Morndas, 1st Hearthfire, 4E 201
& Tirdas, 2nd Hearthfire, 4E 201
I woke at the exact time I wanted. If an internal clock is the only thing I ever use my sense of time for, so be it. I find it useful.
I looked down on Rigmor and hoped some sleep, enveloped in Our Quiet, is enough. I don’t think we will have much pause where The New Order is concerned. They have been planning the invasion for a long time, as we have to catch up quickly.
I went down the stairs to wake Celestine and Lydia. We needed to eat and then teleport to Angi’s camp.
I can teleport to some places after just one visit. I have to use Mark and Recall for other places until I know the destination better. I haven’t figured out why this is.
The ladies were asleep. Celestine was tiny compared to Lydia, with Rigmor somewhere in the middle.
I shook them awake gently and asked them to get four portions of damper cooking. It only takes ten minutes in the coals.
I returned to Rigmor, gently stroked her face and said, “Time to get up, my beloved.”
Rigmor slowly stood then decided to wake up. Most people do it the other way round.
“Am I still your beloved, Wulf?”
“Why wouldn’t you be? Oh, and don’t you dare apologise for last night!”
“But I was a whiny bitch….”
I put my finger to her lips.
“Rigmor, we knew you were on edge, and that is why we walked to and stayed here. You were not ready for whatever waits for us at Angi’s if anything does.”
“Do you think Baa’Ren-Dar is back from Cyrodiil?”
“I hope so. I think our furry friend is using portals or Waystones. Only a few mages know the old spells. The Psijic taught me, and I taught my friends.”
“Portals and Waystones?”
“A Portal is a magic door that takes you to another destination via ethereal travel. It is like teleporting, but you don’t need a mage. However, you are restricted to travelling to particular locations. I can teleport anywhere.”
“The Ayleid used Waystones extensively. A dweomer is placed on a gem which is then called a Waystone. The Waystone is then incorporated into an amulet, ring, or mask. When the object with the Waystone is donned, the wearer is teleported to a set location. Removing the object teleports you back to where you donned it.”
“I have often wondered how he seems to quickly come from and go to places a long way from Torval.”
“No, I am not going to have one until it is time for you to admit defeat. Plus, who has Sweet Rolls for breakfast?”
“That was the old addicted Rigmor, not this Sweet Roll free Rigmor.”
“Rigmor, I want you to know I understand your mood swings. Yell at me. Call me names. Be angry. I am willing to accept it all if it helps you cope. Please, don’t apologise.”
“You see them coming, don’t you?”
“Yes. And I don’t try to stop them. If you don’t express your frustration, fears and anger occasionally, it can make you ill.”
“Sometimes, although we don’t mean it, we hurt those closest to us.”
“I don’t take anything you say when in one of those moods to heart, Rigmor. If we were having a calm conversation like this, well, that would be a different matter.”
“So…if I said that albatross is a dumb word, which it is.”
“Excuse me. I think I will go and cry and then find a convenient cliff.”
“Idiot. Now, I shall do my morning nose powdering, and I expect food when I return!”
“Yes, Milady. Today you have a choice of damper, damper with damper or damper topped with damper.”
“Can’t I have a damper with a side of damper?”
“No, the chef is a bit sensitive and thinks that is a barbarian’s dish.”
“Just plain damper then.”
“Yes, Milady. One serving of not boring and yummy damper will await your return.”
“Plenty of raisins and dried fruits!”
“Only as a side after the damper is cooked! Those who contaminate the damper with said additions are committing blasphemy!”
Rigmor went off to powder her nose.
Celestine and Lydia were warming themselves over the fire. When Rigmor returned, we ate our damper with a side of dried fruits.
Then we teleported or were summoned, outside of Angi’s camp, amongst the archery targets.
Angi’s camp was just coming to life when we entered. Baa’Ren-Dar was standing outside Rigmor’s tent.
Sorella was busy talking to Meeko.
- Sorella: Chasey will have to wait, Meeko. Rigmor is here!
- Meeko: Woof?
- Sorella: No, you are still ‘it’.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Sorella: I am not cheating! Why don’t we play hide and seek anymore? Would it have to do with your colossal nose that could find me under a ton of pooh! That was cheating.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Sorella: What do you mean you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference? You can be very rude!
- Meeko: Woof?
- Sorella: No, pooh is not a swear word. Now be a gentleman and move so I can talk to Rigmor.
Meeko moved to the side.
- Sorella: Hi Rigmor!
- Rigmor: Hey! Hi there Sorella. Are you okay?
- Sorella: Yeah! Angi is so cool. She said she would teach me everything she knows so that I can be a huntress someday.
- Rigmor: That sounds great.
- Sorella: Yeah, and if any bad guys come, she’s going to show me how to put an arrow in their heads.
- Rigmor: Is that so? Hahaha! I’m glad I’m not one of those bad guys then.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Sorella: Can’t everybody?
- Rigmor: Can’t everybody what?
- Wulf: Meeko told me that Sorella talks telepathically with him. That usually takes a lot of practice.
- Sorella: Yeah, it just happened without me trying. He was surprised.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Sorella: He says that, but I don’t understand. What is a Wolf Friend?
- Wulf: Back when Nord’s worshipped the Old Gods, many followers of Kyne were blessed by her. Wolf Kin or Wolf Friend was a blessing whereby wolves, dogs, foxes, coyotes and even wild werewolves would regard the Nord as a friend and not attack them or those with them. Meeko thinks you have that blessing, which gave you a natural ability to talk to him.
- Sorella: Wow!
- Wulf: Rigmor seems to have been blessed with something similar when it comes to bears.
- Sorella: Why would Kyne give the blessing?
- Wulf: Well, many shepherds would pray for the blessing. The wolves that once hunted their flocks became their protectors.
- Sorella: But I am not a shepherd.
- Wulf: Kyne has been helping me heaps. Perhaps she decided to help you by letting you hear Meeko and not just talk to him?
- Sorella: Yes, it has helped.
- Wulf: A thank you to Kyne would be good manners. You don’t have to become a devotee or anything.
- Sorella: Thank you, Kyne!
- Wulf: That is good enough.
- Sorella: Rigmor, your friend Baa’Ren-Dar is here. I had never met a Khajiit before. He is very nice.
- Rigmor: Wulf, can you please talk to Baa’Ren-Dar. I have a headache and need to sleep.
- Wulf: Yes, of course, Rigmor.
Angi yelled, “Sorella, can you please help with the sweeping.”
“Yes, Angi, coming.”
I watched Rigmor walk right past Baa’Ren-Dar without any acknowledgement at all. A pained look crossed his face.
“Bashita, I would love to chat, but I can’t. Speak to Lydia and Celestine, and they can fill you in on what has been happening.”
“Rigmor looked fine when you got here, Wulf. Then she went pale and sweaty. Was she shocked by something?”
“Yes, she saw the Altmer who once had her whipped and beaten. He is the centre of her night terrors, and there he was, in the flesh.”
“Oh. Celestine is better with the mind-stuff than Sakiya or me. Maybe she can help?”
“I think Rigmor just needs something to distract her. I will see what Baa’Ren-Dar has to say and go from there.”
Bashita headed for the fire, where a three-way information and gossip session was soon in full swing.
I walked over to Baa’Ren-Dar.
“Well met, Dragonborn. Rigmor, is she alright? What has happened?”
“We encountered Tilar Aedriath and his minions. It came as a shock to Rigmor.”
“You met Tilar Aedriath and brought her back to me alive! Khajiit is once again thankful to the gods for their excellent choice of a Guardian. They have chosen wisely, indeed.”
‘You knew that Aedriath was her tormentor in Haven. We talked about it in Riften.”
“Did you find any information on the whereabouts of Sigunn?”
“Good try, Emissary, but I will not be distracted. We are going to talk about your decision not to tell her about Aedriath.”
“Rigmor needed the courage to find her destiny. Knowing who Tilar Aedriath was would have brought fear into the equation.”
“I thought that the chances of a confrontation with Tilar were high. Therefore, I told Rigmor that it was Tilar heading the hunt for her and who he was. Rigmor had several days to come to terms with that fact. However, seeing him has affected her more than I thought possible. I dread to think what would have happened if she saw him without prior warning.”
“This one had hoped there would be no contact, alas, Khajiit misjudged. Rigmor has been dealt a blow deep in her heart.”
“She was distraught but seemed to have recovered overnight and was her usual self this morning. However, when she saw you, she became upset again.”
Rigmor cried out. The night terror has to be particularly vivid for her to vocalise. Her movements were also more pronounced than usual, from what I could hear.
Baa’Ren-Dar stared at the tent and said with concern in his voice, “The last time she was like this was after the rescue.”
“Tell me about the rescue inside the tent. My presence will stop Rigmor’s night terror.”
We entered the tent, and I sat on the chair next to Rigmor. She opened her eyes, saw me there and smiled. Within seconds she closed her eyes once more and fell into a deep sleep, and the familiar sound of her slow breathing filled my soul.
Baa’Ren-Dar sat on the floor and watched Rigmor. When she fell asleep, he sighed with relief.
He said, “This one can see a unique bond has developed. Rigmor finally discussed her time in Haven?”
“The unique bond is what allowed me to find her four years ago. Rigmor’s experiences were too much for her to recall at once. She would relive it, as you said she would. I was only the second person she had ever told, Baa’Ren-Dar. It was difficult for her, so Rigmor had to tell me in chapters. Her scars are now mine, and I will punish those who hurt us.”
