HOMESTEAD

Fredas, 5th Hearthfire, 4E 201

to Middas, 10th Hearthfire, 4E 201

I had no concept of time in The Void. I don’t know how long it took for me to master my emotions enough to do what was needed.

The Psijics had taught me how to focus when surrounded by noise and chaos. Nobody taught me how to focus when the noise and chaos were in my mind. It insisted on replaying the cries of Rigmor repeatedly. Each repetition generated guilt, fear, anger and something foreign to me, helplessness.

I started to punctuate each repetition with fond memories of Rigmor. ‘Mercy!’ would be followed by Rigmor’s laughter or giggles and memories of her smiling or looking at me with love in her eyes.

The guilt, fear, anger and helplessness were replaced with yearning and determination.

I needed to live to hear that laughter and see that smile again.

I needed to live so I could rescue Rigmor.

Tackling Alduin, The New Order and whatever crises may follow will require me to be complete. I am not complete without Rigmor.

The Void didn’t want to let me go. I didn’t want to stay. I won the contest.

I wish I hadn’t won for a few seconds as the pain of returning was extreme. All the nerves in my body decided I wasn’t dead and told me about the trauma I had experienced. But the damage had been repaired by The Watchful Eye of The Nine blessing, so I didn’t need the reminder.

I yelled a string of expletives of a quality to make any sailor proud.

Azura said, “Guardian. Awake!”

“The name is Wulf, and I am awake.”

“Approach Azura’s Bane so I can join with you.”

“Give me a few seconds, Lady Azura. When my nerves stop screaming, I might be able to find my limbs.”

The pain rapidly receded. I was surprised I was not more fatigued.

As I slowly got to my feet, my eyes regained their focus.

Azura’s avatar floated above Azura’s Bane.

I moved closer.

“Lady Azura, is Rigmor still alive, and where can I find her?”

“She is alive. There is a crucial reason they need her unharmed, but I cannot sense why. A very powerful force is obscuring my powers.”

“Rigmor was also alive when Baa’Ren-Dar rescued her and when Angi found her and when Rose found her. Therefore, forgive me if I take little notice of the ‘unharmed’ claim.”

“I am still weak from shielding you from the cold. You were near death but now alive.”

“You kept part of my soul with my body. That took a lot of your energy, which is greatly reduced even within this mine. That anchor on Nirn allowed me to return, and I thank you.”

“That is all I could achieve. I was not sure if you could return. But your body was repaired somehow, so I persevered.”

“A blessing from The Nine. It is the first time it has ever been needed.”

“I cannot detect such things.”

“Where have they taken Rigmor?”

“I will need to regain my strength to know where they have taken her and why.”

“How long did you fight to keep The Void at bay?”

“You slumbered in the twilight of existence for over three days.”

“Once again, I thank you for that effort, Lady Azura.”

“You helped thwart the Forces of Evil and have restored the essence of my power. So, I aided in restoring your life, Wulf, for I will need to call upon your services very soon.”

“You might have to stand in a queue.”

Azura has compassion, but I doubt she has a sense of humour.

Azura continued, “My children in this realm are in danger, so The Entity must be stopped.”

“I fight for all mortals, Lady Azura. You called The Entity a usurper. If it is trying to wrest control of Nirn from its creators, then it is no different than a mortal tyrant invading and enslaving the inhabitants of a nation. But it may want the destruction of Nirn and Mundus as some of your kind continuously attempt to accomplish.”

“I can sense its rage and fury. The Entity wants justice and revenge. It wants transformation to be whole, complete.”

“That is too broad a description to narrow the possibilities.”

“If it successfully enters this realm, it will become unstoppable. The Entity will conduct an act of frenzied violent revenge that can only be quenched with the blood of mortals. All will die. Tamriel is to be cleansed.”

Azura says she doesn’t know who The Entity is. Then she claims to know its motivation and ambition. I guarantee if I ask Father, that is an impossibility.

Azura is substituting speculation for facts. I hate that!

I asked, “What about The New Order?”

“They still need to establish themselves, but they have almost completed a portal to Oblivion.”

“All Oblivion Gates have a flaw. They can be destroyed by one brave enough and skilled enough to enter the origin domain.”

“It will need to be destroyed before The Entity passes transformed into this realm.”

“It is most likely where they have Rigmor. If the Oblivion Gate and Rigmor are in different places, Rigmor will be my priority. I am nothing without her.”

“Make sure the evidence you have gathered is made available to those that need it. Until I regain my strength, the Forces of Evil must be undermined at every step.”

