asked me the other day.”

“What?”

“A soothsayer, really just a seer of Azura, told Baa’Ren-Dar, that you would meet a guardian, sent by the gods. That guardian was The Dragonborn.”

“So that is why Baa’Ren-Dar knew who you are! But you told me gods did not arrange for our meeting.”

“No, they didn’t. But I was sent to Skyrim by The Divines.”

“So, the premonition was sort of right.”

“That is how many of the premonitions of seers are worded. Very rarely do they give precise details. And premonitions, prophecies, destinies are all possible outcomes, but they are not guaranteed. That is important to remember when dealing with them.”

“Your prophecy came true.”

“My prophecy was written in the future. It listed events that had already happened.”

“Ahh…”

“That is major gobblygook! I will explain over a mead, or two, or three, one day, if you are genuinely interested.”

“Is that all the seer had to say?”

“No, and this is why you must remember what I just told you.”

“Come on, Wulf. What did he say?”

“He said that you are destined for greatness.”

“What? I am an eighteen-year-old Nord woman who can swing a sword, sometimes hit things with an arrow, and swill ale and mead like a champion. How can that be turned into ‘greatness’?”

“Rigmor, how long is a piece of rope?”

“How am I supposed to answer that?”

“You can’t, as you have no context of what type of rope and its possible length. Similarly, without knowing the definition of ‘greatness’, we have no idea what it may entail. You might become Sweetroll eating champion of Bruma.”

“Mead guzzling champion of Cyrodiil?”

“Bottom wiggling champion of Skyrim!”

“Pervert!”

“Hussy!”

“Haha. Baa’Ren-Dar explained that seers speak to Azura, and she gathers all their visions together. Because Azura has access to many of them and she is a god, they make sense to her.”

“Yes, the foresight of seers can be confusing for them. They see something but have no context to enable any understanding. They might not even know if a vision is of the past, present or future. They rely on Lady Azura to, hopefully, make sense of what they saw.”

“But the outcome is not guaranteed, is it.”

“No, as I said before, a premonition is only a possible outcome.”

“You absorbed the dragon’s soul earlier. Does that mean you can now use the Thu’um?”

“No, I have the key but not the cypher.”

“Huh?”

“When you were a child, did you pass on secret messages amongst friends in a language you made up?”

“Yeah, so nobody else could read them.”

“But you knew how to change the message into normal language so you could understand it, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, the message was the cypher. The knowledge on how to read the cypher is the key.”

“Okay, I understand. So where do you get the cyphers from?”

“Dragons, The Greybeards, gods, and what they call Word Walls. I don’t want to kill many dragons to get the knowledge their souls contain. I want The Divines to give me what I need, the cyphers and the keys.”

“Well, that makes sense. You have been trained in everything else! They haven’t made you learn spells or how to wield a sword from scratch before sending you here.”

“That was good logic, Rigmor, and it didn’t hurt, did it?”

I received no rebuke as Rigmor’s mood changed again. She stared into infinity, and I let her come back to me when she wanted.

After a few seconds, she looked at me and said, “You know, she used to travel to The Imperial City sometimes to get things we didn’t have in Bruma.”

“You mother, Sigunn?”

“Yes, and I would beg her to take me with her so I could get out of my sword and combat training. She couldn’t say no, and she would make up any old rubbish excuse, and my father lapped it up. Hahaha! He knew she was lying and gave us ‘that look’! Haha! But he loved her so much, and she had him in the palm of her hand.

We would go shopping and listen to the bards and minstrels playing in the streets. Sometimes I would just go and sit in the library and read everything I could get my hands on for hours and hours ‘til mum came to get me.”

“Wonderful memories, Rigmor. Special memories.”

“The Imperial City is warmer than Bruma, so we could finally take off our fur coats for once, and I remember, I would look up and let the sunshine warm my face.

I would try on some linen dresses, and mum would buy me a special treat.

Oh! The summer in Cyrodiil is so green and timeless! How I miss all that.”

“Ah, Rigmor. If only I could find a way to return what you have lost.”

“Wulf, I just need to know, you know. If she is still alive!”

“Well, we are taking the next step to find out.”

Hashire became frisky and said, “An Orsimer is walking your way. I don’t trust him. His friends are still hiding behind the hill.”

I said to Rigmor, “Hashire is worried about a group of Orsimer. One is heading this way.”

“More bounty hunters?”

“Possibly. Let me deal with our approaching visitor. Have your sword unsheathed.”

I stood and turned. The Orsimer looked disturbed at my size but started his moronic speel anyway as I walked towards him.