“This one can see in your eyes that is no idle boast. Khajiiti have warriors like you. Meek as kittens till you see the tiger in their eyes.”
I let my dragon eyes show, and Baa’Ren-Dar hissed. I let them return to normal
“They will not see tiger eyes, Baa’Ren-Dar. They will see my Dovah.”
“This one is glad we are friends!”
“As Rigmor told me her story, she remembered me being there, Baa’Ren-Dar. She could not see me four years ago, but we spoke telepathically. I have many secrets, and now Rigmor is one of the few people who know them all. Our bond is, as you said, unique, as no secrets remain between us.”
“Is there love?”
“Yes, a love that is so special Mother Cat rejoices in its existence. She says we have souls that find each other across multiple Kalpa. Intertwined souls the expression used.”
“I see. This one should give a father’s speech about how Dragonborn better look after his daughter and show her respect. Perhaps later when he formulates one, but this one thinks it will be unnecessary.”
“I am all for tradition, Baa’Ren-Dar. You can give me your father’s speech when you are ready.”
“Khajiit has seen Rigmor like this before. When Khajiit smuggled Rigmor out of Valenwood, she was gravely ill. Khajiit bought her the best physicians that coin could buy. Khajiit nursed her back from the darkness. This one thought she was mute. Rigmor never uttered a single word for six months.”
“When did that change? Now she talks frequently and with great enthusiasm about even the most mundane things. She finds beauty where I never looked.”
“One day, Khajiit couldn’t find her anywhere. In a panic, this one searched high and low, and there she was, in my library.”
“It would have reminded her of trips to the Imperial City with Sigunn.”
“Correct. Rigmor had rediscovered herself. She knew her name, who her father was, and….”
“She remembered what happened to her when an enslaved person. Rigmor never told me about her loss of memory.”
“This one thinks that is just an oversight. Does Dragonborn think your destinies are entwined and not just your souls?”
“I have foresight, Baa’Ren-Dar, but I have left it untrained. Last night I saw a possible destiny with Rigmor, and it would benefit all honest people of Nirn. So yes, there are destinies, possible futures, involving Rigmor and me, but I have only glimpsed one.”
“Is Dragonborn worried about a future with Rigmor?”
“A wise father indeed. Would I want the woman I love placed in constant danger simply by being near me? Just being Dragonborn attracts many enemies. If my other secrets become known, far more would hunt me. If Rigmor’s future includes danger without me there, could I trust others to keep her safe? I have decided to let many things sort themselves out when worrying will do nothing to change the outcome.”
“Rigmor has the right to choose, Dragonborn. If she accepts the risks, Dragonborn has no right to deny that right to choose.”
“Yes, you are correct. Rigmor and I will sort things out as they occur. I am not one for speculation.”
“Khajiit can see that. It is wise and will save Dragonborn from early grey fur.”
“I only saw a glimpse of when you rescued Rigmor. I saw you about to enter a trapdoor near her cell. Can you please tell me more of what happened?”
“It was a cold and dark night, and it had been raining for three days. Khajiit emissaries had been instructed to travel to Valenwood. We were to be entertained by The Thalmor at their embassy in Haven. The Dominion had been trying to improve relations with Elsweyr. They were hoping Khajiit would help more in countering moon sugar smuggling. This one was an influential emissary based in Torval, just over the border.”
Rigmor mumbled. Baa’Ren-Dar looked closely at her.
“Rigmor is in a deep sleep, Baa’Ren-Dar, and dreaming.”
Baa’Ren-Dar smiled and then continued, “The party lasted late into the night, and The Thalmor were full of themselves with drunken arrogance. Khajiit emissaries were about to leave when Thalmor insisted on showing a spectacle.”
I closed my eyes, and it was as if I looked through Baa’Ren-Dar’s as his voice told the tale.
“The spectacle, they boasted, was the daughter of the ‘Beast of Hammerfell’ that they kept locked in a cage in the dungeon.”
The old Khajiit’s voice wavered as he relived his nightmare.
“We felt compelled to comply. We went down into the cells, and there was Rigmor…lying very still.”
My tears were flowing, and my anger was growing. But still, I watched through Baa’Ren-Dar’s eyes.
“They had torn the flesh from her back with their whips. Her blood ran in rivulets to the floor.”
I gasped, then opened my eyes. I cried, “They laughed, oh, how they laughed….”
Baa’Ren-Dar finished, “…but she was just a child!”
I said, “Rigmor still can’t sleep on her back. I think we can heal the scars, but at the moment, she refuses. They are a reminder of what The Thalmor did.”
“What you just did only the best seers can do.”
“It is a wild talent, Baa’Ren-Dar, and I am uncomfortable with it. It is an intrusion upon the mind of another. I refused to learn how to direct it. Nobody could tell me how to stop it. Perhaps I need to see and hear the things you experienced to comprehend the horror that so affects Rigmor and you.”
Baa’Ren-Dar looked between Rigmor and me, smiled, then continued, “They dragged her out of the cell and put her in stocks….”
“There is no need to relive this part, Baa’Ren-Dar. I watched it unfold, and such barbarity is unforgivable!”
Baa’Ren-Dar looked relieved he did not have to tell of the final whipping. He said, “Khajiit knew that he would need to rescue her or she would surely die in that filthy cell.”
“How did you get Rigmor out of there? Even though she is small, at fourteen, she would still have been hard to conceal.”
“Khajiit quickly made arrangements and had everything in place. A planned distraction allowed this one time to pick the lock on the cage. Rigmor was almost starved and smaller than she should have been. This one carried her to the trapdoor, leading to a cave that led outside. I carried her to an awaiting carriage. She was transported to a boat which in turn transported her to my home in Torval.”
“You risked your life and your career for Rigmor. I can’t express how grateful I am or how much I admire you for it.”
“It took a long time for her to recover. She has become very special to Khajiit. This one loves and cares for her deeply.”
“She loves you too, Baa’Ren-Dar. She speaks proudly of you.”
“She will need to rest for a while.”
“I have been arranging good and restful sleep for Rigmor, even if it is on a bouncing carriage between cities. Many hunt her. Many are now hunting me for various reasons. I am now Thane of Whiterun and have purchased a beautiful house there. It is a safe place, and I hope to use that more often. I also have a Safe House in Solitude where many hunted by The Thalmor reside.”
“Thane is not a minor title. Nobility has its uses, Dragonborn.”
“It does not sit well with me. But yes, I can see it may help sometimes.”
“Did the thief, Sethri, have any information? Did you find anything out about Sigunn?”
“Sethri told us she might be mentioned on a slavers list. He told us where we might find the list. It was inside an old fort, part of a harbour, near the border. It was a staging point for slavers working on an island off the coast.”
“Is that where you met Aedriath?”
“We had to fight our way through the fort to recover the list. Sigunn is on it. Aedriath was waiting with many Altmer, Orsimer and wolves to apprehend us when we exited. We killed dozens, and I could easily have killed him. But I wanted to capture him. He escaped but sacrificed many people to do so. He will take the news back to The New Order that they now face Rigmor and The Dragonborn.”
“Capturing him was a good strategic plan, but Khajiit has warned the Dragonborn, Aedriath is a master at deception. When you think you have won, he will produce a winning hand when it seemed he had nothing.”
“I would be negligent to dismiss your warning Baa’Ren-Dar.”
“Where does the slavers list say Sigunn is being kept?”
“A place called Diamond Ridge Mine.”
“This one has heard of this place. It is not far from the border with High Rock. This one will investigate and find a place on the map. Meanwhile, I have a very special mission for you and Rigmor.”
“Something to do with destroying The New Order, I hope.”
“Yes. This one had spoken to friends in high places, including Mede, and we all agreed to keep this whole affair top secret. Elisif will be getting extra protection and not be informed unless necessary. However, we must be diligent and prepare for an imminent invasion.”
“Normally, I would disagree with such secrecy. Jarl Elisif has every right to know her life is in danger. But I understand we are trying to convince the New Order their plans are unknown to us.”
“That is what we hope to do. So, you and Rigmor are going to help by brokering a truce so we can prepare for such an invasion.”
“I would like nothing more than to stop this insane civil war, even if just for a short time. Perhaps if they fight next to each other once more, they will not be so keen to renew killing each other after we defeat The New Order.”
“Tullius and Ulfric must be persuaded to break off their civil war plans, but The New Order is not to be alarmed in any way. We must use deception, and we must have that truce, Dragonborn.”
“Why, Baa’Ren-Dar, would we have to persuade General Tullius or his intermediary? A signed order from His Imperial Highness is all that is needed. I assume that is what we are delivering to the Imperials.”
“Yes, that one is correct.”
“The New Order are aware we attacked Fort Black, so they must suspect we know of their plans. Why not let them know the Emperor will not fall for their ruse, and The Empire will be ready to repel any invasion?”
“Dragonborn knows of Thalmor arrogance. The New Order is worse. They will dismiss the raid on Fort Black as inconsequential. They will think their plans are infallible. We will spring the trap and crush them when they think they have defeated us. We will no longer have to worry about them trying again.”
“Yet we will probably lose cities, villages and maybe even Holds before stopping them. We should be preventing their invasion, not allowing it! Both the collateral damage and acceptable losses will be too great!”