“So, logically, you just insinuated that once you gain your strength, we no longer have to undermine the Forces of Evil, whoever they are.”

There was no reply, and I was eager to do something useful, not decipher mumbo jumbo.

I asked, “What happened to Casius and Yngol? They would destroy the Forge, then join Rigmor and me.”

“The collapse was total, everything was destroyed, and they could not reach you. Oh, how they tried! But it was in vain, and they are now full of remorse. They believe both Rigmor and you died and have returned to their units to prepare for the worst.”

“Neither Rigmor nor I am crucial to winning the battles to come. Our demise should make no difference. What about those who love Rigmor? Baa’Ren-Dar, Angi, Sigunn and Sorella.”

“They are safe, but they are at a loss as to what to do next. They are hiding at the mountain camp of The Huntress for safety. I sense a deep sadness, Guardian.”

“I will go to them and tell them Rigmor lives. I doubt they are safe at Angi’s place even if Aedriath thinks I am dead and he has Rigmor.”

“Go quickly, my Champion, take Azura’s Bane. You are now its chosen keeper. I will send a messenger when the time comes. Go, your friends are waiting.”

Lady Azura’s avatar left the mortal plane.

I picked up Azura’s Bane and did some two-handed forms with it. I was impressed with the weapon but could not do it justice as Rigmor did. I would carry it as it was light and would not encumber me.

I looked out at the carnage. There was little blood as both my sword and Azura’s Bane cauterise the wounds made with fire. The littered corpses were sacrifices. I knew there were only twelve sets of the Black Diamond armour, and we killed nine Elite Guards. I assume the other three accompanied Aedriath. I thought he had run away like a snivelling coward. But he hadn’t. He had placed the sugar, and this fly lapped it up.

This whole thing was a trap that was meticulously planned and executed. Aedriath may have hoped the extensive forces in the mines and The Forge would stop us. But that endangered Rigmor, and therefore I question Azura’s claim they needed her alive for some important reason. They looked pretty intent on killing her!

Maybe Aedriath wasn’t aware of Rigmor’s importance? His journal suggested friction between him and The New Order’s leaders. He might have taken Rigmor from here to continue his depraved torture and execution then lost her to those higher up. His toy was snatched away.

But he knew if we made it to the dungeon, the forces there could not stop us if the far superior numbers in the mines and The Forge hadn’t. They were sacrificed so we would find the first bait, Sigunn, and not be suspicious.

Did he think we would just run back home with Sigunn or risk entering this fort with her in tow? He could not know for sure that we would bring allies.

With Sigunn in tow or not, he knew we would come after him. He waited for when we would be full of confidence and maybe not as alert as we should have been.

I was outwitted, but I am not infallible and never thought I was. I will learn from the experience.

Azura was full of melodramatic speculation and chest-beating.

There is no powerful force obscuring her power. On the mortal plane, she has no power outside the limited functions provided by the Black Diamonds. Azura has no idea why they would need Rigmor or where they have taken her because no mortal seer has had visions that she can decipher to obtain that information. That is the reason for her lack of knowledge, not some powerful force thwarting her power!

Azura has always claimed omnipotence on Nirn. No god, not even The Divines, have omnipotence in the mortal plane.

The claim that The Entity would be unstoppable is demonstrably wrong!

Mehrunes Dagon was stopped by mortals and The Divines, thereby ending the Oblivion Crises.

Azura provided information to Sul, one of her previous Champions. Sul used that information to help mortals stop Lord Umbriel, thus ending the Umbriel Crises.

Mortals and gods stopped Molag Bal’s Planemeld. Both Aedra and Daedra helped mortals against Molag Bal on that occasion.

Azura knows The Nerevarine prevented similar dangers as that hero was also her Champion and a mortal agent of The Divines.

This ‘Entity’ would cause much damage and death, so his entry must be thwarted. But he would not be unstoppable!

Azura helped me because she thinks I am the only one who can stop The New Order and The Entity. She did not do it out of compassion.

Despair is the enemy of action. Rigmor is alive and needs me, so I must not despair.

Yngol and Casius had caused the collapse before I was shot. Therefore, Aedriath must have had an alternate route out of the complex. Using Night-Vision, I had a look at all the doorways entering the room, hoping for some clue as to the direction they took.

On the ground before a door was a red mountain flower. I picked it up. The flower was a bit wilted, but it would have been fresh when Rigmor dropped it. It was almost certainly one of those she picked at The Lookout.

Rigmor knew I would recognise the significance of a simple flower. Unbidden tears rolled down my cheeks. My beautiful, wonderful Rigmor saw me shot in the throat and stabbed yet still believed I would find her and rescue her. She would show me the way out.

