Tirdas, 2nd Hearthfire, 4E 201
to Fredas, 5th Hearthfire, 4E 201
I summoned Rigmor.
“Rigmor, you look exhausted.”
“Running around and fighting has worn me down.”
“We haven’t stopped for two days. You have only had a couple of hours sleep on the carriage to Windhelm.”
“No wonder I am pooped!”
“Well, let’s hope Baa’Ren-Dar is here and our meeting is short.”
“Where will we sleep?”
“Cool. Just a while longer, eyelids, then you can rest.”
“Rigmor, you just spoke to your eyelids.”
We entered Riften.
As we headed for The Temple of Mara, a local leaning against a post demanded, “Hey, you. Get over here. I want to talk to you.”
We got over there.
- Wulf: Maybe we don’t won’t to talk to you?
- Maul: I don’t know you. Are you in Riften looking for trouble?
- Wulf: Why should I tell a turd like you why I am in Riften?
- Maul: Don’t say something you’ll regret. The last thing the Black-Briars need is some loudmouth trying to meddle in their affairs.
- Rigmor: He is The Dragonborn and has a very loud mouth. And when he speaks, others regret it just before they die.
I stepped closer, and he looked worried.
- Wulf: What is your name?
- Maul: Maul.
- Wulf: Mouthing off to strangers is a quick way to an early grave.
- Rigmor: You are an idiot, Maul.
- Maul: Oh…
- Rigmor: Lucky for you, The Dragonborn is in a good mood tonight.
- Wulf: Mavin Black-Briar is a stain on Riften who hires idiots. If she, or any of her little thugs, interferes with me, I will squash her and them like bugs. Are we clear on that, Maul?
- Maul: Uh, yeah, I understand. Sorry if I insulted you. I assure you it was unintentional.
We continued on our way.
Riften, even though an Ulfric supporting city, is not in any way racist despite some thwarted efforts to make it so. Many Khajiiti and Argonian visit or even call the place home. Just before we climbed the steps to the temple, a Khajiit vampire walked by. I wouldn’t be surprised to find she had visited Mother Cat’s temple.
We entered the temple and were directed to High Priestess Dinya by one of several Khajiit who were visiting.
I thought it was only polite to pay our respects after teleporting and hurrying out of the temple a few days earlier.
- Dinya: Good evening, Wulf and Rigmor. Lady Mara bids you welcome to Her Benevolence.
- Rigmor: How did you know our names?
- Dinya: When you appeared out of nowhere and hurried outside, a few people were startled and concerned. I asked Lady Mara, and she told me a remarkable story about two souls that repeatedly found each other over the ages. Then, earlier today, I welcomed a most pleasant guest, Emissary Bar’Ren-Dar, and discovered he is Rigmor’s step-father. It seems Lady Mara is assisting with something of importance. If I need to know more, Lady Mara will tell me.
- Wulf: The Nine often assist me with my tasks.
- Dinya: You are the Champion of The Divines. Lady Mara explained your role, and it is an honour to meet one who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the Ten Commandments.
- Wulf: I try to do so, High Priestess, but it is not an easy commitment to maintain when violence is one of your specialities.
- Dinya: The Emissary will be using the back rooms until his tasks in Riften are complete.
- Wulf: Alas, necessity cuts this meeting short. I bid you farewell, for now, High Priestess.
- Dinya: Enjoy a good journey, my children.
We made our way to the back rooms.
We found Baa’Ren-Dar sitting at a table, staring straight ahead. Now I know where Rigmor got that habit!
Another Khajiit was making a stew. The Temple of Mara was like a Khajiiti inn!
Rigmor rushed over and startled the Emissary by exclaiming, “Here we are, Baa’Ren-Dar!”
“Well met! Khajiit hopes your travels were successful.”
“Wulf can tell you about our travels. Is there somewhere I can rest for a little while?”
“Is Rigmor angry with Khajiit about keeping secret about Aedriath?”
“No, don’t think that, Baa’Ren-Dar. You did what you thought best for me as always.”
“But Khajiit was wrong.”
“As Wulf says, even gods make mistakes.”
“This one has been lent the room behind you. Lie down and rest as long as you need to.”
I followed Rigmor into the room and told her, “We are in a Temple of Mara and safe, so sleep if you need to.”
“Poor Baa’Ren-Dar thought I was angry with him.”
“You have eased his mind. Now rest, my beloved.”
I returned to Baa’Ren-Dar and sat opposite him.
“We have been busy with the truce, Baa’Ren-Dar. Rigmor has only had a few hours of sleep in the last couple of days.”
“This one is very weary, as well.”
“I can imagine.”
“Were Dragonborn and Rigmor successful?”
“Casius will take Mede’s orders to General Tullius. Yngol accepted our reassurances that the information was true and will visit Ulfric. Did you find the location for Diamond Ridge Mine?”
“This one has spoken to someone living at Shor’s Stone mining village. He has seen this mine we seek. It is high up on the border of Skyrim and High Rock. The journey there is perilous, so be warned.”
“Can you please mark it on my map?”
Baa’Ren-Dar marked my map and then returned it to me.
I looked at the map and commented, “That is quite a journey. Did the miner mention anything else?”
“He said the mine is closely guarded and that someone wants to keep its location a secret. He doesn’t know why.”
“I don’t think they want to keep its location a secret. That is impossible since people like the miner have seen and know of it. Their activities within the mine, not its location, are a secret. The New Order were brutal in their efforts to keep what they were doing at Fort Black a secret. They tortured and murdered to do so and with the flimsiest of suspicions. I suspect they may be even more paranoid at the mine. We will probably encounter many guards and soldiers.”
“Make sure you take enough supplies with you. It is unpopulated territory.”
“I am a mage, Baa’Ren-Dar, so supplies are never an issue. Plus, Lady Kynareth has placed Pillars around Skyrim that I can teleport to. There is one that will leave a relatively short horse ride from it to the mine.”
“Take good care of Rigmor. If you do find Sigunn there….”
“Rigmor’s reactions could be severe, depending on her mother’s state. Like always, I will look after her.”
Rigmor’s said from the bedroom, “Hey, I can hear you, ya know!”
I replied, “Then Baa’Ren-Dar and I will move elsewhere to talk behind you back.”
Rigmor laughed. Then she said, “Good, but I want a full report later, Dragonbum!”
Baa’Ren-Dar also laughed then suggested, “Dragonborn might walk and talk with Khajiit?”
As we headed to the exit, I advised, “We must remain within view of the door.”
“Khajiit understands. There is a bench next to it.”
We exited the temple, and Baa’Ren-Dar immediately sat on a bench and then stared into infinity. He was worried.
I sat next to him, then asked, “You wish to talk?”
“How is she holding up?”
“Rigmor is doing well, but I still worry about future meetings with Aedriath. She values the stories Yngol and Casius told her about Ragnar.”
“This one should tell you about the other side of Rigmor, the child inside.”
“I have recognised and cherish it. Please, go ahead.”
“She would sit on the veranda of my house in Torval for hours taking in the view. Sometimes she would write poetry or sing songs she had written. She loved to pick flowers in the garden. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always a joy to see her grow into a young woman.”
‘How long was she enslaved?”
“About six months.”
“I have never seen a better exponent of the greatsword.”
“Ragnar taught her all he could. Then this one paid for expensive tutors to teach more skills at Rigmor’s request.”
“Please, tell me more about the younger Rigmor.”
“Rigmor had the most beautiful hair and loved dressing up, and Khajiit would send for the best dresses coin could buy. Imported from all over Nirn.”
“But not those Morrowind dresses?”
“No, it seems there is a special arrangement with the market in Riften.”
“Did she only like red dresses?”
“Rigmor enjoyed dresses of many colours, but she especially liked them in red.”
“Then something has changed Baa’Ren-Dar. I offered to buy her a red dress from Morrowind at the market here, but she declined. She thought she was too ugly to wear one.”
“Yet, you decided to purchase one with Khajiit’s help.”
“Yes. I did not think Rigmor would listen if I argued with her. I thought if I bought her a dress and she agreed to wear it, she would realise she was wrong and is beautiful.”
“Good strategy, Dragonborn. When Rigmor came of age…she changed.”
“The Thalmor and New Order would still have hunted her down if she was a dainty young noblewoman. Rigmor knew she could not stay in Torval forever and needed to find her mother. I believe the skills and determination she developed saved her life.”
“Dragonborn… there is a place this one knows of, not far from Ivarstead. It’s a little overlook, and a camp Khajiit passed by in his travels. There, the mountain flowers grow in abundance. The view from the overlook is spectacular. You can see down into the valley and to the Sea of Ghosts. Rigmor would love this place, making her very happy.”
“The first time I saw Rigmor standing after her cliff plunge, she was busy picking red mountain flowers. When we went to Fort Black, we climbed a rickety old structure to look over a valley during a blizzard. Although she complained about the many steps, Rigmor loved the views as we climbed to High Hrothgar. Rigmor shows great delight in these things, so I am sure she will like the place you describe.”
“Would you make this old Khajiit happy and take her there? Who knows what the gods have in store for you both? Who knows if they plan to take her away from me? Let her find peace if only for a short time.”
“Let me lighten your heart. Rigmor and I have enjoyed numerous special moments over the last couple of weeks. We have had to fight many battles and have seen terrible things. But we always try to have a good laugh and find beauty in the world. Every night I sit with her while she sleeps. You saw at Angi’s that she is enveloped in a special peace because of my presence. I find peace in hers. She has enjoyed life despite the dangers and stresses. I will take her to this lookout because she will like it, making us smile. I will take her there because her father asked me to, and I want to make him smile.”
I handed Baa’Ren-Dar my map. He marked the location of the lookout and handed it back.
Baa’Ren-Dar continued, “Thank you, Dragonborn. This one can see both of you have feelings for each other. Although Rigmor can be strong, she can also be fragile. Would it be impertinent for this old Khajiit to ask what you plan to do about these feelings?”
“I told you there is love. But it is more than that, for we are only complete when together. We are figuring it out, Baa’Ren-Dar. If we remove the danger of The New Order and find Sigunn, then maybe Rigmor can return to a normal life. She can look forward to long hair and fine dresses once more. She will never be safe with me and could never have a normal life with me. I am going to be risking my life over and over. But you were right the other day, and I must let Rigmor decide.”
“Confusion is dangerous. One way or the other, this must be resolved.”
“Our love for each other is not in question. But it is hard to make decisions when new things appear each day that change the equation. For instance, I now know I will have to travel to Solstheim soon. It is complex, Baa’Ren-Dar.”