  • Tibbs: Hello! Hey there, I seem to be a bit lost and wonder if you could help me?
  • Wulf: Windhelm is that way, and Riften is that way. It is a straight road to both, so it is somewhat hard to get lost.
  • Tibbs: Oh, ah, the names Tubuku, or Mr Tibbs if you like. Sorry for the inconvenience, but you see, my sister’s daughter hasn’t been too well, and it’s her birthday.
  • Wulf: Your niece. Your sister’s daughter is your niece, Mr Tibbs.
  • Rigmor: Can you hurry up and get rid of the peasant? I need my feet washed.
  • Tibbs: Oh, hey there, little lady. How about helping out poor Mr Tibbs’ niece?
  • Wulf: What kind of help? Hurry it up, Milady’s feet await!
  • Tibbs: Oh, hahaha. I am embarrassed as I seem to have lost my way. I hoped to bump into someone. Are you hunting and fishing out here in these parts? Of just travelling through?
  • Wulf: Yes, we hunt Thalmor, bounty hunters, bandits and bad actors who call themselves Mr Tibbs.

An elderly voice yelled, “You are not having my fossils, you toothy brutes!”

I said, “Well, Mr Tibbs, your time is up.”

Mr Tibbs yelled, “IT’S HER BOYS! COME ON. WE’RE GONNA BE RICH!”

“No, Mr Tibbs. You are going to be dead.”

I cut Mr Tibbs’ head off then headed up the hill.

I cut the next bounty hunter’s head off without damaging his hood. I admired the excellent quality stitching required.

A couple of the enemy became angry with the elderly lady who seemed quite efficient with the sword she wielded. I stabbed one in the back.

The elderly lady ran down the hill. Two bounty hunters turned to face me. I easily parried the axe of one.

Then cut him down.

The other Orsimer turned and was intent on killing the woman.

My sword sticking through his back and out of his chest ended the fight.

Rigmor came running over.

  • Wulf: Are you alright, Lady Ramsbottom?
  • Rigmor: Yes. Not a scratch.
  • Dar: Lady Ramsbottom feathered a couple. Damn good shots from that distance!
  • Wulf: I am Valdr, guard to Lady Ramsbottom, the excellent marksman, or markswoman, as it were.
  • Dar: I am Darnette Lauven, and I thank you both for your assistance.
  • Wulf: You handled that sword very well, and I can see your elaborate camp, so curiosity needs an answer.
  • Dar: Come, let us walk to my camp, and I will answer your questions.

Darnette had a wooden platform overlooking the road. On it, she had pitched a tent, made a circular stone fireplace, and had some provisions, chairs and a table.

  • Dar: As I said, my name is Darnette Lauven. My friends call me Darnie, but you can call me Dar if you wish.
  • Rigmor: Valdr and I are pleased to meet you, Dar.
  • Dar: I am a Merethic palaeontologist, and I am doing what I do, digging for fossils.
  • Rigmor: A what doing what?
  • Wulf: A palaeontologist studies fossils to learn about early flora and fauna. Dar specialises in the Merethic period.
  • Rigmor: And fossils are those animals and plants that have turned into rock?
  • Wulf: Yes and no. They are the imprints of plants and animals that have turned into rock. For instance, the animal dies and gets covered in mud. The mud, over a long time, turns into rock. When you break open the rock, you discover the animal’s outline that died long ago. That is your fossil. Get it?
  • Rigmor: Got it.
  • Wulf: Good.
  • Dar: I am a scientist, a scholar, who specialises in finding fossils and interpreting their story.
  • Wulf: And there are many fossils in this area?
  • Dar: Yes, there are some excellent fossil beds around here. Due to the thermal pools, the constantly changing landscape means new ones tend to surface regularly.
  • Wulf: Do you work for a museum?
  • Dar: I work for the Gwylim University in High Rock, and we’re cataloguing any fossils we can find from all over Tamriel.
  • Wulf: Do you display the fossils you find?
  • Dar: Well, we were hoping to find a place interested enough and large enough to showcase our growing collection.
  • Rigmor: Well, we happen to know somebody with an extensive museum. Does it have space for Dar’s fossils, Valdr?
  • Wulf: Yes, we have ample space.
  • Dar: Which museum?
  • Wulf: The yet to be named one we have almost finished constructing in Solitude.
  • Dar: So, what would be the rent?
  • Wulf: None, zero, zilch. You tell us how to display the fossils, write what you want on the plaques and voila, Nirn’s best fossil collection is on display.
  • Dar: I would have to consult with my colleagues. One should be visiting in the next week or so.
  • Wulf: If you can, visit the museum and speak to Auryen, the Chief Librarian. He can get things happening while I am busy elsewhere.
  • Dar: And the fossils remain the property of the university?
  • Wulf: Yes. However, we can purchase all or part of what is on display if you desire.
  • Dar: Speak to Auryen. Mention Valdr.
  • Wulf: Yep, that’s it.
  • Rigmor: We have to go, Dar. You must love your work to risk this place by yourself. Please, take care!
  • Dar: Yes, I think I might hire a few guards after this.

I searched Mr Tibbs and, as expected, he had one of the wanted posters.

I held it up as I walked over to Rigmor.

“Wulf, is the greed of the bounty hunters putting others at risk?”