Such presence of mind when her worst nightmare was unfolding was a testament to her strength.

I searched carefully for other flowers. I found the second and placed it in my journal case with the other.

It took a few minutes to find the third flower. It also went into my journal case.

The fourth flower was at the foot of a ladder. The ladder led to a trapdoor.

The fourth flower was squashed and more faded than the previous three. It was the one I had in my pocket next to my heart. Rigmor originally placed it in her brassiere but must have put it somewhere else later. It did not go into my journal case but into the pocket next to my heart.

I climbed the ladder and found myself outside.

I quickly looked at the route Aedriath, and his Elite Guard took. They had destroyed a walkway. After the deadliest poison and two stabbings, did they worry that I would still be after them? Maybe I haunt Aedriath’s dreams?

I teleported to the archery targets. I didn’t want to startle anybody by appearing in the middle of Angi’s camp.

I heard Meeko yip, and then he barked excitedly. He knew I was back.

He must have told Sorella, who yelled, “It’s the Dragonborn and Rigmor! They’re back!”

When Sorella saw that Rigmor wasn’t with me, she ran to stand with the others.

Celestine came to greet me, and I told her, “I will talk to you soon.”

I walked over to Sigunn, Sorella, Angi and Baa’Ren-Dar.

Baa’Ren-Dar said, “Dragonborn, we thought you were dead or captured.”

“My friends would know if I died. The Divines would tell them.”

Sigunn’s asked, “Rigmor! What happened to Rigmor?”

“I am so sorry, Sigunn. Rigmor is still alive, but The New Order have her.”

Sigunn’s face went pale as she exclaimed, “Oh no!”

Sorella’s face hardened, and she yelled, “I hate you! I hate you!”.

The little girl ran to the tent sobbing.

Angi left to comfort Sorella.

Sigunn asked me, “How do you know she is still alive?”

“Two reasons. Lady Azura told me, and I would know if Rigmor died. My heart would break.”

“Why would they keep her alive?”

“Azura says The New Order needs her unharmed but doesn’t know why.”

I didn’t mention to Sigunn the more likely reason. They want to display the Daughter of the Beast of Hammerfell and prolong her suffering. A re-enactment of what happened to Ragnar.

“But why, Dragonborn? I don’t understand.”

“All I know at the moment is there are forces behind The New Order. Mighty forces. Their intentions were not as we have thought up to now. We will have to gather more information to understand it all.”

“Thank the gods she is alive! I will try and calm Sorella.”

A child’s laughter is the most precious thing on Nirn. A child’s tears are the least wanted. Sigunn walked into the hut to join Angi’s attempt at calming the hysterical Sorella.

I told Baa’Ren-Dar, “We have to talk!”

“This one suggests we retire to Rigmor’s tent as Khajiit thinks some things are better discussed privately. Yes?”

“I will be there soon, Baa’Ren-Dar.”

I stood outside Angi’s hut and listened.

  • Angi: Don’t cry. Everything is going to be okay.
  • Sorella: I hate him!
  • Angi: You don’t mean that.
  • Sigunn: Sorella, you told me that Wulf loves Rigmor. Is that true?
  • Sorella: Yes. They love each other lots.
  • Sigunn: Don’t you think he tried to stop them from taking Rigmor?
  • Sorella: Yes.
  • Angi: We don’t know the whole story, Sorella. Poor Wulf looks sad, and we shouldn’t make him sadder.
  • Sigunn: Wulf will find her.
  • Sorella: I want Rigmor to come home.
  • Sigunn: We all do, Sorella.
  • Angi: Part of the problem is you are tired. Off to bed now.

I walked over to the fire.

  • Lydia: Wulf, what happened?
  • Wulf: We were ambushed. I was shot in the neck with a Black Diamond tipped crossbow bolt. It was coated with Jarrin Root poison. Then I was stabbed twice.
  • Lydia: Is Jarrin Root poison bad?
  • Celestine: Is is the deadliest poison known and the rarest.
  • Lydia: How did you survive?
  • Wulf: I survived because of a blessing from The Divines, aid from Lady Azura, and my love for Rigmor.
  • Celestine: The Watchful Eye of The Nine?
  • Wulf: Yes. Lady Azura anchored part of my soul to my body. The rest of my soul was in The Void. I willed myself back into Mundus and my body, but it took three days.
  • Celestine: You are physically exhausted, Wulf. Talk to Baa’Ren-Dar, then get some rest. We can find out more details after that.
  • Wulf: I was outmanoeuvred, outwitted and outsmarted.
  • Celestine: Is your ego bruised?
  • Wulf: Of course not! But my confidence is.
  • Celestine: Good. I don’t know what we’d do if you suddenly had an ego!
  • Lydia: Is that supposed to help build his confidence?
  • Celestine: No, Lydia. Only Wulf can do that.