Baa’Ren-Dar stood and headed for the entrance to the temple.
He said, “Riften is such a beautiful city, don’t you think? The gods guide you and keep you from harm.”
I laughed, and the old Khajiit asked, “This one said something funny?”
“The Divines do guide me and will continue to send me into danger. That will be my existence Baa’Ren-Dar. Soon I have to fight the World Eater! No, they are not going to keep me from harm.”
As we walked through the temple, I wondered if Baa’Ren-Dar had been warned by one of Azura’s seers of more than he told me?
Rigmor was out of bed and sitting at the table.
As Baa’Ren-Dar passed her, he said, “Please excuse me, my child. This one is very weary from his travels.”
The old Khajiit entered the bedroom and closed the door. Maybe he is not as robust as I thought, although I have no idea how he travels the distances he covers.
I sat at the table and looked closely at my beloved.
I asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Tired. Very tired.”
“I can see that. You need a good eight hours of rest.”
“What did Baa’Ren-Day have to say.”
“He has marked Diamond Ridge Mine on my map. The mine is not far past that camp Lydia took us to. Kynareth has a pillar near where we found Mr Bear. I can teleport to the pillar, then summon the horses, and we ride.”
“Thank goodness! I was worried he would say he could not find it.”
“I wonder how many people he asked? He received the information needed from a miner in that ‘cute’ village.”
“So, where is my report? What did you discuss behind my back?”
“Well, you were facing the same way as us, so you were behind our backs.”
“Ha de haha. Very funny. I am not too tired to kick you under the table!”
“Bar’Ren-Dar is worried about you. He is scared for his child’s physical and emotional safety.”
“What do you mean emotional safety?”
“If we find Sigunn, what will be her condition? And before you get angry, it is a reasonable concern.”
“I understand. Baa’Ren-Dar must think the place is dangerous and if we find my mum and they have hurt her…I don’t know how I would cope.”
“Whatever we find, I will be with you.”
“No matter what we find at Diamond Ridge, I feel like it’s finally coming to an end. Whether my mum is alive or not, I can at least find closure and maybe get on with my life.”
“What would you do?”
“I don’t know. If mum is alive, go back to Torval, maybe? At least we would be safe there. If not Torval, maybe find somewhere else that is peaceful? I mean, you would be with me, right? We’ve done just about everything we can to help with the conspiracy. If there is a war, let the armies sort it out.”
“Rigmor, you know I can’t walk away. I have to defend the people of Skyrim. I have to wade into battle and kill because that is the only way I can make sure there is less killing! I must confront Alduin. I must deal with this other Dragonborn in Solstheim. Who knows what shit The Divines will throw at me! I will take you where you want to call home, but I have to come back here.”
“What if I wanted to stay with you? What if I did not care about the dangers and the crap the gods throw our way?”
“That would be a marvellous choice in the short term! But what if there is no end to the danger? What if we can’t just relax and lead some resemblance of a normal life? Would you want that? I couldn’t ask you to do that!”
“You wouldn’t be asking, my silly Dragonborn. It would be my choice.”
“Yes, it would be your choice. Baa’Ren-Dar and I agreed on that.”
“You wouldn’t ask me to stay, would you, no matter how much you wanted me to?”
“I have plenty of friends to fight beside me now and in the future. However, I know there will be great darkness in my life. I will see and deal with evil in all its forms. I will kill and add to my library of death. Without you to help balance me, I would hide inside my Dovah. That façade will be me, not the Wulf you love.”
“You said you fought in battles. Is that the darkness you worry about?”
“War is upsetting, but I can understand it. The darkness I fear is a family who owned a tavern and was butchered for no discernible reason. Multiply that many times over. Senseless slaughter in the name of greed or because some god told them to.”
“Wulf, I want to marry and have children. I could never do that with another. We don’t know what the future holds, but surely, we can fit that in? I would be the wife of a soldier fighting a war for all of us. You will undoubtedly have estates to run, and I could use skills not involving a sword.”
“There are too many unknowns, Rigmor. At the moment, we are getting dragged along by circumstance. I don’t know what is next in the queue of problems to be resolved. Perhaps we may get some time to think this through, but at the moment, we have to concentrate on staying alive.”
“Come on then, my Guardian. Let’s get a good night’s sleep and then rescue my mum.”
“We will be visiting a special place before heading for the mine. Only for a short while.”
“Why and where is it?”
“Not far from Ivarstead, we are going there because Baa’Ren-Dar wanted his child to see it.”
“Cool! Now take me to Angi’s, shoe pooh!”
“Yes, Lady Ramsbottom.”
I teleported to Angi’s camp then summoned Rigmor. She looked dead on her feet!
“Lydia, I will need you and Celestine sometime tomorrow. Probably one or two in the afternoon.”
“Are you going to find Rigmor’s mother?”
“Yes, and I think we will face many more New Order than at the harbour.”
“Okay, we shall swap places with a couple of Blades and will be waiting at the Safe House. We will be armed and armoured ready for your summons.”
“Good. If I don’t get Rigmor to bed, she will fall asleep and faceplant into the snow.”
“Is the truce going to happen?”
“We will have to wait for Ulfric’s response, but I think he will see the need.”
We entered the tent then Rigmor murmured a few unintelligible words before collapsing on her bed.
By the time I sat next to her, she was asleep.
I joined her in slumber soon after.
We awoke, had a hearty breakfast and were ready to leave.
- Rigmor: We are off again, Sorella.
- Sorella: What ya doing now?
- Rigmor: We are going to find and rescue my mother.
- Sorella: From bad guys?
- Rigmor: Yes. Her name is Sigunn, and the bad guys have enslaved her for four years.
- Sorella: Does enslaved mean you have to do work and not get paid, and you can’t leave and go home?
- Rigmor: Yeah, that is what it is.
- Sorella: Lydia told Meeko and me many stories about her and Bjorn. She laughed and cried, and I cuddled her, which helped with the grieving.
- Wulf: I am sure it did, Sorella.
- Sorella: Lydia said Vayu will be one of the guards today. He is always happy, but Angi keeps telling him off for not wearing clothes, but he does. Just not at the top.
- Wulf: Vayu has magic on his armour, so he doesn’t feel the cold.
- Sorella: His tattoo is so cool. It glows and then doesn’t glow and then glows again.
- Rigmor: We will be back soon. We might even be able to stay and talk for more than a minute!
- Sorella: That would be cool as well!
We said a quick goodbye to Lydia.
- Lydia: You are looking a bit livelier this morning, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: I feel a bit livelier!
- Lydia: I hope we find your mother. If she is half as stubborn as you, four years enslaved will harden her, not break her.
- Rigmor: I hope so. I don’t know what I would do if they killed her or hurt her badly.
- Wulf: We will deal with whatever we find. But we must be careful if there are other enslaved people.
- Rigmor: Of course.
- Wulf: Ready, Lady Ramsbottom?
- Rigmor: Yes, now stop dawdling!
I teleported to Ivarstead then summoned Rigmor. When I summoned the horses, Hashire was grey with a different saddle.
Rigmor asked, “Why has Hashire changed?”
“I let him pick and choose as long as he doesn’t wear armour and isn’t in unicorn form. He is also not allowed to change if we leave him at one of the stables. Hashire thinks it is funny when the groomsman or stableboy goes to fetch my horse. They come back panicking because they think it has been stolen. Then Hashire changes back, so when we look at the crime scene, he is found standing there with a stupid grin.”
I spoke telepathically to Hashire, “The red dress better be in that box!”
“It is. I know it’s important for your mating ritual, and success is badly needed.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You and Rigmor have been like a willing mare and stallion separated by an invisible barrier. It can’t be good for you to be so frustrated.”
“We are tempering our desires with necessary caution. Something you would not understand.”
“Yeah, what would a mystical being who has lived thousands of years know about anything? I shall revert to dumb horse mode just for you. Neigh.”
Rigmor must have guessed I was talking to Hashire and asked, “Oh, he hasn’t forgotten the never-ending ale, has he?”
“No, Rigmor, nothing as devastating as that.”
As we rode past a waterfall, I said, “It would be hard to choose between this area or near Riverwood to build a farm.”
“It is pretty. You want a fast river and waterfall to remind you of your childhood home.”
“Yes. Would you want snow and ice to remind you of Bruma?”
“No, and I wouldn’t want the heat of Torval either. I think the area around Riften, near the lake, would be lovely, but I haven’t seen much of it.”
“You might get to see Skyrim at a leisurely pace once The New Order, Civil War and dragons are taken care of.”
“So, next week then?”
“Yeah, easy peasy.”
“Easy peasy. It means really easy.”
“So peasy was invented because a word rhyming with easy was needed.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
“And peasy doesn’t mean anything without easy before it?”
“It is childish. Are you a giant child?”
“Did I tell you Baa’Ren-Dar got his information from somebody in the widdle cute townie wownie?”
“Cute, wriggly arse.”
“Yes, I admit it. I admired your bottom! Lock me away for being normal.”
“So, you noticed the hip wriggle?”
“It was okay, but I think you need to practice more. I can be your trainer!”
“Yeah, right. Pffft!”
Further along, I said, “We have to cross the river just before the next waterfall.”
“Can you see them, Wulf? Two baby trolls!”
“Yes, we can stop here briefly so you can get gushy over them. Kyne’s Peace is in effect.”
We rode closer, but the trolls were so busy playing that they took no notice.
Rigmor remarked, “They’re boring, and I can’t say they are cute.”
“What? A town can be cute but not baby trolls?”
“It is a matter of taste, Dragonbum. Since you don’t have any, you fail to understand.”
“Yes, I have been told my taste in women is atrocious.”
“How much further? I would like to see this place before you get badly injured.”
As we crossed the river, I warned Rigmor, “Don’t fall into the water here. I would have to catch a boat to Akavir to find you.”
“Wulf, look at the size of that waterfall! Wouldn’t you like to jump and see how deep down you go before bobbing back up?”
“One day, you and I are going to do that. I will pay one of Baa’Ren-Dar’s seers to make it an official premonition.”
“Premonitions are only a possible outcome.”
“The trouble with your logic, my dear Guardian, is it gets in the way of fun and adventure. Let’s agree that you, Wulf Septim, will leap off a cliff, waterfall or not, into a body of water with me one day.”
“And the purpose of this leap would be?”
“To please me, your beloved.”
“Will we jump together?”
“Of course not! When I said with me, I meant that you are my Guardian and, therefore, logically, you leap in first. If you don’t go splat and float to the surface face down and surrounded by blood, I will know it is safe.”