“This one has learned to accept the least offensive solution rather than none at all. This plan is what is agreed to and is better than doing nothing.”
“And I have no doubt The Dragonborn will be expected to comply and kill as directed.”
“It is for Rigmor’s sake that you may have to do these unpleasant things.”
“I will do these things because I cannot refuse to act when I may save lives. Even if I have to take lives doing so.”
“A terrible burden, Dragonborn.”
“Even if we knew nothing of their plans, they would fail. Do you like gambling, Baa’Ren-Dar? I think they are playing a shell game. What some call three shells and a pea.”
“That is not true gambling, for sleight of hand ensures the player will lose.”
“The sleight of hand only works because the gambler is distracted via banter and the weaving of hands and shells. The plans of The New Order are inadequate to accomplish what they desire.”
“And Dragonborn thinks they are a distraction?”
“There is something else that we do not know, Baa’Ren-Dar. It is the only explanation that is logical.”
“Some that spoke to Khajiit expressed similar concerns. But we must act upon what is known.”
“Yes, we must, so please continue.”
“The Emperor will keep his army in Cyrodiil.”
“Outlying Legions will not be brought in from the borders as that would make The New Order suspicious. Combined Empire and Stormcloak units will need to stop the New Order’s Northern Army Group in Skyrim.”
“You have a good strategic mind, Dragonborn. Hjaalmarch and Morthal will be our focus points. Stop them there, and we can throw them back into the sea.”
“They will mimic invaders of old. They will besiege Solitude and Windhelm, making Whiterun the pivotal city. If it falls, it will make it difficult to win the war without great loss of life. If Whiterun fell, all Legions would be brought inland to defend Cyrodiil, and His Imperial Highness would cross into Skyrim. As long as The Dominion does not interfere, The New Order would inevitably lose. But that is a worst-case scenario. We need to stop them from taking Whiterun.”
“Even if that means allowing higher acceptable losses?”
“Those who issue the commands can battle with their conscious. This plan leaves a relatively unguarded corridor that they can exploit. If, as I think, this is all a distraction, they will want to cause as much confusion as possible and use that corridor. I will do what I can to minimise death, which means helping defend Whiterun. I hope they put a competent commander in charge of its defence.”
“The planners say that if Whiterun falls with Solitude and Windhelm besieged, all is lost. The Northern Army Group will march south and join the Southern Army Group forces. They would then crush Mede’s army in Cyrodiil. Tamriel will be theirs for the taking.”
“That is untrue! Place a Legion on the bridge, and the New Order would never take the Imperial City without a lengthy siege. High Rock would not remain idle and their knights, if they take time out from killing each other, are a formidable force that could sweep down through The Reach in an unstoppable tide of steel and horse. I doubt the Reachmen, especially the Forsworn, would welcome the Altmer. Most Redguards would rather fight to defend Cyrodiil than let the Altmer have it. I can’t see the New Order winning. What I can foresee is too much bloodshed. Too many civilians will die and suffer. That is why we must defend Whiterun. Not because some idiots think we would lose the war!”
“This one thinks much the same, Dragonborn. Sometimes military commanders exaggerate the consequences of a potential loss to make troops more determined to win.”
“A soldier fights best when defending loved ones and their home. No fake hysteria is going to make them fight harder. All of this is the logical and obvious strategy and nothing new. But it is still speculation and relies on The New Order doing the predictable. Let us hope any surprise can be quickly countered.”
“Khajiit has great faith in the leaders of the Imperial forces.”
“Who do Rigmor and I have to speak to?”
“You will need to visit Casius Varon and Yngol Storm-Blade. You will not be able to see Ulfric or Tullius.”
“Neither Ulfric nor Tullius would decline to speak to The Dragonborn if only to try and recruit me. But working through trusted advisors is best. They can alleviate any concerns about the authenticity of the information provided. Please, mark my map where their camps are located.”
I handed Baa’Ren-Dar my map. He marked the two locations then returned the map to me.
Baa’Ren-Dar continued, “Dragonborn, you must convince them, and they must convince their leaders. Give them these letters.”
Baa’Ren-Dar handed me two letters. Both were sealed with wax, and Emperor Titus Mede II’s signet ring had been imprinted onto the wax.
“They will at least listen to The Dragonborn, but does Rigmor play a part in this? I would rather not take her into danger if not.”
“Rigmor is crucial in gaining their trust, Dragonborn. Both men fought under her father in Hammerfell.”
“Are the letters signed by other dignitaries?”
“Yes, it is signed by high-ranking nobles from several provinces. However, we had to be careful who we told, Dragonborn.”
“Are you honestly suggesting these two men would only do their duty if the daughter of a friend asked them to? An order from His Imperial Highness cannot be ignored. As for Yngol, if a letter from His Imperial Highness and the signatories is not enough, then Rigmor’s presence would not sway him.”
“Upon reflection, Khajiit agrees with the Dragonborn, and they will do their duty. Rigmor’s presence is not essential.”
“Rigmor may learn about some of her father’s exploits. All she has at the moment are false accusations. I will let Rigmor decide if she wants any part of this.”
“Both men will be expecting you. Take the Imperial uniforms I have left with Angi and wear them when visiting Varon. Remember, you are still both wanted.”
“No! I refuse to walk into the rebel camp without disguise but don one for the Imperial camp! We are wanted by The Thalmor, not The Empire, and are protected by parley’s ancient customs and laws. You could not do your duty, Emissary if they were not sacrosanct. Even The Thalmor would not dare try and arrest us. If The Thalmor think to follow, they cannot do so when I teleport us away.”
“Dragonborn has a lot of confidence in his decisions. Khajiit thinks Dragonborn would make a fine ruler.”
“I can’t second guess myself, Baa’Ren-Dar. I must believe I am right and learn if I am wrong.”
“Go and speak to these two men while Khajiit finds the location of Diamond Ridge Mine.”
“Rigmor will be fine, although she will regret not talking to you.”
I followed Baa’Ren-Dar outside and watched the remarkable Emissary leave.
I entered the tent once more, and Rigmor climbed out of bed.
“Wulf, is Bar’Ren-Dar still here?”
“He left when you were asleep. He understands that meeting Aedriath was a shock and seemed upset he had miscalculated the chances of encountering him. He was very remorseful, Rigmor. But he knows you love him.”
“I just felt so tired, and the headache was intense.”
“Even after staying at that camp overnight, you were not ready to discuss Aedriath with Baa’Ren-Dar. That monster has his claws in you, Rigmor, and I regret not killing him. It was the logical choice, but I should have listened to my Dovah.”
“What did you discuss?”
“I told him about the information Sethri gave us and how we retrieved the slavers list with Sigunn on it. I described our encounter with Aedriath and how we let him go. He says that was a good move, but we have to be careful of Aedriath as he is a master of deception. That is twice Baa’Ren-Dar has warned me about that.”
“Did he know where Diamond Ridge Mine is?”
“He said he has heard of it, and it is on the border with High Rock. He has gone to find its exact location.”
“And what are our plans?”
“The big ruse Baa’Ren-Dar and others have devised hinges on The New Order believing that we are unaware of their plans. I think they do realise we know. However, His Imperial Highness has decided on a plan, so we follow it.”
“Yes, you were suspicious when we first found the information in Fort Black.”
“To counter the army that invades Skyrim, it must be met with a combined force. We have been asked to help broker a treaty between The Empire and Stormcloaks.”
“How are we supposed to do that?”
“We will meet with two men who have the trust of General Tullius and Ulfric. We won’t have to convince the Imperials. His Imperial Highness has issued orders. Anyway, we shall hand them letters sealed by Mede and signed by high-ranking dignitaries. We will have to convince Yngol, the Stormcloak. The letter should be sufficient for him to take the matter seriously. It is up to him to convince Ulfric to declare a truce. The two men we are to meet both served with your father. Baa’Ren-Dar thinks that will convince them that what we say is true.”
“That is silly. Why would they ignore the letter and orders but believe me?”
“It doesn’t matter if they believed you or not. Duty compels them to act upon the letters.”
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“It is up to you. If you get to speak to these men, you may learn more about your father’s role in The Great War and his time in Hammerfell.”
“You didn’t answer me! I want to learn more about Dad, but that is not why I will accompany you. You would be torn between doing as they have asked and leaving me behind. Therefore, I will come so you can guard me and not worry.”
“I would worry terribly if you were not with me. Therefore, I do want you to travel with me to meet these men.”
“When do we leave, and where are we going?”
“First, we shall meet with Yngol Storm-Blade at his Stormcloak camp. It is in the volcanic plains, not far from where you flaunted your backside to an innocent young Dragonborn.”
“You didn’t have to look.”
“It was my duty to ensure your safety.”
“So, did you use your Zoom-Vision?”
“More like a healthy young male.”
“Yeah, a pervert.”
“Anyway, we shall teleport to Ri’saad’s camp next to Riften, then hire a carriage to Windhelm. We should get there not long after sunset. Then we will ride to Yngol’s camp.”
“Ahh, we had to teleport to Lady Mara’s temple last time.”
“I am finding that my memory of places already visited only once is now enough. I am confident I can teleport to Ri’saad’s camp.”
“Did something change?”
“No, it has probably always been possible. I know the Psijics can do it. It is just I have the confidence to do it now. A lot of Magicka is like that.”