I entered Rigmor’s tent and sat.

Baa’Ren-Dar looked concerned. I said to him, “The New Order is not content with defeating The Empire. Their real objective is to allow an Entity from Oblivion to cross into the mortal plane.”

“Who told you this?”

“Lady Azura told Rigmor. Rigmor was, for a short time, Azura’s Champion. After helping to keep me alive for three days, Lady Azura told me again when I finally awoke. The sword I have on my back can only be wielded by Azura’s Champion, which is now me.”

“Do we know who this ‘Entity’ is?”

“No. There are too many possible candidates and not enough information even to speculate.”

“Is the New Order’s establishment needed for it to manifest on Nirn?”

“I don’t see why. As an army already in a position of power and ready to conquer more territory, it would be desirable. It does not have to be established for the Oblivion Gate to work. They have constructed one, but I do not know how they will open it. That usually takes some metaphysical mumbo jumbo disguised as a ritual. I have my suspicions but do not dwell on the horror of them. I am willing to wait and find out more before I start to panic.”

“Does that horror involve Rigmor?”

“It would make the pieces of the puzzle fit, would it not?”

“Yes, Dragonborn, it would. Khajiit assumes Tilar Aedriath outmanoeuvred you?”

“Yes, despite your warnings, he was too clever. He sacrificed people, Baa’Ren-Dar. That sort of strategy is foreign to me. But I will have to start thinking like my enemies if I am to survive.”

“How did Azura help Dragonborn survive?”

“Lady Azura made part of my soul remain in my body. That kept the flesh alive while the rest of my soul was in The Void. I used my love for Rigmor to strengthen my will, which enabled me to find my way back to my body.”

“How did Dragonborn get hurt?”

“Jarrin Root poison smothered on a crossbow bolt with a black-diamond point. And I was stabbed two times.”

“The Nine helped Dragonborn?”

“Yes, one of my blessings prevented death and repaired my body. It would not save me every time.”

“Dragonborn said his love for Rigmor strengthened his will. Did Rigmor and Dragonborn end their confusion?”

“Yes, Baa’Ren-Dar. Rigmor wants to stay with me, no matter what the future holds.”

“This one does not know much about the workings of the gods. This one does know the power of love, so Khajiit is heartened to hear you both came to your senses.”

“I am at a loss as to what to do next. Lady Azura is probably waiting on something from her seers. The Nine will not know. What happens in Oblivion is hidden from them.”

“This one brought Sigunn here because he thought it would be safe. But nowhere is safe.”

“Azura thought I was an idiot and reminded me I should pass these documents on to you.”

I passed the old Khajiit the relevant documents.

Bar’Ren-Dar read the documents almost as fast as I could. A handy skill in the games of politics and espionage.

Bar’Ren-Dar looked at me with an even grimmer expression, then said, “This one would never have believed it. Tamriel is in grave danger!”

“Not just Tamriel. An immortal being with the power to cross over from Oblivion is a danger to all mortals on Nirn.”

“This one will need to travel to Cyrodiil right away with these documents, so you will need to stay here and protect the women and child until my return.”

“I need to find Rigmor!”

“Dragonborn does not know where to start. If he remains here, I know where to find him and give him information. Khajiit thinks that makes sense.”

“Yes, you are right.”

“Dragonborn must put aside guilt and think straight. Khajiit can see the guilt, so do not deny it.”

“One thing puzzles me, Bar’Ren-Dar. Why has Lady Azura taken such interest in Rigmor?”

“Maybe Azura has seen into Rigmor’s heart like Khajiit and Dragonborn?”

“You have shown to be a warrior as well as a diplomat. Is bard on your list of previous occupations?”

“Ask Rigmor when you find her. I was never allowed to sing lullabies.”

“Travel safely, Bar’Ren-Dar.”

“Take care of them, Dragonborn, if they find us here….”

“You know I will protect them with my life. They would need an army to get past the ‘Get Lost’ sign.”

We exited the tent. I then watched Bar’Ren-Dar run out of the compound like he was a quarter of his age. How old is he anyway?

I walked over to the fire.