“I can’t fault that logic.”
“I know. Clever me!”
A narrow trail vanished under dense grass. I took a guess and headed for the highest place nearby. Where else would you put a lookout?
We rode slowly, and a small camp came into view. Rigmor asked, “What is this place?”
We left the horses unhitched, and they happily found plenty of lush greenery to eat.
“This, my dear Rigmor, is the place Baa’Ren-Dar thinks you will like. It is sunny, so we can probably see The Sea of Ghosts from the observation platform.”
As we walked towards the observation platform, Rigmor exclaimed, “Look at all the red mountain flowers!”
“A place with your three favourite things. A view, red mountain flowers and me!”
“Yeah, right. Pfft.”
Rigmor was delighted, and her mood was light. She laughed and commented on many highlights of the magnificent view.
Then she gasped, pointed and asked, “Is that the giant statue of Azura near Winterhold?”
I stood behind Rigmor and looked to wear she was pointing.
Then I moved closer to Rigmor and used Zoom-Vision. I was aware of her body heat as I whispered, close to her ear, “Yes, it is. Amazingly, we can see that far. The weather is just perfect. A bit more moisture, less sunshine, and you wouldn’t have spotted that.”
Rigmor shuddered, “Stand beside me, Wulf, and give me your hand before it starts roaming!”
I did as I was instructed, Rigmor not realising she held my right hand, leaving my left wondering where it should place itself.
I decided to enjoy the view with Rigmor and not risk spoiling the moment and bodily harm.
We stood for several minutes as Rigmor asked questions about specific towns, forts and ruins that could be seen.
When she ran out of questions, I told Rigmor, “I have a surprise for you. But you have to do as I say and not spoil it.”
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you what it was, now would it?”
“Okay, what do I have to do?”
“You have to promise me you will keep looking at the view till I tell you to turn around.”
“Okay, I promise.”
“I will be back shortly with the surprise. Remember, don’t turn around till I tell you.”
“Okay, I get it. It had better not be a Sweet Roll!”
I walked briskly back to Hashire and retrieved the dress.
Hashire remarked, “Body temperature and respiration are elevated. Pupils are enlarged and probably other parts as well. What sordid things would I see if I could bypass your mind block?”
“Dumb horse mode, remember?”
I returned to the lookout. Rigmor was looking at the view.
I stood close to Rigmor, then said, “Don’t turn around yet. Do you want some clues?”
“If it amuses you.”
“I could just give this wonderful surprise to somebody else.”
“Okay, okay, give me the clues.”
“The first clue is: You will have to remove your clothes to enjoy it.”
“The second clue is: I have wanted to show it to you for ages.”
“I bet you have, you weirdo!”
“The Third and last clue is: It might be too big. It might be a tight fit. It will certainly give you pleasure!”
“That is disgusting! If you are naked or certain parts of your anatomy are showing, I will never speak to you again!”
“As if I would flash my naked body like a Nordling at some hot springs! You can turn around now.”
Rigmor turned around with an angry scowl that turned to utter amazement. I held the dress out and said, “Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, my beloved, may I gift you this red dress from Morrowind.”
“The dress! You bought me that dress!”
“Yes, the first time we visited Riften together, I snuck out of the Bee and Barb and purchased it. I hope you like it.”
“Wulf, it’s beautiful!”
‘It will be even more beautiful with a Rigmor inside it.”
“Should I try it on? Here?”
“You might give people below a shock if they looked up. Maybe you should put it on behind some bushes?”
“Hahaha. Don’t you try and sneak a peek!”
“Okay, but don’t you undress well before the bushes and wiggle your hips.”
Rigmor giggled as she walked away, saying, “I am always giving you a hard time, aren’t I?”
Rigmor has become adept at removing her armour. I could hear only a bit of cursing as she fought with the various straps and buckles.
I asked, “Do you need help undressing?”
“Do you want to end up gelded like Ren?”
“I was only offering assistance like a gentleman.”
“Yeah, right. Pffft!”
After fifteen minutes of rustling, Rigmor announced, “Okay, here I come!”
I watched Rigmor emerge. She was barefooted and wore no wig, yet she took my breath away. Yes, I had seen her in beautiful, feminine underwear, but this was different. Standing before me was the woman I loved wearing what she deserved and enjoyed, and she looked stunning.
And that is what I told her, “Rigmor, with all sincerity, you look stunning!”
“No, I don’t. I Iook like a, I dunno, an ugly rock demon.”
“Wow, then a good-looking rock demon must be the most beautiful creature ever!”
“I make the dress look ugly.”
“No, Rigmor, the dress is trying hard to match your beauty! Hair, no hair. Armour, dress, naked or nightclothes. Whether washed or grubby. It makes no difference to these eyes and this heart. I am nothing but honest with you. I am not lying about this.”
“But my hair?”
“As I just said, that makes no difference. Beauty is a sum of the body, mind and soul. You can grow your hair back. Shallow women that some find attractive can’t suddenly grow empathy, courage and your remarkable ability to see the beauty in the world around you. You, my beloved Rigmor, are beautiful!”
“Baa’Ren-Dar told me you used to love wearing pretty dresses. You had the same scars, the same inner demons back then. It is not the hair, is it? You chose to cut your hair as a sign of renewal. Nor is it the scars. You worry that a man you have feelings for could not possibly find you beautiful. I know those doubts. How could the woman I love find a killer who is part dragon anything but ugly? Especially since she has not seen me in anything but armour and bristling with weapons?”
Rigmor looked down. She didn’t want her face to betray the truth.
I said, “That dress suits you. Don’t you like it?”
Rigmor looked up, “Haha. I love it. This whole thing is crazy! No one gives me presents.”
“If I gave you a kingdom, it would not compare to what you have given me.”
“I will sit down and watch you run around like a young Rigmor in Torval.”
“I don’t know about running but thank you. Thank you for being you.”
I sat, and I watched, and I absorbed. Every moment was seared into my memory. If we find Sigunn and Rigmor decides to leave, these memories might be all I have in the dark times to come.
After Rigmor finished murdering flowers, she sat on a stump.
I walked over to her.
“I can imagine Baa’Ren-Dar watching his child wander around his gardens with a smile on his face. It must have been difficult as you moved into womanhood. I suppose all fathers watch that transition full of worry about the future.”
“He probably thought I was going to my death when I left Torval for Bruma. He knew I had to get revenge and find my mother. He did not try and stop me.”
“It brought a smile to my face watching you enjoy something simple. I told Baa’Ren-Dar that you were picking flowers the first time I saw you on your feet.”
“Yeah! I’m glad I came here.”
Rigmor stood and smiled, and I wondered if anybody could love somebody more than I loved her.
Then there came a sudden transition. Worry took over from joy.
I asked, “What are you thinking?”
“I’m a bit scared, I guess. It’s been a long time, and I wonder if Mum will even know who I am?”
“I think your face has been in her dreams every night of captivity. Sigunn will recognise you. She probably replays favourite memories repeatedly and recalls entire conversations word for word.
“You have never promised to find her alive or rescue her.”
“I have been more positive that we will find her, haven’t I? But I try not to make promises about something out of my control. All I can do is promise to be there for you.”
“She was a schoolteacher, you know? Back then, before all this. She taught me how to read and write. I studied fine art, poetry and song because my dad insisted that I learn these things alongside my combat training. It was befitting a noble child, you see. We even had a family crest.”
“Yours was true nobility. Earned via service to others and not inherited.”
“They cast us down after the arrest. We lost everything.”
“You were born Lady Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, daughter of Ser Ragnar Fjonasson and Lady Sigunn Frostreaver. They can’t erase that fact! You know the truth of what your father did, and they can’t steal that truth from you! They tried to take everything but have failed miserably. You can still laugh and makes others laugh. You can still see beauty when they have tried hard to hide it with darkness. To restore your family’s name and titles would be the ultimate victory and something we will pursue. Casius offered his help, remember?”
“I have written a song for you. Would you like to hear it?”
“I am honoured you did that and would love to hear it.”
“Bear with me. I have to do this right. One second…”
Rigmor cleared her throat, and then a voice, beautiful but, like its owner, unsure of its beauty, sang.
- There is a small child, lost in the dark. In my dreams, she’s still there.
Rigmor’s voice faltered, then stopped. She then said, ‘I’m sorry, I… wait!”
As if she was a young girl singing in front of her tutor or tutors, Rigmor put her hands behind her back, stood upright, and sang.
- There is a small child lost in the dark. In my dreams, she’s still there.
- She has fallen, and she waits. Will someone come? Might someone care?
- Her heart, she’ll give you, her love be true. Where’s her Dragonborn, to save her, to never let her go?
I whispered, with my voice cracking, “That was wonderful. I don’t lie to you, Rigmor. I won’t ever lie to you. It was beautiful and very precious to me, and I thank you.”
“I am pleased you like it, really, I….”
I moved close and took Rigmor’s hands in mine.
Rigmor whispered, “Wulf, I love you so much that it scares me.”
“Then let me ease your fears.”
I picked Rigmor up and tilted my head, hoping she would take the initiative so that my fears were eased.
Rigmor leaned down and kissed me, and nothing mattered anymore but us.
I started to kiss Rigmor between her breasts.
She sighed then said, “No, Wulf. Not here. It has to be somewhere where we can take it slow and not worry.”
I replied, “Yes, and a place where pervy horses aren’t watching!”
Rigmor laughed, and then it was her turn to lean back and invite me to make a move.
The second kiss was just as intense. And I found my hand wandering.
Rigmor giggled then said, “Wulf, please take your hand off my rear end. If you continue, we may lose control and end up naked!”
“Oh, ah…sorry. I was just checking for splinters from the stump.”
“Yeah, sure. Mmm, it seems you don’t have control over other parts either.”
“Just hold me, my Guardian.”
As I held Rigmor, she stroked my hair and said, “No matter what happens, Wulf, I will always be there for you. I want us to experience life together, no matter the dangers or difficulties. I don’t need to wait any longer to be certain of that.”
“I don’t know what to say, Rigmor. It is what I want, but is it right?”
“Shush, it is right because I say so. It seems you still need more training.”
I placed Rigmor back onto her feet and kissed her hand.
I reluctantly said, “You had better get your armour on so we can go find Sigunn. I will have another look at the view and try to clear my mind.”
“Yes, I think you have a hard…ah…decision to make!”
Rigmor ran off into the bushes laughing, and I headed for the observation platform.
About twenty minutes later, I heard Rigmor approaching. I turned and smiled.
Rigmor asked, “Where now, my Guardian?”