“Yes. There is no way Mr Tibbs could be sure of your identity, and neither could the bounty hunters in the Bee and Barb. They are willing to kill in the off chance they have stumbled upon Rigmor of Bruma.”

“And now those special Thalmor are after me as well.”

“At least they will be less likely to kill the wrong people.”

“It is good to know they will be confident of my identity when they attack.”

“I am sorry if I sound flippant when I weigh the good and bad of a situation. But I have to do that constantly to help me make decisions.”

“It is okay, Wulf. I know what you are saying. I am just getting tired of the constant threats.”

“Let’s go to Windhelm, talk to the thief and go from there. One step at a time, Rigmor, and we will reach our goal.”

Rigmor walked over to Hashire, patted him and said, “Thank you for guarding Ren last night and us just then.”

“Hashire said he is pleased to be of service and that I should be ashamed of my perverted thoughts. Which I did not have, and he is a liar.”

“I think I will believe Hashire. Shame on you, Valdr Welkynd!”

On the surface, Rigmor and I appeared relaxed. However, the dragon attack earlier has changed things, and Rigmor might not like the conclusion I have had to make. I was more nervous and uncertain than I had been since my arrival in Skyrim.

We rode past a mammoth.

Rigmor commented, “They are kinda cute, and when I look into their eyes, I see intelligence.”

“Mammoths and Giants have a facultative symbiotic relationship.”

“Ahh…was that Tamrielic?”

“Symbiosis means two different species, whether plants, animals or one of each, benefit through living together. The mammoths gain the extra security provided by the Giants. The Giants get the Mammoth milk needed to make their smelly cheese. Facultative means one is not dependant on the other, and they can survive separately.”

“How many books have you read to gain all this knowledge?”

“Thousands. I can read a book much faster than most people. Many mages and scholars can. It is a skill that can be taught if you are ever interested.”

“I like learning random things. Just not too weird, okay?”

“I think your definition of weird is a bit different than mine.”

“Well, we both know that mine would be more accurate since I am not weird.”

“Says the lady who thought reassembling Skeletal Warriors was fucking amazingly cool.”

“Okay, but I am not as weird.”

The ride to Windhelm stables was encounter free, making a pleasant change.

I said to Rigmor, “These stables have a good reputation. Ren and Hashire the Liar will be well looked after.”

“You are not to attack any Stormcloaks while we are in the city!”

“Can I call them names?”

“No!”

“Can I poke my tongue out at them?”

“No!”

“Can I imagine I am poking my tongue out at them?”

“I suppose that might be okay.”

“You are generous, Milady.”

“Why do I get the feeling you will find strife as soon as we enter?”

“I have no idea. Maybe it is your low opinion of this humble servant who is but dung on your shoe.”

“Yeah, I like that bit of advice from Celestine.”

“I hope Vayu is okay. I hope all of them are.”

“Can’t you teleport to the Safe House and see if there is any news?”

“Rigmor, I must concentrate on the task at hand. I cannot afford any distractions, so I have to put those worries away for now.”

“No, Wulf. We will discuss this later, but you have to balance these things.”

“Okay. But first, let us have fun in Windhelm!”

“Do they allow that here?”

“Probably not.”

We entered Windhelm and were immediately witnesses to pure, mindless racism. Two Nords were harassing a Dunmer woman.

  • Nord One: You come here where you’re not wanted, you eat our food, you pollute our city with your stink, and you refuse to help the Stormcloaks.
  • Dunmer: But we haven’t chosen a side because it is not our fight.
  • Nord Two: Hey, maybe the reason these grey-skins don’t help in the war is that they’re Imperial spies!
  • Dunmer: Imperial spies? You can’t be serious!
  • Nord One: Maybe we’ll visit you tonight, little spy. We got ways of finding out what you really are.

Rigmor grabbed my arm, but there was no way I could stand by and let this continue. I walked up to the trio, and the Dunmer woman eyed me with suspicion.

  • Dunmer: Another one. Do you hate the Dark Elves? Are you also here to bully and tell us to leave?
  • Wulf: No, I do not hate your people. I hate ignorant, unwashed idiots who think their stink comes from somewhere else.
  • Dunmer: You’ve come to the wrong city, then. Windhelm is a haven of prejudice and narrow thinking, unworthy of one such as you.
  • Nord One: Hey, you. Are you a Dark Elf lover?
  • Wulf: The Companions in Whiterun have not taken sides. Either has the College of Winterhold or The Vigilants of Stendarr. So, using your logic, they are all spies as well! Why don’t you stand outside Jorrvaskr and harass them?
  • Nord One: Get out of our city! You are a filthy piece of trash!
  • Wulf: You are wearing neither a guard uniform nor that of the Stormcloaks. I guess you are too cowardly to wear either. Your attitude stinks almost as much as the rest of you.
  • Nord One: Don’t like it? Too bad. Windhelm is our city. Ours!
  • Wulf: Why don’t you try and make me leave?
  • Nord One: Don’t think I can take you? One hundred septims say I can punch you back to where you came from.
  • Wulf: You want to have a fistfight? Okay, but only if you promise not to cry when you lose.
  • Nord One: All right. Fists only and none of that magic stuff, either. Let’s go!