“Promise me, Wulf, that you will behave, even if this Yngol says things that make you want to throttle him.”
“I promise I shall be the very model of a polite emissary.”
“Would they have asked us to do this if you weren’t The Dragonborn?”
“I think they asked because both men served with your father. Me being The Dragonborn is a bonus.”
“What if this Yngol doesn’t believe or trust the letter or us?”
“Then I shall visit Ulfric Stormcloak in person but unannounced. I wouldn’t want him to turn my visit into a chance for publicity. Then again, if he did invite a bunch of brown-nosed dignitaries, I could denounce him in front of them. That would be fun!”
Sorella came running over when she saw Rigmor and me exiting the tent.
- Sorella: Wulf, Meeko told me you are The Dragonborn. He said the loud noise the other day was The Greybeards calling out your name, but it didn’t sound like Wulf.
- Wulf: Yes, I am The Dragonborn, which is a title. The Greybeards didn’t call out my name. They said ‘Dovahkiin’, which is Dragonborn in dragon language.
- Sorella: Can you breathe fire?
- Wulf: From both ends if I eat too many beans!
- Sorella: Haha. Pffffffffffft! My pants are on fire!
- Rigmor: If we need a campfire lighted, Wulf bends over and blows off!
- Sorella: No way!
- Rigmor: Yeah way!
- Wulf: We have to go somewhere again, Sorella. Thank you for helping Meeko when he was sad. Now poor Lydia will need both of you to help her when she is sad.
- Rigmor: Lydia was going to marry a man called Bjorn. He was killed by the dragon when it attacked Helgen.
- Sorella: It felt wrong when I first laughed. Meeko told me it was an important step when grieving. He had to explain to me what grieving is. Is that what is happening to Lydia?
- Rigmor: Yes, Sorella. Lydia is grieving.
- Sorella: We can help her because I know the horrible feeling you get when grieving.
- Wulf: I think she would smile if you asked her about Bjorn and their time together.
- Sorella: Yes! Meeko would ask about my parents, and I would laugh and cry, and I told him stories.
- Rigmor: We have to go now but should be back in a few days.
- Sorella: Okay. I had better get back to my chores.
We walked over to Angi.
- Wulf: I hope my friends are not intruding too much.
- Angi: On the contrary, I have enjoyed talking to them. You know, gossip and girl talk.
- Wulf: You are all grown women!
- Rigmor: Forgive Wulf. He thinks we grow out of girl talk and gossip.
- Angi: Where would he get that strange idea?
- Rigmor: He has many strange ideas.
- Wulf: We are leaving again, Angi. We should be back in a couple of days.
- Angi: Okay. Oh, I hope to see Baa’Ren-Dar again as it was nice to meet a proper gentleman!
- Rigmor: As opposed to this big brute?
- Angi: You don’t fool me, Rigmor. Wulf is no brute in your eyes.
- Rigmor: Oh…umm…
- Wulf: Shall we go, Milady?
- Rigmor: Yeah…umm…
Angi laughed as Rigmor, and I walked over to Lydia.
- Wulf: I guess this is not what you expected when applying to be my housecarl.
- Lydia: Do you want me to say it, Wulf?
- Wulf: No, no. None of that duty stuff!
- Lydia: I was a guard for years. Angi and Sorella need a guard, so I will be doing what I have always done.
- Rigmor: Celestine will help you adjust. Angi is a lovely person once she feels comfortable with somebody.
- Lydia: Celestine said Angi and Sorella both have tragedy in their lives. I am sure we will develop a bond.
- Wulf: We are off to help broker a truce between The Empire and Stormcloaks.
- Lydia: To counter the dragons or The New Order?
- Wulf: The latter. But we shall see if anything more permanent comes of it.
- Lydia: I doubt it. Ulfric wants to be the High King, and he will trample over everybody and everything in his pursuit of that goal.
- Wulf: We should be back in two or three days.
- Lydia: Okay. Keep each other safe.
I teleported to Ri’saad’s Riften camp then summoned Rigmor.
Then we hired a carriage to Windhelm.
On the ride, I talked to Rigmor about how she had lost her memory. She apologised for not telling me. We both agreed it was funny she forgot to mention the time she forgot.
Rigmor was still asking questions and pointing out things she found interesting. However, I could tell she was putting on a façade. Aedriath was on her mind, but I did not press her on it. Her fear of him is an internal battle.
We arrived in Windhelm not long after sunset.
I summoned our horses, and then we set off for Yngol’s camp.
It was a relatively short ride to the Stormcloak compound. No guards challenged us as we rode through the gates.
A dragon was roaring and seemed to be reasonably close. It might attack and kill many in the compound if it spotted me.
I was about to ask one of the Stormcloaks where Yngol was when a deep baritone voice started issuing orders. We followed the voice and soon found him.
Yngol was a huge man. For once, I would have to look up into somebody else’s face.
We made our way onto the overhang where Yngol was standing. He waited for me to approach.
- Wulf: Excuse me, are you Yngol Storm-Blade?
- Yngol: Depends. Who’s asking?
- Wulf: I believe you were told to expect us. I am Wulf, The Dragonborn. The young lady is Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, and I am her Guardian.
Yngol moved to stand in front of Rigmor. She looked tiny next to him.
- Yngol: As I live and breathe, Ragnar’s daughter!
- Rigmor: Hey, I’m sorry I…
- Yngol: I served with your father in Hammerfell child. If there’s anything you need, anything, just say the word. My sword is yours to command.
- Wulf: That is very generous, Yngol.
- Yngol: A courier came by yesterday and handed me a note. It said you were coming and it was about something important, but it didn’t mention what.
- Wulf: Before we get to that, I heard you talking to your men about a missing patrol and breaches in the wall?
- Yngol: Yeah, an Imperial charge made a breach in the east wall just before you arrived. They tested us all night by probing our defences.
- Wulf: It sounds like they are only keeping you on your toes. An attack on this camp would be a significant escalation.
- Yngol: Up until now, it’s been a phoney war. Then that sly old dog Casius Varon decided to sit his Legion on The Pale border with Whiterun. I advised Ulfric to set up a garrison here to counter any move.
- Wulf: It seems you are familiar with Varon?
- Yngol: Yeah, we both served under Jonna in The Great War. He was in the Legion at the time, and I was in a Nord Volunteer Brigade. After the treaty, he disappeared for a time, then we found and saved his sorry ass near the Brena River in Hammerfell. Apart from the occasional skirmish, we keep a respectful distance…for now.
- Wulf: Rigmor and I have seen many Imperials and Stormcloaks butchered in your phoney war. Bandits run amok because there are no guard or Legion patrols.
- Yngol: A large band of marauders and bandits has been causing a problem for the locals here in Eastmarch. They have been quiet lately since we set up camp here, but they’ve been spotted near Narzulbur.
- Wulf: The Orsimer Stronghold east of here?
- Yngol: Yes, we trade with them. There are some good people there. A few hours ago, I sent a patrol to check on a smaller compound. That patrol hasn’t reported back. I was about to head out myself and search for them.
- Wulf: Rigmor and I can accompany you if you wish.
- Yngol: Okay, let’s head out.
We followed Yngol out of camp. His horse was huge!
Hashire boasted, “I can make myself bigger, and I bet I can run faster!”
“Jealous? I wonder if Yngol will swap.”
“Sometimes, just like Rigmor, I hate you!”
I let Yngol get ahead as I knew Rigmor would be full of questions. As we approached a dragon burial mound, she asked, “Why are we going with Yngol? This little trip wasn’t in the plan!”
“If Yngol sees us in battle, we will earn respect. He will therefore be more likely to believe what is in that letter. It might be we only have to escort him there and back. That still shows our willingness to put ourselves in danger beside him.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar would be impressed by your sneaky diplomatic skills.”
“I am relieved to see Sahloknir is still in his burial mound. That means Alduin is slow to restore his army.”
“Do dragon names mean something?”
“Some do. Sahloknir means Phantom Sky Hunt. We would say he is Phantom Sky Hunter.”
“Is Sahloknir stronger than the dragons we killed?”
“Yes. But not by much.”
We rode past a Spriggan Matron and some wolves without being attacked.
Rigmor asked, “Wulf, are you using Kyne’s Peace?”
“Yes, and you wouldn’t have heard the Shout. Many Shouts are whispered.”
“Whispering a Shout is weird, Wulf, and don’t deny it.”
“I didn’t invent The Voice. Blame Lady Kynareth!”
Yngol dismounted and walked towards three butchered Stormcloaks lying in the grass. He knelt to inspect them.
I asked, “Is this your missing patrol, Yngol?”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scum suckers have taken the stronghold as well. They may have killed the Orcs. Gods damn it!”
“Well, let’s go look and serve justice if they have.”
‘Yes, the murdering scum are not going to get away with it this time. This far and no further. It’s time for some payback!”
We walked closer to a small Orsimer compound. It was much smaller than Narzulbur Stronghold and would have been home to at least a dozen Orsimer. The compounds are sometimes used for trading, as the Orsimer only allow blood-kin to enter their strongholds.
It soon became apparent that the bandits had taken the stronghold, and therefore, it was likely they butchered those who called it home.
Yngol called out, “Hey, assholes! Prepare to meet your makers! Yngol Storm-Blade is going to cut you a new one!”