“I will teleport to Kynareth’s Pillar then summon you and the horses. We will then head for the camp Lydia took us to. That is close to the mine. I assume there will be a trail leading to it.”
“Okay. What about Celestine and Lydia?”
“I will summon them when I think we may start to encounter the enemy.”
I teleported to the pillar. There are many pillars placed all over Skyrim, and I know how to teleport to each one. That knowledge is another gift from Lady Kynareth.
I summoned Rigmor.
“Wulf, there is that creepy castle again!”
“I bet its inhabitants are even creepier. Come on then. I am eager to make The New Order regret the day they pissed off Rigmor and her Guardian.”
It didn’t take long to find the trail over the mountain.
We were getting too far ahead of Ren and Rigmor.
“Hashire, wait for them to catch up. Ren is not a unicorn!”
“Ren is quite a remarkable horse. Rigmor should be proud of him.”
“She is very proud of him and named him after her step-father.”
“You have never asked my name’s meaning or where it originated.”
“Okay, Hashire, can you please tell me the origin and meaning of your name?”
“No, Wulf, because I have no idea.”
“I have heard rumours of another unicorn running wild in Skyrim. Perhaps I can find that one and sell you to a knackery?”
“If there is another unicorn, we need to find them before somebody less pleasant does.”
“When we get the time, I promise we shall try.”
Ren scrambled over the rocks slower than Hashire but just as sure-footed.
We reached the valley and saw a pilgrim or monk standing at the cairn. Their back was to us, so I could not use Zoom-Vision to try and identify who or what they were.
We rode closer, dismounted and approached the stranger.
The stranger turned toward us. It was Tendril Sethri, the thief from Windhelm.
I said, “Rigmor, stay behind me.”
“Okay. I don’t trust him either!”
I asked Sethri, “What are you doing here?”
“Well met, Dragonborn. Fear not. All is about to be revealed.”
“I don’t fear anything, apart from blood-sucking leeches. I hate those things! I am not one for mumbo jumbo, Tendril. You had better tell me in clear and precise Tamrielic words, who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I am merely a messenger and have been sent to guide you.”
“I have a map, and it doesn’t speak nonsense. Who sent you on this wasted trip to provide unwanted and unnecessary guidance?”
“As I said, all will be revealed, but I must speak with Rigmor.”
I turned to Rigmor.
I said loud enough for the thief to hear, “We might as well let him say what he came to say. But if he so much as twitches wrong, I will kill him.”
I stepped away but kept my hand on my sword.
- Sethri: Rigmor of Bruma, Child of the Twilight.
- Rigmor: I’m sorry, but who did you say I am?”
- Sethri: Take heed. This chapter is coming to a close, and what you seek is not far from here. But what is sought is the same as what you will find at Diamond Ridge. You must follow the cairns at dusk or dawn. They will light the way to the heart of a mother’s love and your final destination.
- Rigmor: Wait, how did you know about…?
- Sethri: Makes haste, child. Time is running out!
- Wulf: If time is running out, you should have spoken plain Tamrielic, you fool! It is midday, and waiting till dusk is a waste of six hours when you told us to make haste.
- Sethri: I say as instructed, Dragonborn. If I deviate from the script, I might get something wrong. Follow the cairns, and they will lead you to the mines. Simple!
- Wulf: It is evident with the mumbo jumbo about dusk, dawn and twilight that you are a devotee of Lady Azura. Or you are pretending to be. Rigmor, now we know who is meddling.
- Rigmor: Casius’ weird message!
- Wulf: Yes, and Lady Azura is harmless if you don’t prove she isn’t omnipotent. She has helped save Nirn several times via her mortal champions.
- Rigmor: And Baa’Ren-Dar worships her.
- Wulf: Okay, Sethri, what else will we find apart from the mines?
- Sethri: Rigmor will find her destiny.
- Wulf: Bollocks! Cobblers! Balderdash! Undiluted bullshit!
- Rigmor: If you can’t tell, Wulf is not a fan of predetermined destiny.
- Wulf: Predetermined destiny implies mortal free will is worthless, and events are unavoidable. However, that is a discussion for another day.
Sethri headed towards the steps leading to the tent.
Rigmor asked, “Do you trust him?”
“I trust Azura, and if I were sure he is a disciple, I would trust him. But we don’t know who he is, so we must be cautious.”
“And the follow the cairns crap?”
“We shall climb towards the mine till we see one. The cairns shouldn’t be hard to follow in this bright sunshine.”
“What has Azura got to do with The New Order?”
“I don’t know, but I have said that something is hidden from us. There is an element of The New Order’s plans we have yet to uncover. If it involves Daedric Princes, it becomes far more complicated than battles and soldiers. The New Order might be a danger to all of Nirn, not just Tamriel.”
“Why haven’t The Divines warned you about this?”
“The Nine cannot see into Oblivion. There are thousands of realms there, meaning thousands of powerful beings whose actions are hidden from them. It is not just the Dark Lords who can cause a problem from Oblivion.”
“And The Divines rely on their mortal agents to discover and counter any plans made in Oblivion?”
“Yep, that’s precisely how it works.”
“Would you ever have to enter Oblivion?”
“Almost certainly. It is not as uncommon as people think. Depending on whose realm it is, it might be horrific or beautiful. I have heard that Moonshadow, Azura’s realm, is very pretty.”
We mounted our horses and headed directly towards the mine entrance. That involved steep climbs, and a cairn came into view as I predicted.
We would get ahead of Rigmor and Ren then wait for them. Ren had no difficulty with the terrain.
We turned a corner and were confronted by a large and vandalised, Shrine of Azura.
I asked Rigmor, “Are you ready for more gobblygook?”
“What is this place? What happened here?”
“It was a major Shrine to Azura. Not as big as the one near Winterhold but impressive nonetheless. It would have taken a lot of effort to desecrate it to this extent.”
“I can only speculate. Azura has her enemies amongst the Daedric Princes. Let’s get closer and see if there are any clues as to who did it and why.”
“Wulf, this is scary!”
“You have nothing to fear from Azura. Just don’t believe everything she says.”
“Does she lie?”
“All gods can lie. Azura is a god that likes mumbo jumbo and, within it, makes claims of dubious honesty. But like all Daedric Princes, it is sacrosanct when she gives her word.”
We walked toward the shrine. Tears seemed to stream from Azura’s eyes.
As we were pretty close to the desecrated shrine, I felt a probe at my mind’s barrier. I did not think Azura meant me harm, but nobody is allowed in except those I chose.
At the bottom of the steps, Azura spoke with a voice that seemed to surround us. It was not loud, but it was impossible to ignore.
- Azura: Rigmor, my child, come closer and place your hands on the altar so I can join with you and touch your soul.
- Rigmor: Wulf?
- Azura: Trust her, Rigmor.
Rigmor climbed the steps and stood before the altar.
I stood to her right and just behind as this was Rigmor’s moment, not mine. She tentatively placed her hands on the altar then took them away quickly.
- Azura: Ahh! Yes, my wonderful, beautiful child. Daughter of Azura.
- Rigmor: I… I don’t understand what…?
- Azura: Ever since you were born, I have watched over you. I have influenced the destinies of many and entwined them to bring you here to this moment.
- Rigmor: But why me? I didn’t ask for any of this! I’m scared.
Rigmor looked up into Azura’s face.
- Azura: Don’t cry, my child. Don’t be afraid. My Guardian has helped protect you well, but mortal danger awaits both of you at Diamond Ridge. The forces of darkness conspire to wreak havoc at the behest of a usurper. From Oblivion comes a new danger. One who seeks to reside in the world of mortals. The entity has not shown itself yet! But it cannot enter this world until a new order exists.
- Rigmor: But surely you have powers! What could I possibly do?
- Azura: Oh Rigmor, pure of heart, you have something special. A power no lords or gods could ever hope to wish for. You are blessed with a mother’s love! Until now, I have used all my powers to thwart the forces of darkness and weaken their intentions. I have shielded you from harm, shrouded you in my robes and delivered you from the abyss. But now, my powers are weakening. I will eventually fade into the void.
- Rigmor: But why?
- Azura: Black arts are being used by necromancers to fuse Daedric steel with Black Diamonds. They are attempting to forge weapons and armour from these diamonds. The armour they forge will make them invincible. The diamonds allow a connection between my plane and yours.
- Rigmor: Then everything will have been for nothing! How can we hope to stop an invincible army? There is a way, right? Is that why I am here?
Azura was telling outright lies, for she has never aided Rigmor! I am not Azura’s Guardian sent to protect Rigmor. Azura may have manipulated a few people, Casius for one, but has not entwined mortals to such an extent.
- Azura: They are successfully forging armour, and every time they do, it weakens me in this world. But they cannot forge the weapons! Their efforts won’t work, and they are at a loss as to why.
- Rigmor: So, there is still hope!
- Azura: Only a Daedric weapon forged from my diamonds can void their invincibility. And it can only do so if the diamonds have something extraordinary, the essence of a mother’s love from two sources wrought from bane. Once source to fuse it, one source to wield it, and both must be blessed.
- Rigmor: A mother’s love?
- Azura: Place your mother’s ring and the necklace Casius Varon gave you on the altar.
Rigmor did as requested.
- Azura: Now place your sword upon the altar.
- Rigmor: OF COURSE!
What a load of bullshit! Azura was trying to manipulate Rigmor, but I decided to see how it played out and not interfere. I will prostrate before the altar if my sword can’t penetrate their ‘invincible’ armour and beg forgiveness for doubting.
The essence of a mother’s love? I almost burst out laughing at the absurdity. Love is intangible, not an object that can be refined or distilled. It is undoubtedly a powerful force.
A bright light enveloped the three objects.
Azura’s avatar floated above the objects and chanted,
- I am the Goddess, Azura, Mother of the Rose, Queen of the Night Sky, The Dusk and Dawn.
- Behold Rigmor of Bruma, Protector of the Pure of Heart, Daughter of a Mother’s Love.
- I am the Bane of Azura, the Poisoned Chalice of Woe, Vanquisher of the Forces of Evil.
- Behold Rigmor of Bruma, Child of the Twilight, The Chosen Champion of Azura.
Azura finished her chant, and the light faded. A new two-handed sword lay upon the altar. It was a fusion of the three donated items. Along its length are Daedric runes matching the chant just delivered.
- Azura: Go my child, go quickly and smite the Forces of Evil with my blessing. Only my Champion can wield Azura’s Bane. Make sure it never leaves your side. Go with my blessing and love, and may the Guardian watch over you.
- Rigmor: Wait…do not go!