I ducked and weaved, and the Nord became more frustrated each time he failed to land a blow.

After a while, Rigmor pleaded, “Valdr, we don’t want any trouble?”

I punched the Nord in the nose and then the stomach. He collapsed with the sound of air from a bellow.

While the Nord was doubled over and worried if he could ever get air into his lungs ever again, I spoke to the Dunmer woman.

“Good evening. I am Valdr, guard to Lady Ramsbottom.”

“I am Suvaris and am pleased to meet you, Valdr and Lady Ramsbottom.”

“I see one of the Nords has wisely made himself scarce. Who is the wheezing one on the floor?”

“That is Rolff Stone-Fist, brother of Galmar.”

“That is the brother of Ulfric’s housecarl? Did they have the same father?”

“Yes, so I have been told.”

“How bad has Rolff’s harassment of Dunmer been?”

“Just about every night, he stands in the Grey Quarter and hurls abuse, threatens all who are not Nord and makes life unpleasant.”

“Well, I shall have a quick chat with him when he can stand. You had better make yourself scarce in case the other one ran for help.”

“The other one’s name is Angrenor Once-Honoured. He was well respected within the Stormcloaks when he could fight. He saved a few of his comrades in a battle not long ago when he was the last man standing. Then in another battle soon after, he took an Imperial sword to the chest. Now he begs, as his value to Ulfric is nothing, as he cannot wield a sword anymore. He receives no pension or respect, hence the name he has adopted. He is not known as a racist, but Rolff harasses him and other unfortunates if they don’t join his racist ranting.”

“Thank you for the information, Suvaris.”

Suvaris wandered off, and I waited for Rolff to get to his feet.

When he did, I got close and let my Dragon eyes show. Rolff quaked with fear.

“Listen close, Rolff Stone-Fist. I will be visiting Windhelm quite often, and I will ask the Grey-Quarter people about you when I do. If I find you have continued to harass people with your moronic racist bullshit, it will lead to a beating of the likes you could not imagine. Do you understand?”

“Y…Yes.”

“And if your brother wants to make an issue of this, then he can formally challenge me to a duel to the death. The name is Valdr Welkynd. Can you remember that?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Have a pleasant evening, Rolff Stone-Fist. Oh, and don’t worry about pissing blood. It will stop in a day or two, maybe.”

Rolff limped away, groaning and holding his stomach. I turned to Rigmor, who was staring at me with her mouth open.

“What? I did not poke my tongue out at him or kill him, and he isn’t a Stormcloak anyway.”

“How far into Windhelm are we? Twenty or thirty feet, maybe. And you end up beating the shit out of Galmar’s brother.”

“Tell me it wasn’t justified. Tell me I should have ignored the whole thing.”

“I can’t because you were right to do what you did. But sometimes, Wulf, don’t you think that trouble has an uncanny way of finding its way to you?”

“I can’t help it if I’m popular.”

“Argh! Just lead the way, my Guardian, and don’t get us lost in this cesspool of a city.”

A tattered banner informed us we were entering the Grey Quarter.

We didn’t have a problem locating The New Gnisis Cornerclub, even though it wasn’t new or in a corner.

Rigmor asked, “Is that a Netch?”

“Yes, a young one. An adult Netch is much larger than that.”

“Why do they float like that?”

“They have bladders full of gas inside them.”

“How do they go higher or lower?”

“They go lower by releasing gas. Pffffffffffft!”

“Eww!”

“That is why they are popular pets with the Dunmer. They can blame silent but smelly farts on the Netch.”

“Sometimes, I don’t know whether to believe you or not.”

We entered the tavern.

It was full of people but dead quiet. It was eerie and not natural!

Rigmor whispered, “You can start a brawl if you want. Anything to prove these people aren’t dead.”

I walked over to the barkeep.

“Oh, splendid, another Nord!”

“I am not a Nord. Nor am I Argonian, Breton, Dunmer, Altmer, Imperial, Khajiit, Orsimer, Redguard or Bosmer. Nor am I a combination of any of those. What race I am, you would never guess and is irrelevant. What I am is a person who hates racists. I just beat up Rolff, a Nord, for being a racist. I will not hesitate to beat the shit out of you, a Dunmer, for being a racist. So, would you like to try again?”

“Welcome! Take a seat and make yourself at home. I think I have a clean mug around here somewhere.”

“Barkeep, it is a lovely establishment you have. I am wondering if a Tendril Sethri is also enjoying this riveting atmosphere full of laughter and joy?”

The barkeep pointed to a nondescript Dunmer, who just so happened to have an empty seat next to him.

I quickly made my way to the empty seat and claimed it by squeezing myself into it while trying to ignore the horrible cracks and creaks I heard.