The bandits threw back pathetic insults such as, “Where is your army Yngol. Back at that holiday camp of yours?”
The last one they uttered before they died was, “Who is that you have got with you, your mother?”
I used my Thu’um and said,
“IT IS NOT HIS MOTHER BUT RIGMOR OF BRUMA. SHE IS A MIGHTY NORD WARRIOR WHO COULD KILL YOU ALL WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT BUT WON’T NEED TO. YNGOL NEEDS NO ARMY. FOR I AM WULF, THE DRAGONBORN, AND YOU ARE ALL ABOUT TO DIE!”
Unrelenting Force killed half the bandits. Some charged through the gate. Why defenders sally forth is beyond me! Why take a fortification if you are not going to use it?
Yngol exclaimed, “By Talos, that was so much stronger than Ulfric’s!”
He did not let his surprise slow him down and quickly charged the enemy.
I ran past and cut down the defenders one slice each without pausing.
The last two died when Unrelenting Force smashed into them.
Neither Yngol nor Rigmor bloodied their weapons. Yngol said nothing as he headed for one of the ramparts.
Rigmor and I had a quick look around to see if there were any Orsimer we could aid.
All we found were butchered bodies. Nearly every dead Orsimer was a non-combatant. A couple of warriors in the compound would have been rapidly overwhelmed.
We found Yngol staring at my handiwork.
I said, “Yngol, there are no survivors and nobody we can aid. Perhaps you can send a burial detail later, but we have to talk.”
Yngol turned to me, and I could see genuine sorrow on his face.
“These were good people, Dragonborn. I should have come sooner, and then maybe they would still be alive.”
“We make the best decisions we can at the time. This atrocity was not your fault.”
“The Voice. I have seen Ulfric use it, but your power is many times his.”
“I am Dragonborn, blessed by Lord Akatosh. My Thu’um is far more powerful than Ulfric’s and getting stronger. It doesn’t matter if it is six, sixty, six hundred or six thousand in my way. This wave of death is how they would die.”
“Come them. Let’s head back and talk.”
As we rode into camp, a dragon flew close to it and said in Dovahzul, “Dovahkiin, come and fight me or do I have to kill these soldiers first? I am Ultoornil.”
Rigmor and I dismounted and walked over to Yngol.
- Yngol: Hey, you want a drink, something to eat? Knock yourselves out.
- Rigmor: That would be nice.
- Wulf: I am afraid it will have to wait. The dragon, Ultoornil, just issued a challenge. If I don’t accept, he will attack this camp. Many of your men would die.
- Yngol: Do you want help?
- Wulf: No, Yngol. You need to survive and talk to Ulfric about this.
I handed Ulfric the letter from Mede.
- Wulf: We will talk to you about it when we return.
- Rigmor: If we return.
- Wulf: Ultoornil will just be another weakling eager for glory.
- Rigmor: Come on then, my Guardian.
Yngol watched as Rigmor and I ran onto the volcanic plains.
We followed the sound of The Thu’um. Ultoornil was already battling somebody.
Several corpses littered the ground. Draconic Skeletal Warriors attacked us.
Rigmor asked, “What are they?”
“I dunno. Skeletal dragon thingies?”
Ultoornil watched as we destroyed his three minions.
Then Ultoornil reanimated some of those he killed. Rigmor hit them with arrows. I chopped them up with my sword.
Rigmor yelled, “He is landing behind you!”
Ultoornil landed heavily behind me, hoping to make me fall or at least lose balance. I did neither.
Ultoornil was using cold-based attacks, as did his skeleton minions. I thought that might make him susceptible to fire.
I turned and used the Dragon Breath Shout. Dragonfire issued from my mouth and surrounded Ultoornil, who screamed in pain.
I Blinked and was instantly in front of him, slicing back and forth at great speed with my katana. The amount of damage I inflicted in a short time was far more significant than a conventional sword could do.
Arrows from Rigmor hit and penetrated Ultoornil’s hide at an impressive rate.
Ultoornil died, and I was subjected to a soul absorption once more.
I turned to Rigmor.
She asked, “Wulf, was he as weak as the others?”
“Yes, Ultoornil was as weak as the others.”
“Would he have attacked Yngol’s camp?”
“Yes. Ultootnil wanted to challenge me, so would have done what is necessary to make me fight.”
“That fire Shout was impressive.”
“You have to pick what spells and Shouts you use according to the type of dragon. He was using ice attacks, so I guessed he was susceptible to fire.”
“Come on, my Guardian. Let us head back to Yngol.”
The fight with Ultoornil was not far from the Stormcloak camp. It took twenty-three minutes from us leaving the camp to returning.
Yngol was inside his tent when we returned.
Yngol asked, “I take it the beast is dead?”
“Dragons are not beasts, and yes, we killed Ultoornil.”
“As I said before if you want a drink or something to eat, knock yourselves out.”
“I would rather just get down to business, Yngol.”
We sat at a table.
- Yngol: Hey, Rigmor! Did your father ever tell you about the war?
- Rigmor: No, he didn’t talk about it at all. I knew he had been a soldier, but I never knew anything else until his arrest. I didn’t want to believe the stuff I read about him in the books. It wasn’t the person I knew.
- Yngol: Yeah, those scumsuckers in the Imperial City changed all that. Your father was a hero, a true Nord.
- Rigmor: That is what Wulf said and that many who study war know the truth and have great respect for my dad. Jarl Balgruuf also defended Dad.
- Yngol: Our berserk army sometimes had them running even before drawing their swords. The Altmer fought with courage, and I respected them for that. But we were all betrayed by the concordat. Mede sold us out, the bastard!
- Rigmor: What was my dad really like?
- Yngol: As I said, he was a true Nord. He never broke the rules of combat and all that about war crimes! That is all dog crap and character assassination dreamed up by Imperial politicians with their noses buried in Thalmor backsides.
- Wulf: Many people on both sides of this civil war think The Empire sold them out.
- Yngol: Well, they did! But we weren’t done with the Elves, not until they rescinded their blasphemy against Talos and restored him to his rightful place.
- Rigmor: Wulf said my dad was only concerned with helping the people of Hammerfell. He never complained about the ban on Talos worship to me.
Rigmor looked across to me and could see my restraint slipping. She held my hand under the table. Yngol was full of shit. How does Baa’Ren-Dar do this diplomacy stuff without going insane?
- Yngol: Ragnar had all his captains gather together, then he said, ‘Tell the men, they can either go home to their farms or join me in Hammerfell!’. Every single man, every one of them, roared and bashed their swords against their shields. Girl, that was a sight to behold, ‘Ragnar, Ragnar, Ragnar!’ We spent a year in Hammerfell. I believe, true to my word, if we weren’t there side by side with the Redguard, Hammerfell would have fallen. The Dominion hated him for that.
- Wulf: Did you read the document?
- Yngol: Yeah, it all seems to make sense. But why should I believe all this? I’m going to look a damn fool if it’s not true. Ulfric will have me crucified.
- Rigmor: Yngol, it is true, it is! Please!
- Yngol: What if it is a pack of lies? What if it is not true?
- Wulf: You would look like a greater fool if The New Order conquered Skyrim! If you are not willing to take it to Ulfric, I will.
- Yngol: There is no need, Dragonborn. Rigmor’s word is enough. It will be an honour to fight and die by her side when the time comes.
- Rigmor: No! I didn’t mean…
I could not get out of the place quick enough. I stood, a signal that Yngol understood. Parley was over.
Yngol stood then said, “Dragonborn, go tell your man Rar Bendar, or whatever the hell his name is, that he has his army. Leave Ulfric to me.”
“It is His Imperial Highness, Emperor Titus Mede II’s army, Yngol.”
“When you see Casius that old goat, tell him I send my regards.”
Rigmor replied, “We will, Yngol.”
Yngol added, “Ask him about your father, Rigmor. He has some very tall tales to tell.”
I said, “Thank you, Yngol, until the time comes.”
“Farewell, Dragonborn, Rigmor.”
Rigmor asked, “Where next, my Guardian?”
“I will teleport just outside Breezehome then summon you. We will exit Whiterun, and I will summon the horses. Then we ride to Casius’ camp.”
Yngol asked, “What does teleport and summon mean?”
Rigmor laughed and said, “Watch.”
I did as I planned, but Rigmor didn’t say anything till we were about to mount our horses.
“Wulf, you did well and kept your temper.”
“Yngol showed compassion towards the Orsimer, so he is not a bad man. But he is so invested in Ulfric’s lies, I had to bite my tongue.”
“Bite your tongue? Another weird saying from the land of weirdos.”
“Bite down on your tongue and repeat that.”
Rigmor tried and couldn’t.
“So, that colloquialism makes sense, doesn’t it, Rigmor?”
“Yeah. Anyway, moving on from your gloating, do you think I convinced Yngol to believe the letter?”
“No. I just said Yngol isn’t a bad man. However, if he were only going to act on the letter because of you, he would be negligent and a moron.”
“What if, after we defeat The New Order, the civil war resumes?”
“I will help end it and will kill all who wear a Stormcloak uniform and oppose me, including Yngol.”
“That is what I thought, so let us hope it doesn’t come to that.”
“I deliberately killed all the bandits so that Yngol would see what he would face on the battlefield. I hope if I display the same against The New Order, many Stormcloaks will abandon Ulfric’s quest for power.”