- Azura: Your destiny awaits, my love. Your mother is waiting.
- Rigmor: AZURA!
There was no reply.
Rigmor picked up Azura’s Bane. She did some sword forms and laughed as she did so. Then she sheathed her new sword, pleased with its balance.
I said, “They are two impressive titles. Daughter of Azura and Champion of Azura!”
“Yeah, I would never have believed it.”
“Do you have any questions about what Azura said?”
“Just about all of it is confusing. Azura called you her Guardian.”
“Lady Azura had absolutely zero to do with us finding each other. I found you via ethereal travel because of our entwined souls. She did not send me to Skyrim, where I found you again. The Nine did.”
“What about influencing destinies.”
“Influence, not control. Azura will know of some possible future events by gathering information from seers. She can plan for advantageous outcomes based on those possible future events by whispering the right things to the right people. She did not influence Sethri but asked him to steal the ring and meet us earlier. If Sethri could not or would not do those things, she would have tried to find somebody else who would.”
“And shielding me from harm?”
“Lady Azura is claiming actions she never undertook. She has not shielded you from harm. She has not delivered you from the abyss. As I said before, a Daedric Prince will keep their word once a deal is struck. However, they are quite capable of lies. Although I respect what she has done to protect Nirn, Lady Azura is no exception.”
“Why would she lie to me?”
“Lady Azura lied because she wants you to help thwart this unknown entity and remove The New Order from the mine. She should have just asked. If she knows you as well as she claims, she would know you would voluntarily help.”
“Does the title Champion of Azura mean anything?”
“Some previous Champions of Azura have thwarted or helped thwart the plans of other Daedric Princes and megalomaniac mortals. It is a title to be proud of!”
“How are you supposed to fight the enemies wearing the diamond-infused armour?”
“Unless the armour covers every inch of their bodies, they will not be invulnerable. I will just have to find their weaknesses. But I doubt the armour will protect against my sword. The armour will not protect against The Voice or Destruction Magicka. The diamond-infused armour is probably a waste of The New Order’s resources like replicating your father’s sword was.”
“What about the entity?”
“Logic told me something was missing from The New Order’s plans. Now we know what that is. They are working for a powerful being. Maybe an immortal, or lich, or god. That is what the plans of His Imperial Highness have not taken into account. I doubt it is another Daedric Prince. They tend to know each other’s plans.”
“Okay. I am ready, my Guardian.”
“Oh, are you claiming me back from Azura? I love it when gods fight over me.”
“I am not a god.”
“You are a goddess to me.”
“Another step in your training is successful!”
We mounted our horses, who seemed unimpressed by what had just occurred.
It did not take us long to reach the entrance to the mine.
We dismounted, and I said, “I will summon the others, then we will discuss tactics.”
I summoned Celestine, then Lydia.
- Wulf: We don’t know what to expect in the mines. There may be enslaved people mixed up with overseers and even New Order troops. That will require careful melee combat and no use of The Thu’um or area of effect spells.
- Lydia: Do we expect much opposition?
- Wulf: We can expect far more New Order troops than were at the harbour or Fort Black.
- Rigmor: What if we encounter Aedriath?
- Wulf: That is up to you, Rigmor. We will immediately attack and kill Aedriath unless you want us to give him a chance to surrender.
- Rigmor: I would like to say something to him. I want to convince him, and myself, that I no longer fear him.
- Wulf: Okay, if we get that chance, I will stay my sword till you say otherwise.
- Celestine: What kind of mine is it?
- Wulf: Black Diamonds. They act as a conduit for Lady Azura. Rigmor just had a chat with the goddess.
- Rigmor: She gave me this sword, called Azura’s Bane.
- Wulf: The New Order are in league with some entity from Oblivion. I don’t think it is another Daedric Prince.
- Celestine: Your suspected missing part of their plan!
- Wulf: Yes, and we will have to quickly find more information on the entity.
- Celestine: Otherwise, we won’t know how to deal with the entity.
- Wulf: Lady Azura has named Rigmor her champion.
- Celestine: That is a prestigious title, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Wulf said that others called Champion of Azura have helped defend Nirn in the past.
- Celestine: Yes, they have. I am sure we have some excellent books on them at the Safe House and museum, ah, Dragonborn Gallery.
- Wulf: Lady Azura has recognised something in you she values, Rigmor. Even if the way she recruited you is suspect, that recognition is valid and should give you courage and determination.
- Rigmor: It does, Wulf.
- Lydia: You give us courage and determination, Rigmor.
Rigmor was taken aback by what Lydia said, but it is true. Those who learn Rigmor’s story and spend time with her are inspired. She looked at me, so I nodded and smiled. Rigmor mouthed a silent, “Oh!”
We entered, and not far in, I started to laugh when we encountered a glowing green bear.
- Rigmor: Why is the bear green, and why is that funny?
- Wulf: Lady Kynareth is known to make animals glow like that. If a hunter manages to kill the glowing creature in a short amount of time, they receive a blessing.
- Rigmor: And why is that amusing?
- Wulf: Do I kill the bear and receive the blessing, or do I trust your bear taming abilities. It is a sneaky test of my commitment to you.
- Rigmor: Well, do you trust me when I say I know I can calm the bear?
- Wulf: Yes, I do, so do your bear thing.
- Lydia: Rigmor, the answer to that question was never in doubt.
- Celestine: Lydia, you have adapted well to gobblygook.
- Lydia: It was either that or go insane.
- Rigmor: Yeah. Sometimes you gotta ignore that logic stuff.
The bear noticed Rigmor approaching. It stood to face her, then issued a warning growl.
Rigmor continued to walk towards it, and it charged at her.
Rigmor didn’t flinch, and the bear halted inches from her. It roared in her face, but none of us reached for a weapon.
In a calm voice, Rigmor said, “Hey there, we are your friends! Don’t be afraid.”
The bear replied with a snuffle, turned around then ambled back to where it was before.
I led a grinning Rigmor and the others around the bear who displayed curiosity, not fear or anger.
We entered another part of the mine.
I told the ladies, “I will use Heat-Vision. I can’t hear any mining activity, so it might be some time before we encounter anybody.”
We walked briskly and soon found ourselves entering another section of the mine.
- Celestine: Pew!
- Rigmor: Wulf, it is that the pong we smelled in the mine near Fort Black.
- Wulf: I think you may be right, Daughter of Azura.
- Lydia: Daughter?
- Wulf: Azura said the biggest load of mumbo jumbo I have ever experienced. That title is metaphorical.
- Rigmor: Meta what?
- Wulf: Something that doesn’t exist but is referred to as if it does.
- Celestine: Lord Akatosh is Wulf’s celestial father, but he did not sire him. Azura is your celestial mother, but she did not birth you.
- Rigmor: It is kinda confusing.
- Lydia: Is it my imagination, or does darkness taint everything?
- Celestine: I can sense it as well. I think it is a form of dweomer that makes creatures hostile.
- Wulf: Correct, and it made spiders, rats, and skeevers swarm us in the mine near Fort Black.
- Celestine: Chain Lightening?
- Wulf: That is the easiest way to eliminate them. I don’t want to use The Voice unless I have to.
- Rigmor: The bad guys will ignore it. It is like they hear claps of thunder underground all the time. Why is that?
- Wulf: That is one of many questions without a logical answer, my dear Rigmor. Therefore, the answer is Albatross!
- Lydia: Celestine, can’t you cure Wulf?
- Celestine: No, the head trauma was too long ago.
Open spider eggs gave a clue as to what might be ahead. Heat-Vision confirmed it.
I warned, “There is a cluster of spiders to the right.”
Chain Lightening killed dozens of spiders.
Kynareth marked a spider, and I killed it. I felt no blessing, but we are far from any Kynareth Shrine.
We moved swiftly, with my spells killing spiders rapidly and with no need for close combat.
I warned, “There are several trolls ahead.”
We approached a large cluster of spiders.
Fireball eliminated them.
And so it went, with rats, skeevers and spiders falling to my magic.
We finally came upon the trolls. Chain Lightening killed all three.
The door behind the trolls led to the working mines. We could hear the pickaxes, and I could see the enslaved working with my Heat-Vision and armed people roaming amongst them.
I reiterated, “Remember to be careful. There are guards and overseers mixed in with those enslaved.”
We entered through the door and found ourselves in the working part of the mines.
A miner looked at our armour and weapons then asked, “Are you here to rescue us?”
“We are looking for a Nord woman from Bruma and believe she is enslaved here. Have you seen her?”
“Do you mean Sigunn?”
Rigmor gasped. I reached over and held her hand. I was not sure what the following answer might be.
I said to the miner, “Yes, that is her. Can you tell me if she is okay and, if so, where she is?”
“Sigunn was very healthy when some Thalmor visited and made the Enslaver Foreman take her away two days ago. She is most likely in the fort above the mines or, less likely, the dungeons.”
“It is good news that she was healthy. How do we get to the fort?”
“You will have to go through The Forge. That leads to the dungeons. The Thalmor hardly ever come down here. No mixing with the inferior races! Sigunn must be important for them to offend their delicate noses.”
“She is very important.”
“Be warned, black arts are being done in this place. The route to The Forge is heavily guarded.”
“We must destroy The Forge and stop them using the diamonds you are mining. It may cause explosions and cave-ins. Therefore, if you want to escape, you had better clear out of here before we do that. How many of you are there?”
“There are not many of us left. Most have been worked to death.”
“This is an evil place, and we are glad to help you. As we clear each cavern of the overseers and guards, gather your people and direct them to this exit. We have cleared out all the trolls, spiders, rats etc. Please don’t hurt the bear on the way out! When you see the bear, you are almost free. When you exit, head for the Shrine of Azura. Follow the path from there, and you will find your way to Skyrim.”
“Okay, I will do as you say. Be careful. There are many guards and overseers.”
There was no elation from Rigmor, just a worried expression.
- Wulf: Rigmor, Sigunn was alive and healthy two days ago!
- Rigmor: Thanks for asking the hard questions, Wulf. I don’t think I could have.
- Celestine: Are you afraid, Rigmor?
- Rigmor: Why would they move her?
- Wulf: She is the sugar.
- Rigmor: Oh, and we are the flies!
- Lydia: Buzz. Buzz.
- Rigmor: Once more, they are ahead of us. How?
- Celestine: Who did Azura say who the real enemy is?
- Rigmor: A usurper from Oblivion. The mysterious entity.
- Wulf: The entity could be another Daedric Prince. Demi-god, Lich or one of the myriad other powerful beings such as a mortal necromancer.