Rigmor stood behind the thief and watched who was coming and going.

“Excuse me, are you Tendril Sethri?”

“Who wants to know?”

“My name is Valdr. The young, well-armed and armoured woman is Lady Ramsbottom. We are wondering if you can help us?”

“Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. It depends. What do you want?”

“A friend of mine acquired a gold wedding ring and said it came from you.”

“Rings, trinkets, they come and go. You’ll need to be more specific.”

“This particular ring was liberated from a Thalmor embassy.”

“Ahh, yes, I remember that ring. It was one of many items I took for myself as payment for services rendered. You see, I worked there temporarily as a kitchen servant. Unfortunately, I made the broth too rich one night by adding some seared Skeever meat with the vegetables. Hahahaha!”

“Not very fresh Skeever meat, I assume?”

“The Thalmor spent two days racing each other to the latrines. Serves them right, arrogant fools!”

“Could you still see them? I thought if you removed all the shit from a Thalmor, they would vanish.”

“Not keen on them either? They told me I was lucky not to lose my head. Obviously, they were no connoisseurs of fine cuisine, eh?”

“They are uncultured, witless sheep shaggers.”

“You know them well! Anyway, a shipment of crates arrived from Solitude that afternoon. They contained fine clothes, jewellery, shoes, ornaments and even piles of rags. But what I found most disturbing were the chains and shackles.”

Rigmor gasped, but she let me do the talking.

“And what do you think those chains and shackles signified?”

“I believe the items were from slavers. Payment to the Thalmor to ignore illegal mining operations.”

“Inside The Empire?”

“Yes, right under stupid Imperial noses!”

“Many criminals are taking advantage of the civil war and the lack of Imperial patrols. Is there anything you can remember that might help us locate the ring’s owner?”

“Hmm! There was something, but it will cost you the price of helping me get out of this rathole and back home.”

I pulled out my gem bag and found a good quality ruby worth several hundred septims, even if sold to a fence.

I handed the ruby to Sethri, who looked at it with an expert eye. He knew its value and smiled as he pocketed it.

Sethri continued, “Now then, where was I? Ah yes! I was rifling through the clothing pockets, as you do, when I noticed a list. My heart skipped a beat when I realised the list contained the names of the poor wretches the belongings had come from and where they had been sent. Pirates and enslavers had taken men, women, and even children from the provinces. That is the Thalmor for you, with their usual bureaucratic thoroughness for fine details. Filthy dogs!”

“I love it when the bad guys leave clues for me to follow. Do you know where the crates were destined?”

“Northwatch Harbour. I grabbed what I could and hightailed it out of there. The person you seek is likely on that slaver’s list. It will tell you where they have been taken to.”

“You seem knowledgeable, so I have no doubt you can tell us where Northwatch Harbour is located.”

“It just so happens I can. It is located in a ravine on the High Rock border. I knew a person who worked there as a skivvy. The Thalmor would send him to take food and mead to hired mercs and bandits guarding a secret entrance to the harbour.”

“An entrance on the mainland?”

“Yes, and it can be tricky to spot. Hand me a map, and I can mark it for you.”

“I gave Sethri my map and never-ending quill, which he admired with interest and not greed in his eyes. He marked the map then handed back my items.

Sethri continued, “Head to the border with High Rock and the location I just marked. Then make your way down a path to the right, and you will see the ruins of an old Imperial fort. There will be a disused well in the undergrowth. That leads to tunnels that will take you right to the harbour. Be careful, as they might still be guarded.”

“Thank you, Sethri. Your information is just what we needed.”

“If it were me who got my hands on that list, I would make sure it was passed onto the authorities. This kind of abomination needs to be stopped.”

Rigmor growled, “Don’t worry. It will be stopped.”

Sethri looked at Rigmor and said, “I would love to see the Thalmor squirm out of this one. But if you have a better solution, I wish you all the best. Good day to you.”

“Oh, Mr Sethri, I have another question.”

“Yes?”

“Why was a reasonably competent mage working in Thalmor kitchens? I doubt you needed the gem I gave you, as employing such a spy is not cheap.”

I left Sethri gaping like a fish out of water. Usually, a mage’s abilities are directly proportional to their Magicka reserve. Sethri is not quite to the level of most Master mages, but close enough that he didn’t have to make a living in a kitchen. Not everybody can measure Magicka reserves by sight, but the Psijics taught me how.

As soon as we exited the tavern, Rigmor asked questions, and I knew trouble was brewing.

“Okay, what is the plan? Do you know where this place is?”

“Yes, it is situated on the northern coast of Haafingar.”

“Great! Let’s go find that list!”

“There is something you need to know before we do so. I need to be sure you will be okay about what we might face.”

“Why shouldn’t I be? Why are you concerned about how I feel? Has someone been talking behind my back?”

“Baa’Ren-Dar told me some information about the night he rescued you. I just thought that….”

“Thought what? Don’t you assume you know how I feel! Do you want to go on alone and leave me here in this dump?”