Every Whiterun Guard we rode past greeted me as their Thane. I don’t think I could ever get used to others thinking I am somehow superior because of a noble title.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Oh, that bird is so pretty!”
“That is a male peacock. The female is rather drab looking in comparison. The male displays his feathers when he is trying to impress a female. If she likes his display, she will mate with him.”
“Does the size of the feathers make a difference?”
“Males will tell you that size doesn’t matter.”
“Only those with not much to display, my dear Dragonborn.”
A Khajiit was hiding in the tall grass. He stood and fired several arrows, which missed by a good margin.
I cut him down. When I checked the corpse, there was no assassination contract. I climbed back onto Hashire, and we continued.
Rigmor asked, “What is that elk doing?”
“Well, it looks like he has lost the velvet on his antlers. He may be trying to get them to fall off.”
“The antlers are part of an elk’s skull. They take a lot of energy to grow and, like the peacock’s feathers, are used to attract mates. A large set of antlers covered in velvet means the male is healthy and has found abundant food. They are also used for battling with other males over the right to mate. When the mating season is over, the velvet, which supplies blood and nutrients to the growing antlers, falls off. The antlers die and eventually fall off, only to be regrown three months later.”
“So once again, size is important.”
“Only to shallow females who fail to appreciate other aspects of a potential mate.”
“A dexterous tongue for instance, my dear Rigmor.”
I laughed as Rigmor turned a bright crimson.
We came upon a Thalmor patrol.
We dismounted and approached the Justiciar.
“Good morning to you, Justiciar.”
“Citizen, if you see any sign of Talos worship, it is your obligation to report them to me.”
“Justiciar, I would like to report I am a very naughty boy and worship Talos.”
The Justiciar drew his sword and prepared a spell.
Unrelenting Force ripped open his body, covering me in gore. The Justiciar’s corpse climbed high and landed with a thud a few seconds later.
I was so fascinated by the Justiciar’s ability to fly I hadn’t bothered with the two soldiers. Rigmor cut them down.
I used Magicka to clean the bits of Justiciar from me, and then we continued onwards.
As we approached a farm, we saw a short, oddly dressed man trying to get people to help with a broken wheel on his wagon. Guards walked past without helping. Merchants walked past without helping. He was not a Nord and dressed as an archaic entertainer not seen for a century. When I watched him move, I knew he was more than competent with the knives he carried. That was enough to make most people suspicious. It was enough to spark my interest.
I said to Rigmor, “The little jester needs help. So, I am going to help him!”
We dismounted and approached the strange little man.
I said, “Good morning. I am Wulf, and the young lady is Rigmor. What seems to be the problem?”
“Agh! Bother and befuddle! Stuck here! Stuck! Unmoving. My mother, my poor mother. At rest, but too still!”
“Your mother moves even though she is dead?”
“Poor Cicero is stuck. Can’t you see? I was transporting my dear, sweet mother. Well, not her. Her corpse! She’s quite dead.”
“Your accent is familiar. Have you come from Bruma?”
“Spent time in Bruma, Bravil and too much time in Cheydinal. Mother didn’t like it there. I’m taking mother to a new home, a new crypt. But … argh! Wagon wheel! Damnedest wagon wheel! It broke! Don’t you see?”
I walked around and looked. The wheel had come away from the axle, an easy fix with the right tools.
I went back to Cicero and asked, “Is there some way we can help you?”
“Oh. Oh yes! I can’t leave mother, but the kind stranger can certainly help!”
Cicero did a bizarre dance as he spoke to me.
“Go to the farm, the Loreius Farm. Just over there, off the road and talk to Loreius. He has tools! He can help me! But he won’t! He refuses! Convince Loreius to fix my wheel! Do that, and Poor Cicero will reward you. With coin! Gleamy, shiny coin!”
“We need no payment, Cicero. I am sure Loreius will fix your wheel. Tell your mother not to run off now. We will be right back.”
“But she is dead? How can she…oh, the kind stranger is a jester too!”
We started walking towards the farmhouse. Rigmor whispered, “Wulf, he is even weirder than you!”
“He is insane, and I would guess an assassin or retired assassin. Even with his weird dance, his grace and agility are evident.”
“You do that all the time, don’t you? You study people. You pick out potential threats, even in a crowd.”
“It is an essential skill when everybody and his dog is hunting you and the gorgeous young lady that you guard.”
“You will have to introduce me to this gorgeous young lady.”
“Oh, that’s right. According to Yngol, you are a child!”
“I thought you would notice he said that.”
The farmer was sitting in a chair with mead in his hand. As we approached him, he stood. I said, “Good evening, are you Farmer Loreius?”
“Oh, for the love of Mara. What now!”
“I am Wulf, and the young lady with me is Rigmor. Cicero, the jester, needs help with his wagon.”
“Hmph. Tell me something I don’t know. The crazy fool has already asked me about five times. It seems he’s not satisfied with my answer. Why can’t he just leave us alone?”
“He has gleamy, shiny coins to pay you, so what is the problem?”
“Pay me? Do you think this is about money? Have you seen the man? He is completely out of his head. A jester? Here, in Skyrim. Ain’t been a Merryman in these parts for decades, if not longer. And he’s transporting some giant box. He says it’s a coffin and that he will bury his mother. Mother my eye. He could have anything in there. War contraband. Weapons. Skooma. Ain’t no way that I’m getting involved in any kind of that.”
“Many guards patrol the road. They have not opened his box to search for contraband.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“Farmer Loreius, what is Lady Mara’s commandment?”
“What? And just who in Mara’s name are you, anyway? Hmm? Come here, telling me about my business. And for what? To help a… a… a fool!”
“Lady Mara says, ‘Live peacefully and soberly.’ Yet you stand there dealing aggression, and it seems you were enjoying mead before midday!”
“I am no drunk!”
“What is the Tenth commandment of The Nine, Farmer Loreius?”
“Dunno. Don’t care.”
“You used Lady Mara’s name before. Therefore, I assumed you believe in The Nine. The Tenth commandment is, ‘Above all else, be kind to one another.’ As for who am I? I am somebody here to remind you of what is right.”
“Look, I… I… Yes, you’re right. You’re right. Feller might be nutters, might not. But the fact is, he needs help. If I turn him away, what kind of man am I, hmm?”
“Cicero will be pleased and thankful.”
“Look, um… Thanks. And I’m sorry for my unneighbourly reaction. If you talk to Cicero, make sure to tell him I’ll be down to help soon.”
Rigmor said, “That will make your Thane pleased as well.”
“Thane?” asked Loreius.
“Wulf is your Thane,” replied Rigmor as we walked away.
We walked up to Cicero, who said, “Poor mother. Her new home seems so very far.”
I replied, “Cheer up, Cicero. I talked to Farmer Loreius, and he has agreed to fix your wagon wheel.”
“You… you did? He has?”
“I did, and he did. We both dided! Hey, look, I kidded!”
“Oh, kind stranger! You have made Cicero so happy! So jubilant and ecstatic! But more! Even more! My mother thanks you!”
“I am glad to help. Next time your mother is in Whiterun, she is welcome to drop in for a cup of tea and cake.”
“I would not become a jester kind stranger. It is a profession full of danger. If you tell the wrong joke to the wrong noble, they might hire me, not as a jester! Thank you! And thank you again!”
We mounted our horses and continued to Casius’ camp.
As we rode, I said to Rigmor, “They wanted us to change into Imperial uniforms because The Thalmor want to arrest us.”
“That is insulting! We can just ride in Yngol’s camp without being challenged, but Imperial soldiers might arrest us or allow us to be arrested?”
“Yes, it was insulting but also stupid. If we were caught wearing Imperial uniforms when we are not in The Imperial Army, we would be regarded as spies and executed.”
“Lucky you use that logic thingy.”
“The real reason I didn’t want to wear them is they were uniforms from the warmer part of Cyrodiil. You know, the ones that look like skirts.”
“Yeah, I used to laugh at them when I visited The Imperial City. Men’s thick hairy legs sticking out from under leather skirts is not a good look.”
“Did you notice the Colovian armour that Father wore? That is what the modern Imperial armour is based on.”
“Boring. What I want to know is, do the Legionnaires wear any underwear?”
For some reason, that question caused Rigmor to suffer an epic giggle attack. After a while, Rigmor would calm down, but the giggles returned if I looked at her.
Sometime later, I said, “I know what would be worn under my armour.”
“Nothing. It would all be in perfect working order.”
“Am I supposed to laugh?”
“Well, you seemed to think people’s naughty bits being uncovered was funny.”
That started another giggle fit.
We reached the Imperial camp, and it appeared they had just finished killing a rogue bear. I rode up to the legate in charge.
I dismounted then asked, “Legate Casius Varon, I assume?”
“Yes, indeed. An Imperial courier delivered a message telling me to expect Wulf, The Dragonborn.”
“The pretty young thing with you must be Rigmor.”
“Yes, she is.”
“You are under the protection of parley. But even if you weren’t, we do not allow Thalmor in our military camps. Nobody in The Legion would try and arrest The Dragonborn, and I can assure you, the last person I would arrest is Rigmor.”
“That is good to hear, Legate.”
“Come, and we shall discuss things in my tent.”
I looked at Rigmor, and she had an ear-to-ear smile. If I called her a pretty young thing, I would suffer dire consequences.
I jumped back on Hashire, and we rode slowly through the Imperial compound.