- Celestine: The usurper may be powerful enough to give Aedriath information, which allows him to prepare for your next move.
- Wulf: Aedriath may have figured it out himself. He knows that Sigunn is your mother and probably arranged for her to be moved to this mine. I doubt she has been enslaved in this mine for four years.
- Rigmor: Yes, he is very clever, according to Baa’Ren-Dar.
We travelled through the mine and killed every overseer and guard. We did this without harming a single enslaved person.
We came upon an unexpected sight.
- Celestine: Dwemer architecture!
- Wulf: I had no idea The Forge was inside Dwemer ruins.
- Celestine: It makes sense if the smelting and forging require superior kilns.
- Rigmor: Does that mean there will be no more miners?
- Lydia: I think we will encounter only enemies from this point forward.
- Wulf: This means I am free to use The Voice, and we can speed up our progress.
- Rigmor: Good! My new sword has an appointment with Aedriath’s rear end and doesn’t want to be late!
We swiftly made our way to some Dwemer doors. My Thu’um killed every guard and overseer along the way.
We were standing before the doors catching our breath, when we heard familiar voices at the far end of the corridor.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: The Dragonborn is now using The Voice. But the echoes make it hard to tell from how far away.
- Casius: It has not been a challenging trail to follow.
- Yngol: Yeah, we just followed the bodies.
- Casius: It is easy to tell which ones fell to the Guardian and which to Rigmor.
- Yngol: The Guardian’s kills are decapitated, mutilated, incinerated, evaporated, eviscerated and in a pile or, if they surrounded him, in a circle.
- Casius: Rigmor’s kills are generally cut in two or cut from shoulder to the belly.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Both have been using their bows as all intelligent people do.
- Yngol: All milk-drinkers, you mean.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: You stand a hundred yards away and attack, yelling all the Berserker war cries you want, and Khajiit will be the one to walk away and drink more milk. You may drink some mead, but it will pour out all the holes Khajiit made.
- Casius: He has you there, Yngol!
I walked up to them and declared, “You lot are noisy enough to wake the dead, and I was not the only mutilator and decapitator! Lydia is quite adept at it, and Celestine kills with both sword and spell.”
Rigmor ran and almost broke Baa’Ren-Dar’s ribs with her welcoming hug.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one is pleased to see his child, but he also likes to breathe!
- Rigmor: Oh, sorry.
- Wulf: Did Azura send you?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: In a way, yes. Tendril Sethri found Khajiit at Mother Cat’s temple not long after you left. Azura sent him to gather help. This one brought only people Khajiit could trust.
- Wulf: Even though we stopped at Angi’s for many hours so Rigmor could rest, we still travelled here faster than you could, Baa’Ren-Dar.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Necessity meant secrets needed to be revealed. Wealth buys many valuable items and attracts the sellers of such. I carry many Waystones for places in Tamriel, but these do not return you to the point of origin when removed.
- Yngol: I had a meeting with Ulfric, and he has agreed to the truce. Negotiations are underway on the next phase. In the middle of a city where they are banned, on the steps of The Palace of Kings, an elderly Khajiiti walked up to me without hesitation. He introduced himself as Baa’Ren-Dar. It did not take much convincing for me to come and help Rigmor. He asked me to place my hand on his shoulder, I did so, and without warning, I was in pitch black and freezing, and a second or so later, in the middle of Solitude surrounded by Legionnaires!
- Rigmor: Oh, my! What happened then?
- Yngol: I thought I had been tricked. I was reaching for my hammer when Baa’Ren-Dar and Casius started laughing. A few of the Legionnaires welcomed me, and then they all walked away while these two bastards continued to laugh.
- Casius: Baa’Ren-Dar had accosted me earlier when I left my meeting with General Tullius. He was chatting with First Emissary Elenwen near the entrance to Castle Dour.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: She was on the way to discuss our mutual enemy with General Tullius.
- Casius: After Baa’Ren-Dar introduced himself and explained the situation, I agreed to accompany him, and we concocted the plan to get Yngol. It was too good a chance to miss, and his surprised expression will remain a fond memory forever.
- Yngol: It might take me years, but I will have revenge.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: From Solitude, we hurried on foot. This one was surprised and saddened to find the destroyed Azura shrine. But Khajiit was happy when we saw Ren and the other horse.
- Rigmor: Wulf said from the start that there was more to The New Order’s plans.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Dragonborn has found the missing pea?
- Rigmor: Pea?
- Wulf: The pea that is never under the shell you pick.
- Lydia: Oh, I get the metaphor.
- Casius: Yes, I see. That is entirely appropriate.
- Celestine: The three shell and pea game, Rigmor. You must have seen it at carnivals or inside a tavern.
- Wulf: Rigmor has most likely seen it in many taverns. A great many taverns.
- Rigmor: Careful, Wulf!
- Wulf: Yes, Milady.
- Yngol: It looks like we are too late to save Wulf.
- Rigmor: I understand the pea reference now. Wulf, tell them what Azura said and what the plan is.
- Wulf: We are heading for The Forge. That leads to the dungeons and a fort. Sigunn is either in the dungeons or the fort.
- Rigmor: Mum has been there for two days. We think she is the bait and that The New Order is expecting us.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one warned the Dragonborn that Aedriath is a master of subterfuge.
- Wulf: He certainly is. Did Sethri tell you the concealed part of The New Order’s plan?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: He said they are working with an entity from Oblivion.
- Rigmor: Azura told us this entity, what she called a usurper, was trying to manifest on Nirn. She said the entity couldn’t manifest unless the New Order succeeds.
- Wulf: I think the entity can manifest, but it needs an army to survive.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: You spoke to Azura, my child?
- Rigmor: Yes, and she named me Champion of Azura.
- Wulf: And her Daughter. Unofficially adopted, you might say.
- Yngol: Rigmor, that sword you carry, is that from her?
- Rigmor: Yes. It was made from my father’s sword, mother’s ring, and Casius’ mother’s necklace. Only I can wield it.
- Wulf: As you noticed on the way in, it is perfect for cleaving bad guys in half.
- Rigmor: This mine is for harvesting Black Diamonds. They are what allow Azura to communicate with her seers and disciples on Nirn.
- Wulf: The New Order uses diamonds to create armour supposedly impervious to mortal weapons. But unprotected flesh is still vulnerable, so remember that if we encounter anybody wearing it.
- Yngol: My hammer is not a precise weapon. I will just keep hitting them till they stop moving.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Another advantage of a good Khajiiti bow!
- Wulf: How come your name is Storm-Blade, but you use a hammer?
- Casius: He was a foundling. The Cave Trolls are still looking for their lost child.
- Wulf: We will not worry about all this god and oblivion stuff till later. We must concentrate on two things. The highest priority is retrieving Sigunn and getting her out of here safely.
- Rigmor: The second is the destruction of The Forge.
- Wulf: The forge must have a strong dweomer on it to allow the smelting of the Black Diamonds. I don’t know how much energy may be released if it is destroyed.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: We get Sigunn out to safety first. Then destroy The Forge.
- Yngol: What about that Aedriath scumsucker?
- Wulf: If we do not encounter and eliminate him doing the first two tasks, Rigmor and I will hunt him down. There is a fort above The Forge and dungeons, and he is probably in there with the specially equipped troops and may not come out to play.
- Casius: Is that wise?
- Rigmor: WE MUST KILL HIM!
- Wulf: He must die for what he has done to Rigmor. If you don’t know what that is, ask Baa’Ren-Dar.
- Rigmor: I will never feel safe until he is dead.
- Wulf: He has managed to hide the real purpose of the New Order till now. So as Baa’Ren-Dar keeps saying, he is a master of subterfuge.
- Lydia: What about Celestine and me?
- Wulf: Celestine can help Sigunn. Even if we find her relatively healthy, four years enslaved will not have been good for her health. And you, Lydia, will be an extra guard for Sigunn.
- Lydia: Okay.
- Casius: What would be the purpose of allowing this entity into Nirn?
- Wulf: Any answer would be pure speculation as we do not know who or what the entity is.
- Rigmor: As the Dragonborn said, let us concentrate on those first two tasks.
- Wulf: The forge is beyond the Dwemer doors at the end of this corridor. Let’s go.
- Rigmor: Don’t go running in front of my Dragonborn! You saw what his Thu’um does.
- Wulf: I will try and get ahead of you all to use Shouts freely. There will be plenty of scumsuckers left behind me to keep you busy.
- Lydia: No, there won’t.
Utilising Heat-Vision and The Voice allowed me to kill every enemy as we moved through the complex.
We stopped and I whispered, “I think we are about to meet our first New Order morons. Wizards, I would say.”
I equipped my bow and snuck upon the enemy.
I dropped all three wizards.
Baa’Ren-Dar said, “Angi was very impressed with your marksmanship. Perhaps Khajiit can challenge Dragonborn to a friendly contest one day?”
“Would I be a fool to accept? I haven’t seen how good you are, Emissary.”
“If Dragonborn stops killing everything, he might get to see Khajiit in action.”
“I will stop using The Voice if doing so doesn’t place others in danger.”
I reverted to Heat-Vision and Thu’um.
A more competent wizard hid behind a column, and I had to use my sword. Why others didn’t do that is beyond my comprehension.
There was evidence the Dwemer ruins were not entirely empty when The New Order moved in.
I warned, “I can hear Skeletal Warriors. We take out any necromancers first.”
A single necromancer was enjoying his last meal.
An arrow ended his life.
Unrelenting force smashed all the Skeletal Warriors to pieces.
Yngol commented, “I can smell molten metal. We must be close to the smelters.”
“That probably means far more enemies.”
“My hammer is getting rusty, Dragonborn.”
“You heard what I told Baa’Ren-Dar.”
“You are Rigmor’s Guardian and doing what is necessary to keep her out of the fighting. I can’t argue with that.”
We had come to the main work area but had killed all the workers earlier. There were dozens of New Order troops and wizards, though!
The slaughter began.
There were so many New Order goons others in the group had to engage. Soon all of the enemies lay dead.
I found a journal on an enchanting table and read it to the group.
“Journal of Jonte Malesam,
Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath.
We had known of the rumours of the fortifying properties of Black Diamonds, but whether the vein existed or not wasn’t proven true until recently. These very rare gemstones are apparently in abundance here at Diamond Ridge.
General Aedriath ordered the Shrine of Azura be destroyed to ward off disciples and tourists. Still, there is a more sinister, more profound reason for the desecration of the shrine.
The Forge should be able to pick up where production left off after the failure of Joror to mass-produce Daedric and steel armours and weapons.