“Think, Rigmor, would I leave you alone for even a minute?”

“Hey! Why don’t you stay here, and I’ll just go and kill them all myself? I will get that stupid list!”

“You would not have made it through Fort Black without me. The harbour will be even more dangerous.”

“Hey! I don’t need no Dragonborn babysitting me! I can take care of myself!”

“We have had this discussion recently, and you cannot take care of yourself!”

“Ever since the age of fourteen, I have had my life ripped apart! I have suffered alone. There was no one there for me. NO ONE!”

How my heart ached to tell her that is not true.

I said, “Look at me, your Guardian. You are no longer alone, Rigmor. But I find it hard to help you when so much is kept from me. How can I fully understand these mood swings without knowing what happened to you?”

“Hey, I have done it again, haven’t I. I’m sorry and cold and hungry. I am also very tired. Can we find somewhere warm, have a meal and maybe talk about what happened to me.”

“Of course, let us try that other tavern. It might be full of racists, but at least it will be livelier than The New Gnisis Corner Mausoleum.”

Rigmor laughed, and once again, her mood switched with remarkable speed.

I was even more surprised when she threaded her arm through mine and leant her head on me as we walked.

When we were halfway there, she said, “Just so you know, I really like having you around.”

We entered the top floor and were greeted with the same cacophony of every tavern in Skyrim, except for one.

We sat down, and I knew food was not Rigmor’s priority. She was finally ready to unburden herself. I wondered if I was the second person to whom she told her story. Baa’Ren-Dar is likely the only other confidant.

“Talk if you wish, Rigmor. I understand if you can’t.”

“I do need to talk about what happened back then. Especially now that I know, it wasn’t just a random thing. A lot of the memory is broken. I think it was just my way of dealing with it all.”

“I bet your memory of leaping into the tree to escape the hunting party is still vague. Our minds blank out memories to protect us.”

“Yeah, it is like that. I was only a young girl, and it wasn’t long after my fourteenth birth year when they came for my dad.”

“As I told you, those who know the real story, Ragnar is highly revered.”

“Yeah! That’s quite something, right?”

“You said your father never talked about the Great War or his time in Hammerfell.”

“No! Never! He would get quite annoyed if I asked about that.”

“That is why I got mad at Baa’Ren-Dar. He thought you should have figured out why The Thalmor hate you, but most soldiers do not talk about their war experiences with their families. You probably know very little about what he did on the battlefield.”

“Not much at all.”

“Please, continue. I am procrastinating.”

“Why?”

“Because I know this will hurt you to recall.”

“I have to, Wulf, for the very reasons you said. You need to understand.”

“Okay, not more procrastination. My mother said it would make me go blind.”

“Weird.”

“Yep.”

“Anyway, Dad would always give me a sword too heavy to practice with, but he would insist, and when I just got used to it, he would give me another, heavier one. He would say to me, ‘Rigmor, you may not know it now, but I do this because I won’t always be there for you and your mom! You are the only child, and you must be as much a son as a daughter. You must be strong! You are a Nord!”

“I wonder if friends in high places warned him of Dominion plans? He loved you and Sigunn dearly and tried to prepare you for what he feared would happen.”

“I still hate myself, you know, for not being there for him. Some son I turned out to be, huh!”

“Once again, I will tell you and will keep telling you. There is nothing you could have done!”

“They were supposed to let us go! You know, after my father agreed to their terms. After that, they separated me from my mom, and I haven’t seen her since. I’ll never forgive The Empire for turning their backs on us.”

“When did The Thalmor start mistreating you? Before or after your father was tricked into accepting their terms?”

“At the embassy, they treated us well. It was after we were extradited it all went bad. They kept their promise to my father to keep us alive, but just barely. It became a living hell. As you know, I became a slave.”

So now we come to the hidden demons, and I knew this would hurt Rigmor, and in turn, that would hurt me.

Rigmor continued, “I had no rights, no life. I had no hope, and I was scared. I remember asking myself over and over, why can’t I just go home?”

Rigmor needed to do this. I would not ask her to stop, even if it opens old wounds.

Rigmor said, “I wouldn’t do what they wanted, so they beat me.”

“The Thalmor?”

“NO! The Stupid Bosmer, of course! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to….”

“Rigmor, never apologise to me for getting angry when talking about this. I understand.”

“I was sent to Valenwood to work on a farm. There was this Bosmer and his two sons. What arseholes they were! I remember a high ranking Justiciar would visit now and then to check on me. Of course, now it is all so clear, but then….”

“But then you did not know exactly why this happened.”

“He would tell them if they touched me… you know!”

“If they molested you?”

“Yes, that. The Justiciar said he would ‘have their disgusting, worthless heads removed and placed on spikes.’ So instead of molesting me, the slavers beat me instead.”

I could not fathom why a Justiciar would care if a prisoner was raped. Especially when he was content to watch her flogged to death.

I asked Rigmor, “Do you know this Justiciar’s name?”