We dismounted near the command tent.
At the entrance to the tent, I said, “Legate, I need to give you these orders so we can start discussing them.”
Casius took the letter, and his eyes widened at the seal. He broke it open and slowly read the contents, with a look of surprise and then worry on his face.
He finished then said, “Come and sit. Help yourself to refreshments.”
Casius entered the tent. I stood aside and said to Rigmor, “Pretty young things before weirdos.”
“Haha, you got that right!”
We sat around a small table.
- Casius: The message changes things. Have you spoken to Yngol?
- Wulf: It might have been Yngol, or it could have been a mountain. It was hard to tell. But I did speak to it. And it did send its regards.
- Rigmor: Wulf was happy to meet somebody larger than him.
- Casius: Sends his regards? I bet he does, that old fox.
- Wulf: Why have you set this camp up so near to The Pale’s border?”
- Casius: There have been raiders crossing that border and ransacking farmsteads. I had this outpost built in an attempt to put a stop to them.
- Wulf: Yngol thinks you are planning some sort of offensive.
- Casius: Haha! Does he now? I like to cause him a few sleepless nights from time to time. But these raiders are my main concern at the moment.
- Wulf: Are they taking advantage of the war and crossing from Stormcloak territory to Imperial territory then scampering back?
- Casius: Yes. Their base of operations is Fort Dunstad.
- Wulf: Is that an Imperial fort that the Stormcloaks have not bothered manning?
- Casius: Yes, but I can’t cross over The Pale’s border to deal with them.
- Rigmor: The Jarl might regard that as an act of aggression.
- Casius: That’s right. Things could escalate very quickly.
- Wulf: Maybe we can help you?
- Casius: Are you suggesting a special operation? I like the sound of that Guardian. You would have my gratitude.
- Rigmor: We would have to get in and out quickly and leave no witnesses.
- Wulf: The Jarl would not suspect a thing. A nest of bandits being removed is never a bad thing. So there would be nothing to complain about anyway!
- Casius: Excellent! Follow me! It’s is not far from here.
Casius left the tent, jumped on his horse and rode through the encampment like a madman.
Rigmor and I decided on a more sedate pace.
Rigmor asked, “We are not doing this to make him trust us more, are we?”
“No, he has his orders, and trust is not a factor.”
“You want to get rid of some bandits.”
“I hate vermin taking advantage of the war to prey on civilians.”
“You couldn’t get two more opposite in looks.”
“A huge mountain of a bearded Nord and a well-groomed Imperial gentleman.”
“And they ended up being friends. Now they might have to fight each other.”
“Too bad about Casius’ eyesight. It must have been damaged in battle.”
“What do you mean? I didn’t notice anything wrong with his eyes.”
“How else would you explain, ‘pretty young thing’? He must be blind!”
“Wulf, you are asking for a kick in the bollocks!”
“He should have said, ‘unbelievably gorgeous woman’!”
“Was that sincere, or is it you protecting your manhood?”
“Rigmor, I love you and will not lie to you. Ever!”
“Oh, in that case, you can stop worrying about your dangly bits.”
“You are too kind.”
Casius looked behind and realised he was getting too far ahead. He adjusted his speed accordingly.
We stopped in front of Fort Dunstad just out of normal bow range.
Casius yelled, “Bandits, raiders and thieves, you have been warned to stay out of Empire territory! You have chosen to ignore the warnings, but I give you one last chance to disband and disperse!”
The bandits saw a Legate, a tall person in strange red armour and a skinny noblewoman wearing expensive armour. They were not intimidated, so the insults came thick and fast.
After listening to their nonsense, It was my turn,
“LEGATE VARON WAS MISTAKEN TO GIVE COWARDLY VERMIN A CHANCE. I AM WULF. I AM THE DRAGONBORN, AND I HATE BANDITS!”
The first two Shouts killed the loudmouths who were hurling the abuse.
I opened the gate and wiped out more bandits with a third Shout.
There were far more bandits than at the Orsimer compound.
I let them surround me, then taught them what a Swordmaster can do.
The dead lay around me.
A mage sent a Fireball my way.
I returned the favour with Unrelenting Force. He died.
I Blinked onto the ramparts and thereby surprised an archer I subsequently killed.
Another archer across the keep died as well.
Rigmor and I joined Casius out the front of the fort’s tavern.
- Casius: Now I have seen The Voice in action, I can start to believe the tales of old.
- Rigmor: Did you see when they surrounded Wulf?
- Casius: Yes, that was impressive and frightening.
- Wulf: Frightening is when you see multiple Swordmasters carve through the ranks of the enemy.
- Rigmor: I thought you were only training in Akavir?
- Wulf: What better way to learn than on a battlefield?
- Casius: Let’s check inside this tavern and make sure we got them all.
- Wulf: We didn’t. There is one bandit upstairs and three downstairs.
- Casius: Huh?
- Rigmor: Wulf can see their heat, like a dragon can.
- Wulf: I will try a Shout I haven’t used before. It could look weird to you.
- Rigmor: How weird?
- Wulf: To you, I will be a blur as I move impossibly fast. From my perspective, everybody will seem to move very slowly. I am going to slow down linear time as I perceive it.
- Rigmor: What happens if you talk?
- Wulf: Squeaky mouse time and hysterical laughter from somebody I know.
We burst through the door, and I did a Slow Time Shout.
I cut down the bandit upstairs. I was moving so fast that the bandits downstairs were only starting to react to the commotion.
Three sword strokes later, they lay slain.
A family lay murdered on the bed. There was a mother, father and young girl, and when Casius saw them, he walked away and went upstairs.
Rigmor gasped when she saw the little girl, then she wept. She watched as I performed Arkay’s Rights.
- Behold, faithful of the divines, the beauty of your transformation.
- Do not fear the journey but rejoice as the gate opens.
- Enter Aetherius with joy in your heart and a smile on your face.
- The gate opens for all mortals.
- Not riches nor rank nor power can deny this return to Aetherius.
- As you approach the gate, Aetherius will approach you.
- Do not turn from the gate as that is to reject your new life.
- Walk without fear and with dignity through the gate.
- Welcome your transformation.
- You need not fear losing your way, for he will guide you to your reward.
- Your body will decay.
- Your soul will remain safe behind the gate.
- Once the gate closes, you may never return.
- This is Arkay’s Law.
I held Rigmor, and she asked, “Why would they do this, Wulf?”
“I have no idea. Sometimes there is no answer.”
“Let’s talk to Casius. They need to be buried.”
Casius was waiting for us upstairs. He said, “Come and sit.”
Rigmor sat opposite him. I did not bother dragging over a chair and remained standing.
- Rigmor: They killed a little girl, Casius! Why was that necessary?
- Casius: Dark days, Rigmor.
- Wulf: No, Casius, this is just another regular day on Nirn. These people are victims of the civil war. Every coin they had was likely invested in this tavern. It provided a good life for a while, and the little girl was happy. Then Ulfric decided he wanted to be the High King. For years the soldiers stationed here risked their lives protecting the citizens of The Pale. Then they fled as the same citizens repaid their service with hate and bigotry! What was this family going to do? Abandon all they own? They remained hoping that the garrison would return or that the Stormcloaks would occupy the fort one day. The bandits may have killed them, but their deaths add to Ulfric’s tally.
- Casius: I will send a message to the Jarl telling him he has citizens that need burying. Anonymously, of course.
- Rigmor: Yngol said you knew my dad.
- Casius: Indeed, I learned a lot from him during the Great War. His men were unparalleled on the battlefield. We fought at the Battle of the Red Ring together. Later, in Hammerfell, he saved my life. I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday.
I wonder if Casius knows it was not Titus Mede II who led the army that day? Or what Boethia and the Thalmor general in charge of the occupying forces were planning? The truth was starting to filter despite the efforts of the Emperor to suppress it. Nobody would have known the truth if not for the courage of a rogue Moth Priest.
- Casius: Would you like to hear about that battle?
- Rigmor: Yes, please. I know so little of what my father did as a soldier.
- Casius: The end was drawing near. The battle had been raging for two days, and it was the Dominion’s final push. Their Elite Guards were at the front, with the rest of their army following behind. They thought they had the victory in their hands and sent in everything they had.
- Rigmor: I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been!
- Casius: Trumpets, conches, shields bashing, horns, tremendous noise! The Dominion arrows blotted out the sun and turned day to night as they made their way steadily up the hill. The wind blew in dark storm clouds from the east, and it began to rain. It poured as thunder rolled above our heads.
Casius’ monotone delivery conveyed the facts without the glorification a Nord would inject.
- Casius: There was a roar of one hundred thousand men as General Jonna rode down from the hill to direct the battle personally. Jonna gave the order, and the Nords charged the Altmer Elite Guards head-on. There was an almighty crashing of shields on steel armour! The Altmer frontline was shunted back ten yards by the sheer force of the Nord shield wall. They tried desperately to break through it, but the hammers and broadswords behind the wall fell on them time and time again. Still, the arrows rained down on us. Still, the rain poured down on us, but Jonna made us stand. We waited and waited. Finally, Jonna gave the signal. The Legion advanced in tight formation on the Dominion’s left flank. We inched our way forward, horns and conches sounding. The bashing of the sides of our shields drowned out the roar of the battle. When we were ten yards from them, they charged us, but our lines held, and inch by inch, we pushed them back. The clash of steel was deafening.