However, one thing still escapes us, the weapons. The armour we can make, although we haven’t refined it enough for complete invincibility yet. Twelve units have already been produced and delivered to General Aedriath’s personal guard at Fort High Rock. It is extremely tough, so we are on the right track.
But the weapons? Something is missing, something is eluding us, and if we are to pull off this imminent invasion and take on Mede’s army, we need them.”
I told Rigmor, “This demonstrates the limits of Azura. She thought they had perfected the armour, but according to this mage, they have not. You must remember gods are not omnipotent on Nirn even if they act that way. In their realms, they are.”
I looked back at the trail of dead bodies. Not many of the dozens I killed entered my permanent list. That is one advantage of the mass slaughter The Voice is so efficient in achieving.
We stood before the doors that led to the dungeon.
I said to the group, “These doors are Nordic. It seems their dungeon is in a Nordic ruin. I cannot use Unrelenting Force throughout the dungeon as I may kill enslaved people. Also, there will soon be a need for stealth. They may have orders to….”
Rigmor cried, “They may have orders to kill Mum if we get too close!”
“I can kill all the guards silently and quickly, Rigmor. Don’t start thinking the worst.”
“I am trying not to, Wulf.”
“I know. Look around at the people here to help you. Take strength from that.”
“Well, she isn’t going to rescue herself. Get moving, Dragonbum!”
Casius whispered to Yngol, “He is a goner, Yngol. Rigmor has complete mastery over him.”
We entered the Nordic ruins and could hear Skeletal Warriors above us.
I quietly climbed the spiral stairs then eliminated them with Unrelenting Force.
I eliminated a room full of guards.
We were well into the dungeon and could hear more guards. I whispered, “Mouse time, Rigmor!”
I used the Slow Time Shout and entered another room full of guards.
All three were dead before rising from their chairs. I waited for the others to appear, led by Lydia.
Yngol and Casius looked around then talked to me.
- Yngol: Casius said he has seen you do the same thing. Something about slowing down time.
- Wulf: I have Dragon Blood and a dragon soul. I have some senses that dragons have. Heat-Vision, for instance. Because dragons are the creation of Lord Akatosh, they regard him as their Celestial Father, they have an affinity for linear time. That is the time we experience as mortals. To most mortals, it is regular. A minute seems like one minute for their entire lives. I can experience time at a slower rate. I can make a minute seem like ten minutes or even longer. If I make linear time seem slower to me and move at my normal speed, it would appear to you that I move much faster than usual.
- Casius: You moved so fast that these New Order troops didn’t even have time to draw their weapons or stand.
- Wulf: That’s right. The length of time the Shout lasts is a bit random. I would not want to wade into the front lines during a battle, and it ended while I was surrounded. But it is helpful for these situations.
- Yngol: Can you do the Storm Crown Shout that Tiber Septim used?
- Wulf: Yes. It is not called that, but the effect is the same. A wind would surround me, not just my head, and no arrows could penetrate it.
- Yngol: Could you shout down walls like the histories say some Tongues could do?
- Wulf: No, not at the moment. My Thu’um will become stronger as I learn to focus it better. Any one of The Greybeards could destroy the walls of Windhelm, Whiterun, even Solitude. The four of them together could destroy Nirn. Fortunately, their beliefs would not allow such an act.
- Casius: If an army placed itself at the end of the bridge that enters The Imperial City, could you destroy it?
- Wulf: Yes, with spells and Shouts. The problem is that the deadliest Destruction spells and Shouts do not discriminate between friends and foes. Great caution would be needed to avoid killing allies and innocents.
- Yngol: How will you defeat Alduin.
- Wulf: I have no idea. Whatever the ancient Tongues did, they took the secret to their graves. But that is a problem I will tackle after we send The New Order to The Void.
A while later, I signalled there were at least six guards.
I Shouted Slow Time and killed them all. They were still collapsing when Celestine led the others into the cell block.
I quickly checked the cells. They were all vacant but one. A woman, unmistakably Rigmor’s mother, was asleep. She was alive, and I could see no physical injuries.
Rigmor came behind me and gasped. Then she pleaded, “Get her out of there, Wulf. Hurry!”
I whispered, “You must remain calm, Rigmor. Sigunn might get confused and upset if you aren’t.”
“Okay, but please hurry!”
As with the time I released Sorella, I didn’t think Rigmor would have the patience for me to search for a key. Therefore, I picked the lock.
I swung the door open and stood back.
The noise of the cell door opening woke Sigunn.
She slowly stood and stared at the surprisingly calm Rigmor.
Then she asked, “Rigmor? Is this a dream?”
Rigmor replied, “No, Mum, I am here.”
Sigunn and Rigmor collided and hugged, and I watched with tears streaming.
The hug ended, and they stood apart. The pair looked each other up and down, and Sigunn touched Rigmor’s face. I am sure she was checking that Rigmor was real.
Rigmor said, “I thought I would never see you again!”
Sigunn replied, “Oh Rigmor, my dear child, my little girl, what have they done to you?”
The killing was finished and Sigunn found. So, Baa’Ren-Dar resorted to his sensible, practical self.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Dragonborn, we must move on quickly before The New Order have time to regroup.
- Wulf: Okay, can you all escort Sigunn to safety. Rigmor and I have unfinished business.
- Celestine: I am a physician, Sigunn. I will check your health once we are away from here. But the way you ran at Rigmor, you are seemingly quite well.
- Casius: After taking Sigunn to safety, Yngol and I will collapse the mine and rejoin you.
- Yngol: I had a quick look, and I think a few well-placed strikes of my hammer to the pillars will do it. The whole rotten edifice will come crashing down.
- Rigmor: Mum, I need you to go with them. My Guardian and I have to stop the people who did this to our family.
- Sigunn: Please come with us, Rigmor. I don’t want to lose you all over again.
- Rigmor: I am sorry, but we have to do this. Baa’Ren-Dar and the others will take care of you until I return.
Sigunn turned to me and asked, “What is your name?”
“I am Wulf.”
“Wulf, please bring her back to me. Look after her and be careful.”
“Be assured, Sigunn, I will try my hardest to return Rigmor to you once more.”
Rigmor had sought this reunion for four years but stood firm as she watched her mother leave.
She turned to me and wiped a tear away from my eye with her clammy, metal-clad hand.
I laughed and asked, “Would you have a non snot covered kerchief?”
“Sorry, the one I have is a bit crusty.”
“Sigunn looked unharmed and healthy. No physical scars, well-fed and even muscle toned! I can see where a certain somebody gets their determination from.”
“You mean my stubbornness.”
“Yes. That is what kept you from The Void, not Lady Azura.”
“For a god that you don’t dislike, you are a bit harsh.”
“I am just as critical with The Nine. I expect certain standards from mortal and god. But enough about them.”
“Knowing Mum, she would have worked hard at whatever tasks they gave her. There would have been no need for punishment or withholding of rations, and the work kept her fit.”
“I think these mines were different. I am glad we rescued all the enslaved.”
“How many did you add to your list, Wulf?”
“Not many. The Thu’um kills from a distance.”
“Apart from a couple in the main forge room, you killed every New Order member after we left the mine.”
“It was the quickest way to get to Sigunn.”
“We have removed one head from the monster that haunts your night terrors. Let’s go remove the other head!”
Rigmor smiled then said, “That is the most romantic thing you have ever said.”
We entered the last part of the dungeons.
A necromancer and Skeletal Warriors quickly succumbed to Unrelenting Force.
We climbed some steps.
I then reduced more Skeletal Warriors to piles of disconnected bones.
I said to Rigmor, “I think that door leads to the fort.”
“Dragonborn, I’m scared!”
I hoped Rigmor could not sense the dread I felt. We had to finish what we started, or this scene would be repeated at a later time, and I did not want Rigmor to worry about Aedreath after today.
I told her sincerely, “It is okay to be scared. It is our body telling us, ‘Don’t be so stupid!’”
“Sorry for what? For being afraid of the wild animal that mauled you? That is what Aedriath is. He is a rabid animal that we will put out of its misery!”
“I suppose I am ready to face him.”
“We have waltzed through everything thrown at us because we have stuck together. There will be nothing worse beyond this door than what we have already overcome.”
“Well, I guess we are about to find out, right?”
“I have no stupid jokes to lighten the mood. I am just glad I have been able to help you and your mum.”
“I meant what I said at the lookout, Wulf. I am not going to leave you, ever! Whatever crap The Divines need you to do, I will be with you or waiting for you.”
“Are you ready, my beloved?”
“I still want to tell him how he no longer frightens me!”
“Okay, I will not kill him instantly. But I will kill him.”
“Then, my weirdo, beautiful, Dragonbum. Let’s go kick the arsehole in the arsehole!”
“Yes, I can see all that proper noble lady training has been worth it.”
We had to postpone our dramatic entry into the fort for another thirty seconds as we struggled to control our giggles.
Then we burst through the door with swords in hand and came face to face with Aedriath and his elite guards in their pretty new armour.
Aedriath stood at the back of the room near a door. Six elite guards, three on each side, flanked him.
The armour did not protect their faces or necks. Rigmor and I would take mere seconds to eliminate them.
- Aedriath: You have a nasty habit of turning up where you are not wanted, Rigmor!
- Wulf: You have a nasty habit of running away and letting your men die for no reason. Do these pretty guards know how bravely you fought last time we met?
- Aedriath: I am glad you brought your pathetic Guardian to witness your final doom.
- Wulf: How many dragons have you conquered in combat? How many Schools of Magicka are you a Master of? Are you a Swordmaster and Marksman? Are you literate in eight languages? I am afraid it is you who is pathetic.
- Aedriath: Don’t worry! Soon I will have your head placed on a spike next to Rigmor’s.
- Wulf: Six guards against the two who have slaughtered over three hundred of your New Order sheep without sustaining a scratch. They are not good odds, Aedriath.
- Rigmor: Did you think you would get away with it? You and your criminal organisation. The lives you have torn apart! And for what? Your plans are undone, your crimes exposed. You will never be able to accomplish your New Order now.
- Aedriath: Oh, you will see! There will be a New Order, and we will rule and take our rightful place above the lesser beings. Who do you think will believe the word of a washed-up Khajiit emissary anyway?
- Wulf: Let’s see. So far, it is Emperor Titus Mede II, The Elder Council, The Thalmor, the real ones, not your fake lot, Ulfric Stormcloak and General Tullius. The Kings and Queens of High Rock and the leaders of both Anequina and Pelletine. Nah, nobody believes one of the most respected emissaries on Nirn.