“Nah! But the bastard had me flogged like a dog.”

“Why? Did they keep failing to break you?”

“Yeah, I almost broke the slavemaster’s neck. Hahaha! They didn’t understand, but I was raised as a true Nord fighter! My dad always told me it was better to live one day as a warrior than a lifetime as a coward. It would be the last time they raised their hand against me.”

The beating did not explain the scars on her back. I knew who inflicted those. I braced myself and asked, “What happened then?”

“I was placed in Thalmor custody, where they flogged me with their whips and horse crops and whatever they thought would inflict pain. They didn’t want to dirty their hands, they said. I remember the first whipping but not much after that…until…until I awoke in a clean, soft bed. I thought I was in Sovngarde at first, but then the pain.”

“And it was Baa’Ren-Dar that rescued you?”

“Yes, he risked everything to save me. I love him dearly, and he is like a father to me.”

“So, you repaid him by naming your horse after him!”

“Oh, my! Hahaha yeah! Don’t tell him, though! He’ll growl at me, hahaha!”

“I can’t imagine Baa’Ren-Dar growling!”

“Yeah! Didn’t you know Khajiit’s growl when they get mad? Hahaha!”

I was in the pit of despair with Rigmor as she described her horror. Then she lifted us both out of that dark pit with her laugh. I had fallen in love with this remarkable woman, and I did not know if that was going to lead to happiness or disaster.

“Oh my! Haha! I think I am done talking about that for now.”

“Thank you for sharing it with me, Rigmor.”

“Do you thank me? I have been watching your eyes, Wulf. They turned to blue dragon eyes and then yellow dragon eyes. I know that means you are angry, but why?”

“Because they hurt you. Because of the injustice. Because you thought you were all alone.”

“If your Dovah is supposed to be uncaring, Wulf, why are you crying?”

“I…I can’t tell you, Rigmor. I can’t.”

“I thought I had recalled all parts of the nightmare when I told Baa’Ren-Dar. However, as I talked and looked into your eyes, I remembered more. Wulf, explain to me how and why you were there and what scares you so.”

“No, you will hate me. You will not want to continue travelling with me. No….”

“You love me, Wulf. Do you deny it?”

“I cannot deny it, nor can I admit it!”

“You think loving me is wrong because we have only known each other for five days. You think it is wrong because you promised to be my Guardian and some ambiguous moral code says it is wrong. You are afraid I will be offended and not want you to be my Guardian.”

“Please, if I had known you would remember so quickly, I would not have pushed so hard. I have made a terrible mistake.”

“What did you say to me when you wanted me to beg for mercy?”

Tears flowed freely. For the first time in my life, my logic, knowledge and Divine gifts provided no solution.

“Wulf, please, repeat to me what you said when I was willing to die like the stubborn Nord I am.”

In a barely audible whisper, I replied, “Give them what they want. Scream out, beg for mercy. It will be a hollow victory for them. Surely you have something to live for?”

“Then I yelled, ‘No more! Please! No more!’”

“Yes.”

“I realised I did have something to live for. Three things. Do you know what they were?”

“To find and rescue Sigunn. To exact revenge.”

“Think, Wulf, what could have been the third thing worth living for?”

“I don’t know, Rigmor.”

“I wanted to live so I could meet my Guardian.”

“Well, here he is. I am sorry I am not what you hoped for.”

“You still haven’t told me how you came to be there, Wulf. I know you weren’t visible, but I also know I was staring into your eyes when I begged for mercy.”

“I was asleep in our little cottage not long after my eighteenth birthday. Earlier that day, my parents told me I had to leave behind all I knew and go to Akavir. It was a shock as I had no forewarning, but neither had they. The Divines needed it done, and the reason made sense, but I was still coming to terms with how little notice our gods can have when catastrophe looms.”

“They knew Alduin was coming.”

“Yes, and so did some of the original Dragonguard, for the prophecy was a list of events that happened and not a predictor of possible events. The Elder Scroll it was written upon was from the future. When the civil war was imminent, The Divines realised the last event was nigh, and therefore I needed to train to deal with Alduin’s return.”

“Okay, so you are asleep on that troubling day. What next?”

“I had never travelled ethereally before. It can take decades to learn how to do it safely and reliably, yet I did it without conscious thought. I found you lying in that filthy cell. I first thought you were a girl no older than Sorella, so emancipated were you and curled into a ball. But as soon as our minds connected, I knew the truth. You were fourteen, and in pain, and alone with little hope.”

“Please, tell me what you said. Confirm for me my memories are correct.”

“Hush, little one. You are not alone. I am your witness and will share your pain. I cannot rescue you, but I will not leave your side. Sleep, let your body rest. I will watch over you. Let me be your guardian.”

“Will you always be my guardian?”

“I can’t promise, but I will try. I will not stop out of choice. I hope that is good enough.”

“Yes, we can only try our hardest. My dad used to say that. The worries of tomorrow are gone, and I feel peace. I can sleep now. Goodnight, my guardian.”