Where is the part where people you knew fell screaming as their insides spilt onto the ground or their brains splattered as skulls were cleaved open? Where is the part where you almost lost your footing on the blood and guts and shit? I bet that made it hard to keep your neat lines of shiny armoured rank and file! What about those pleading to their gods or mother or lover to rescue them from the unfolding nightmare?
I knew what was coming next, the joy of victory without the hollow reality of its empty meaning.
- Casius: Word swept through the ranks that Titus’ army had entered the Imperial City. TITUS, TITUS, TITUS, we roared! Then it happened…the Dominion command left the field, their army faltered and broke ranks. One hundred and fifty thousand troops fled the battlefield. They threw away their weapons, armour and anything else that would slow them down. Such was the panic. The Altmer Elite Guard stood to and died, refusing quarter offered. Your father was decorated on the field by Jonna himself.
So Casius, how were the Elite Guard offered quarter? Was a clear corridor made through the victorious Empire forces to allow them to march with dignity from the field? Or were they surrounded by a snarling wall of hate in Imperial uniform? How fucking moronic is it to glorify such a last stand when there was no strategic value in their deaths or even a need to kill them!
I kept all this bitterness and revulsion to myself and hoped Rigmor only saw a neutral expression when she glanced my way. I knew she was picturing her father in the middle of this ‘glory’, and it was not my place to sour the vision.
I know such battles, and the reality is not what Casius portrayed.
I silently prayed, “If I have to fight more of these battles, so be it. But do what you can so Rigmor never has to. For then, she would realise the truth of what her father endured.”
- Rigmor: You mentioned my dad saved your life?
- Casius: I was in the ranks when the war ended. I was planning on leaving the army and settling in northern Skyrim. I wanted to buy a mill with my army pension.
- Wulf: But you heard of the annexation of part of Hammerfell, didn’t you?
- Casius: Yes, that was a part of the White-Gold Concordat many of us could not let happen. I heard of the Resistance in Hammerfell and offered my services to the Redguard High Command.
- Wulf: Emperor Mede did all he could to support that resistance without being seen to breach the concordat.
- Casius: That is correct. He declared all serving Legionnaires who wished to join as invalids. That means they were honourable discharged. They were not forced to desert, and their families would receive a pension if they should die. It also meant they could be declared medically fit again and reenlist in the Legion later if that was their wish.
- Wulf: Are many of your men those who were able to get medically fit and reenlist suddenly?
- Casius: Yes, quite a few.
- Wulf: I am sure there are many such reenlisted men on both sides of this civil war. Forgive me for interrupting. Please continue.
- Casius: I found myself commanding a battalion, primarily volunteers. We had been attached to the Fifth Army and became stranded in the enemy-held territory when the treaty was signed.
- Wulf: So that Redguard army and Imperial Legions had been fighting Dominion Forces when the order to withdraw came?
- Casius: Yes.
- Wulf: And the Legionnaires who had been fighting beside the Redguards were simply expected to abandon their comrades?
- Casius: The bond forged with those who fight beside you can’t easily be broken.
- Wulf: Except by a megalomaniac who wants to be High King. Once again, I apologise, but I want Rigmor to have an understanding of why men like you, like her father, voluntarily returned to the horrors of war. Yngol would have her believe that Ragnar did it because of the ban on Talos worship.
- Rigmor: I told Yngoly that I know he did it to help the Redguards. Not because he had the chance to fight ‘elves’ and not because of the Talos ban.
- Casius: Your father never hated the Altmer, Rigmor. The Thalmor are a different matter.
- Rigmor: Please, continue.
- Casius: We had been ordered by the Redguard High Command to withdraw from Dominion controlled territory but found our retreat cut off. Panic started to set in, and it became a rout. The Dominion forces descended on us and began cutting us to pieces. Men, women and children.
- Rigmor: Women and children?
- Casius: Dark days, Rigmor. The baggage train was five miles long, and the rivers ran red with blood. It was a massacre! The army was scattered, and we had taken on thousands upon thousands of refugees, all running for their lives.
- Wulf: You had to cross the Brema River?
- Casius: Yes, we had to ford it to get to safety but were stranded on the bank fighting a desperate rear-guard action. It seemed there was no hope, and the despair was almost too much to bear. I was at the helm of my men. About two thousand fighting men were left trying to protect at least a hundred thousand refugees. Boats were slowly coming across, and women were throwing their babies into them. Grown men were sobbing on the bank. Some just gave up and waited to be slaughtered. The Dominion troops hacked and cleaved their way freely through the mass of bodies.
Rigmor was on the verge of tears. I, too, felt like weeping in sympathy with the fathers on the bank that day. Once again, that most precious of things, family, was taken away when it should be sacrosanct.
I felt a surge of fear when I thought of the little girl running through the wheat. No doubt, that fear will make my killing even more efficient.
- Casius: Then…then we heard it. Everything stopped. Everything went quiet. Even the children stopped crying, and the Dominion troops held their swords. All heads turned in the direction of the sound. It was like a pulsating rolling thunder as if the sky itself was being torn apart. Then we saw it. The Banner of Ragnar the Red, coming over the crest of the hill, two golden gilded longhorns on each side that sounded like the anger of the gods. The thunder was the Nords bashing their swords against their shield wall. Then came the battle cry of six thousand Berserkers as they charged into the mass of Dominion troops even though they were outnumbered three to one. There was a roar and cheer from both sides of the river. And The Berserkers slew and slew and slew. The Dominion forces routed, and oh how they ran! They were shown no mercy, and no quarter was given, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. Ragnar rallied the remaining Redguard and held the rearguard himself until every survivor safely made it to the other shore. I owe your father a debt of gratitude I could never repay.
- Rigmor: And then they blamed him for that massacre!
- Casius: Rigmor, if ever you need me to testify to clear your family’s name, I will be there in a heartbeat. You should be very proud of your father. He was greatly feared by his enemies and loved by his friends.
- Rigmor: I think I now know why he never talked about the war. And thank you, Casius, I will remember that offer.
- Casius: Now it seems things have come full circle, and total war could once again be upon us. It is such a pity that fool Ulfric appears to think it wise to pitch brother against brother, and for what, freedom from the Empire?
- Wulf: No, he uses that reason to recruit. He is simply after the title of High King. It would be a very short-lived reign for the Dominion would soon invade a weakened Tamriel. But first, we have to deal with The New Order in a way that does not undermine Skyrim or Cyrodiil.
- Casius: Hopefully, many Stormcloaks will realise that Skyrim needs the Empire. What is it they shout?
- Wulf: Skyrim is for the Nords.
- Casius: I wonder what he has in store for those poor souls who are not Nords. The Stormcloaks and the Thalmor deserve each other.
- Wulf: But the citizens of The Empire and Dominion do not deserve to die for other people’s bigotry and ambitions. Your experience at the Brema River was repeated countless times as the Nords wiped out the Falmer and as many nations wiped out the Ayleid. As I said before, these are not dark days. They are regular days on Nirn.
- Casius: Once, we all fought the same common enemy, together, side by side. The enemy of my enemy…
- Rigmor: Is my friend?
- Wulf: They are not friends. They are convenient allies against a common enemy. The differences continue to fester under the false veneer of a temporary friendship. Individual soldiers may forget their enmity when fighting together, but their leaders will stoke the hatred once more at the first opportunity.
- Casius: I will talk to Tullius and assure you he will honour any forthcoming agreement.
- Wulf: I have faith he will obey the orders of His Imperial Highness.
- Casius: Your problem will be convincing Ulfric Stormcloak. I hope Yngol can knock some sense into his thick skull.
- Rigmor: Shouldn’t we be going before any Stormcloaks turn up?
- Casius: Yes, let’s head back to camp.
When we exited the tavern, a trail of corpses showed my progress. I couldn’t see any glory amongst the deceased or in my memories.
We followed Casius back to his camp.
On the patio of his tent, Casius said, “Rigmor, before you go, I have one more thing for you. As I said, I owe your father a debt of gratitude for my life. I would like you to have this.”
Casius held out his hand, from which dangled a beautiful jet-black necklace with the darkest gems set in onyx.
Rigmor gasped, took it gently from him, then exclaimed, “Oh my, Casius, it’s beautiful!”
“It was my mother’s, and I want you to have it. Please say you will take it.”
Rigmor looked closely at the precious gift and asked, “The stones are beautiful! What are they?”
“Black diamonds? I have never seen those before.”
Casius then said something strange, “When the time comes, Rigmor, you will know what to do with them.”
Cassius wandered off to have a meal with his men. Rigmor stood transfixed by the necklace.
I walked in front of Rigmor and waited. Eventually, she noticed me and looked up.
I asked, “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah. Where are we going?”
“Riften. Baa’Ren-Dar might have the mine’s location.”
“So, the Bee and Barb again?”
“No, he is staying in Mother Cat’s temple.”
“That is the name some Khajiiti have given Lady Mara.”
“What is the name of the place we need to visit?”
“Diamond Ridge Mine.”
“Casius just handed you a necklace containing black diamonds.”
“And then he said that creepy thing about me knowing what to do with it when the time comes.”
“I think a god has been fiddling. Not one of The Divines.”
“Well, that’s disturbing.”
“Isn’t it exciting!”
Rigmor shook her head as I prepared to teleport.