- Aedriath: Too bad you won’t live to see how wrong you are. I have no idea what that sword is you are wearing, and Rigmor’s Daedric toothpick is no match for my men in this armour.
- Rigmor: Oh! This sword is no Toothpick, Justiciar. Meet Azura’s Bane. Do you know what these Daedric runes say?
- Wulf: Aedriath might be brown-nosing a Daedra, but it doesn’t mean the moron can read Daedric runes.
- Rigmor: Then, I will enlighten him.
In a voice full of confidence and venom, Rigmor said,
“I am the Goddess Azura, Mother of the Rose, Queen of the Night Sky, The Dusk and Dawn.
Behold, Rigmor of Bruma. Protector of the Pure of Heart. Daughter of a Mother’s Love.
I am the Bane of Azura. The Poisoned Chalice of Woe. Vanquisher of the Forces of Evil.”
I moved closer to Rigmor. Then I used the Thu’um to finish the reading,
“BEHOLD, RIGMOR OF BRUMA. CHILD OF THE TWILIGHT. THE CHOSEN CHAMPION OF AZURA!”
Rigmor yelled, “I am Rigmor of Bruma, and you shall know thy bane. You shall know whence thy tears came. TALOS WILLS IT!”
Aedriath was afraid and ordered his men, “What are you waiting for? An invitation? KILL THEM. KILL THEM BOTH!”
I yelled, “You are not running away this time, Aedriath!”
Aedriath put a ring on his finger and vanished!
I was so startled for a split second the Elite Guard managed to close on me.
Twice my sword plunged through their new armour like a knife through butter.
The third Elite Guard I killed by slashing his unprotected throat.
Rigmor demolished another three with mighty swings of Azura’s Bane. She wielded it as quick as most warriors can a short sword.
I said, “They were the best we have fought yet.”
Rigmor replied, “And their armour seemed strong.”
“Yet we killed them in seconds, Rigmor of Bruma.”
“Why don’t you go look for the arsehole. I will stay here and look for evidence.”
“I don’t like leaving you alone, Rigmor.”
“We just cut these asses down in seconds. I will stay alert. But I am afraid again, my Guardian. Bring him back here but make sure he can’t spew forth vitriol from his foul mouth. It drags me back there, and he knows it.”
“I will only be a room or two away. I refuse to go any further than that!”
“I will be okay. Now off you go.”
“Yes, Lady Ramsbottom.”
I exited one door. Then another.
I climbed up a flight of stairs and entered a bedroom.
On a desk, there lay a letter and a journal. I read the letter first,
“To General Aedriath,
New Order of Alinor.
The Order is no longer prepared to wait for the mass production of special weapons and armour. The contracts on the top-level targets have been revoked as two of them are too heavily guarded. It has been decided to take on a more direct and robust approach to our intended plans, and the time scale must be adhered to. The Entity is becoming restless, and we have continued to proceed on the manufacture of the portal gate, which is almost ready. The phases will go ahead as planned to coincide with the revelation and the unleashing. Soon we will take control of the Isle, and you will oversee the Northern Invasion Force. Mede will have to march North, and we will strike in the South simultaneously. We will then be free to march on the Imperial City and take back what is rightfully ours. It is such a pity you couldn’t even take care of one girl.
Long Live New Alinor!
The New Order.”
How pathetically arrogant. Why were the two top-level targets heavily guarded? Because we know their stupid plan! So why would Emperor Mede fall for their ruse without first bringing in the outlying Legions? Why couldn’t the Aldmeri Dominion manage it in four years if it was easy to defeat The Empire?
The journal was Aedriath’s. I knew it would be full of crap and was not disappointed. These are the relevant entries.
“Journal of Tilar Aedriath.
This record is for Sharon, my loving wife.
The fools, how dare they question my loyalty. They sent me to Skyrim to deal with that annoying Nordling girl. If I had known how much trouble she would cause me, I would have ended her back in Haven when I had the chance. That meddling Khajiit will end his days at the point of my blade, I swear it.
I told them that work on secret weapons and armour was a waste of time, a fad, a security risk, and we should invade the northern coast and burn Skyrim. But it’s them that falter, and they are the ones dragging their feet with inconsistency and doubt.
Is it my fault the assassins were incompetent, the bounty hunters useless fools? I think not, and The Order would do well to watch their poisonous tongues. This girl Rigmor has her father’s blood coursing through her veins. She also has The Dragonborn, who she calls her Guardian. That was not part of the deal!
The Dragonborn protects her night and day is a formidable foe worthy of respect. It will take something more tactful to thwart this cosy little situation.
I will show them! Like her father, I will catch the girl and bring her back to Alinor in chains, and I shall enjoy the adulation and relish the subsequent execution. With Skyrim in chains and The New Order throughout Tamriel and the destruction of the memory of Talos, I shall return a hero! Yes, they will erect shrines to ME! I will also become a GOD!
I shall prostrate myself at the feet of the One True God, the Restoration shall be completed at my hand, not theirs, and the Revelation shall become the future of the new Dominion.
Your loving Tilar.”
I barely had time to process the journal before Rigmor yelled, ‘WULF! HELP!”
I ran to a balcony overlooking the room where Rigmor searched. Three Elite Guards were chasing her.
I leapt over the balcony and watched Rigmor stop and take up a sword form. Not a defensive form but one of attack. Her three opponents surrounded her, not yet realising she had lured them to their dooms.
As I ran towards the fight, Rigmor cut through the special armour of one opponent who screamed and died.
Rigmor then pivoted and thrust her sword through the chest of a second opponent. Even during battle, I had to fight the impulse to clap and congratulate her.
Instead, I leapt at the third enemy and cut him down.
Rigmor moved away from the pile of bodies, and I followed her.
She asked, “Wulf, did you find Aedriath?”
“No. Aedriath used a Ring of Recall or similar just after he ordered these corpses to attack us.”
“Oh no! By the gods, no!”
“Rigmor, hold it together. We shall get another chance at him. He can’t keep running forever, and it seems nothing will deter their invasion.”
“I know, Wulf. But I can’t make plans for the future if he is still around to haunt me.”
“We can make plans, my beloved if Aedriath is still breathing or not. We can sit together and draw plans for our farmstead.”
“With a veranda around the house.”
“Near a lake or river.”
“With plenty of room for our tribe of children.”
“A tribe? I suppose we can always add extensions to our simple farmhouse until it looks like a mansion.”
Rigmor laughed, but soon the shadow of fear masked her face once more.
She pleaded, “Wulf, promise me that you will never let me go.”
“You know I can’t make that promise, my beloved.”
“Please, Wulf! Promise me!”
“I can’t promise, but I will try. I will not stop out of choice. I hope that is good enough.”
“That oath was good enough in that dark cell, my Guardian. It is good enough now.”
Rigmor looked at me. Her beauty took my breath, and I saw her soul through those brown eyes. It was entwined with mine.
Rigmor laughed that laugh and said, “My dear, Wulf. I love you and will always love you.”
Before I could reply, something hit me in the neck. I felt burning spread through my body. A crossbow bolt was protruding from my neck, and it was coated in a poison consisting of Jarrin Root, a mortal’s heart and Blisterwort. Damn my logical brain and Mother’s alchemy lessons! I started to gurgle as my Dragon Blood threatened to drown me.
I slowly fell onto my side and found myself staring at nothing interesting. I would have liked to have changed my view, but I couldn’t move. I should have died already. The poison flowing through me is the deadliest known.
I heard a voice. It must have been one of the remaining Elite Guards. The journal said that twelve sets of armour had been made. We killed nine. That left three of them.
The Elite Guard boasted, “I told you I could make a crossbow bolt out of one of those Black Diamonds!”
Another Elite Guard said, “Yeah, but it was my idea to use the Jarrin Root poison.”
Darkness fell on me. I struggled against it, but it was so heavy. But it wasn’t just darkness. The Void beckoned me. I wouldn’t be there long before I found myself in Aetherius.
Aedriath said, “Quickly, get the girl!”
Girl? Girl? There is no girl in here, but there is a woman. Rigmor Ragnarsdottier! My Rigmor and the monster she feared had her once more.
That, that was Rigmor. I am her Guardian! But I couldn’t move. I must get up! I should be dead.
“You there. Good shot with that crossbow of yours. Now pick up that sword!”
I am coming to help you, Rigmor. Just give me a second or two, and I will be right with you. Where will we go after I kill them all? Maybe The Lookout again? Or perhaps you can show me Torval?
There was a loud sound of Magicka discharging, then a thud.
“He is dead, Justiciar.”
“A hero one minute. Dead the next. Oh well, forget the sword and kill The Dragonborn. Hurry, you fools!”
“No, please, leave him alone. You have me!”
Two swords plunged into me through my armpits. I was too far gone to scream in pain. I always wondered what it was like when I stabbed an enemy. Now I know! It is not very pleasant, but I suppose that was expected.
I can’t, my dear sweet Rigmor. I have let you down. Go on, say it. Say, ‘Guardian, yeah, right. Pfft!’. I deserve it.
No, no, no, no. That word from Rigmor’s lips. That can’t be the last word I hear from my beloved. No, no, no, NO!
I was in The Void, but The Divines did not collect my soul.
“Son, listen to me carefully as I don’t have long to explain.”
“Father? Are you taking me to Aetherius?”
“No, you must listen.”
“The blessing we gave you, The Watchful Eye of The Nine, saved you from immediate death.”
“You said the same when a child. Now listen!”
“But we cannot remove the poison. Your body must do that, and it takes time.”
“Piss it out?”
“Sweat it out.”
“That’s good. Not so embarrassing.”
“Another entity is expending its energy to keep part of your soul within your body. If that entity’s energy depletes, you die.”
“Can’t you do something?”
“That entity has its hooks into part of your soul. We cannot remove them as that would kill you.”
“So, what do I do, Father?”
“You fight, my Son! Use your will. Combine it with the love you share with Rigmor. Find the desire to live and return to your body. Fight, Son, for all our sakes. Fight for Rigmor. She needs you!”
“I will, Father. Will you tell Mother I miss her?”
“I wish I could, my Son. I must leave now.”
I looked around. The Void is aptly named, but souls floated past on occasion. Some belonged to beings so strange they resembled nothing on Nirn. Some belonged to bipedal beings but not of any species on Nirn.
I closed my eyes, which is strange since I am not corporeal in The Void.
I needed to concentrate and summon my will, weave it with the power of the love I share with Rigmor and find my way back to my body.
The problem was that the last word I heard on Nirn kept intruding like Rigmor was repeatedly screaming it into my ear.