“You accepted my oath, Rigmor. I will not stop out of choice. So, I am your Guardian unless you tell me to go away. That would release me from that oath, for it would not be my choice.”

“And why would I do that when I love you? The Divines can’t tell you what the connection is between us, can they?”

“What did you say?”

“I love you, Wulf. I loved you even when I couldn’t see you. I loved you the moment you stayed with me and watched over me, and Our Quiet enveloped us. I bet you stopped fretting over the move to Akavir.”

“But…”

“Tell me, have The Divines given you any idea of what our connection is and what it means.”

“Lady Mara did, and since this is her area of expertise, I suppose it may be true.”

“Well?”

“Some souls are linked for eternity and will always find each other. Souls are not destroyed at the beginning of each Kalpa but wander The Void, unaware, unlike mortals who die, and their souls end up there. These unaware souls eventually return to the mortal plane, seemingly randomly. My parents had me. Four years later, your parents had you. Fourteen years later, my soul found yours.”

“Wow. That is kinda the coolest gobblygook ever!”

I laughed.

“Okay, Wulf, what happens from here?”

“I don’t know.”

“I do. We continue, and I will let you reveal your secrets as we go and as you planned. But now you have the confidence they will not change how I feel. I cannot possibly find anything as shocking as what we just discussed.”

“Want to bet a Sweetroll on that?”

“Ah, no.”

“We will have to figure out things as we go, Rigmor. But there is something you need to know, and it has nothing to do with my secrets.”

“What is it?”

“The person who gave you to the Bosmer is the one who took you from them and imprisoned you elsewhere. He is the one in charge of hunting you. He is the one who supervised the final whipping where you begged for mercy. He is General Tilar Aedriath.”

“Oh…”

“I think Baa’Ren-Dar was afraid of what impact that information will have on you. I think it will make you more determined to follow through with whatever comes next.”

“If we had gone to the port, prison, whatever it is, and I saw him without preparation, I don’t know what would have happened.”

“But now you will have longer to come to terms with it because we cannot go there until I have dealt, at least partially, with the dragons.”

“When that dragon attacked today, I knew that would have to be the choice you made. My mom, if still alive, will still be alive in a week or two weeks or whenever we can go get that list and find the answer. I was surprised when you agreed to go to Riften before tackling the dragons.”

“I could see how badly you wanted an answer and hoped Baa’Ren-Dar had it.”

“But he only had another step forward.”

“But at least it was a step forward.”

“Yes, I know. I am closer than ever to the answer.”

“What a mess, Rigmor!”

“No, Wulf. It is out in the open, but let us take it slow. I want to be romanced like in the cheap romantic stories. The ones that Baa’Ren-Dar threatened to burn whenever he saw me reading one.”

“Oh, Divines, what have I done?”

“This could be fun, getting the same control over you as mum had over dad.”

“Too late for mercy?”

“Way too late!”

“Alright, let us catch a carriage to Whiterun. Even in the middle of civil war and roads full of bandits, the carriages remain unmolested. It is like a universal taboo to interfere with them.”

“Why Whiterun?”

“Because I promised to speak to the Jarl about the dragons. I might as well start there.”

“Not High Hrothgar?”

“No, you must be invited by The Greybeards or risk death.”

“What about the horses?”

“For an extra fee, they can be hitched and follow behind. I don’t know why there is a fee since they aren’t even sitting in the carriage.”

“It will take a bit more than a day to get there.”

“You can see a lot of the Skyrim countryside in comfort.”

“With no animals deciding I am lunch.”

“And hopefully, a day without killing. That would be a treat.”

“Come on then, my Guardian. By the way, your eyes went back to normal as soon as I asked you why you were crying.”

We walked to the carriage silently as we struggled with the changes the last hour introduced.

I hired it then we climbed aboard with Ren and Hashire on a long and loose lead.

We were not far out of Windhelm when Rigmor placed her head on my shoulder. Minutes later, she was asleep, and my concerns about loving her were left in Windhelm.

5 thoughts on “ANOTHER STEP

  1. I am lloving it too, thank you again Mark. It’s good for us that you are publishing these fairly quickly because I really look forward to them. I get the impression that you are enjoying writing this new version of Wulf more so than the old.

    1. Because Wulf already knows who and what he is, and because he and Rigmor confessed their love VERY early, the dynamics are completely different and a challenge to write. That makes it fun!

  2. I agree with Ian and Bryan. Having things out in the open seems to be invigorating. As you know from my own novels, I hate it when people keep the truth from each other, even if it’s meant to protect someone. Keeping secrets usually doesn’t end well. Anyway, I’m hooked again, and I love the direction you’re going with this. Thanks, Mark! Can’t wait for the next entry.

  3. The mysteries of finding your soulmate. Everything just clicks into place, you feel whole once more. The “Quiet” or Peace they feel when near one another makes total sense. Thank You Mark.

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