  • Wulf: Baa’Ren-Dar is taking some information I recovered to His Imperial Highness.
  • Angi: He speaks with Mede?
  • Wulf: He speaks to many leaders of many nations. He is well respected in diplomatic circles.
  • Angi: Oh my!
  • Wulf: What we call ‘The Entity’ is to enter Nirn and use The New Order to conquer all of it. Lady Azura claimed many things about The Entity, but I think it was speculation.
  • Celestine: So, we have to wait for more information about The New Order before doing more to thwart their plans?
  • Wulf: Yes.
  • Lydia: What about Rigmor?
  • Wulf: The same. I have no idea where to find her.
  • Celestine: Wulf, will you cope?
  • Wulf: I have no choice. Now, excuse me as I need to talk to Sigunn and tell her what is happening.

I quietly entered Angi’s hut. Sigunn was standing near the curtained entrance to the bedroom.

I whispered, “Is Sorella okay?”

Sigunn turned and replied, “She’s asleep. Don’t worry. She’ll be fine.”

“Do you want to discuss what is happening?”

“Yes, please.”

We sat on chairs in front of the fire.

I asked Sigunn, “How are you?”

“Okay, I guess. It’s just weird, you know. After all that time, we are finally reunited. And now Rigmor is gone again. It is like a curse.”

“I will try my hardest to find Rigmor and bring her back, Sigunn.”

“Celestine never questioned your survival. She told me some of your story and how you found Rigmor when she needed you most. She was a fourteen-year-old girl in the hands of those monsters. It is the same, Wulf. Rigmor has been taken from me once more and is afraid. She is once again in the hands of those monsters, and like last time, your love will help you find her.”

“We are a product of our upbringing. I can see you mirrored in Rigmor, Sigunn.”

Sigunn smiled, then said, “Rigmor was such a good little girl. She wanted to be a teacher one day, then a singer the next. I hardly recognised her, you know, at the prison. I feel guilty about that. How could I do such a thing?”

“I suspect that every day, over and over, you replayed conversations and other memories of Rigmor and Ragnar. The last time you saw Rigmor or heard her speak, she was fourteen, had her hair and was probably dressed in some finery. Fourteen is not exactly a little girl but certainly not the woman you saw in that prison. She is now inches taller, bigger in certain places, ahem, and was dressed in a suit of armour! But you did recognise her! You knew it was your little girl! Even if you said, ‘Who are you?’ and Rigmor had to tell you, it would have been a special moment!”

“Special enough to make her Guardian cry?”

“Yes, and I did cry, and for many reasons. I knew how much Rigmor yearned to find you.”

“You are right about replaying those memories. I remember when Rigmor was about seven. Ragnar had made her a doll. It was just dowling for arms and legs with a sackcloth dress and string hair. But Rigmor’s face lit up with the biggest smile when Ragnar handed it to her. She wouldn’t go anywhere without it.”

“I bet she valued it more than the spoiled rich children value the bedrooms full of toys they have. The overabundance added to when father occasionally buys another expensive toy because that is the ‘done’ thing when one has been away for an extended period.”

“Rigmor would play rough and tumble with the boys and fight in the snow. They would throw snowballs at guards until they chased them off.”

“No wonder her hands started twitching when we walked through Windhelm!”

Sigunn laughed, and it was an echo of Rigmor’s. Ragnar never stood a chance!

“One day, the doll went missing. One of the boys told her a new neighbour, a Dark Elf girl, had stolen it. I took Rigmor to their house, and the girl’s father apologised and gave back the doll. Rigmor saw the little girl was hiding behind her father crying. She handed the doll to the little Dark Elf girl and said, ‘Why don’t you keep it?’ then ran home. Ragnar made her another one, and the girls became inseparable.”

“Was the little girl called LoonaShadow, Loona for short?”

“Yes, I am not surprised Rigmor would have spoken of her.”

My traitorous eyes teared up. I quickly turned from Sigunn.

I waited a few seconds to compose myself, then turned back to Sigunn and said, “That sounds like the Rigmor I know.”

Sigunn continued, “You were right, Wulf. Memories like that kept me alive. I knew that while I was alive, there was a chance that she was alive too. I knew there could come a day when we would be together again.”

“Both you and Rigmor have such incredible strength. I am truly in awe.”

“Baa’Ren-Dar explained to me how he rescued her. I am forever in his debt.”

“Rigmor is a fighter. She has been on the brink of death several times and has been too stubborn to die. But people help her and quickly learn to love her. As you have seen with Sorella.”

“She didn’t deserve this, Wulf. She deserved a normal, happy life. Little girls grow up to be mothers. The gods have cursed my family and corrupted her innocence. How can she ever have a normal life now?”

“The Thalmor seeking revenge on Ragnar is not the fault of gods, Sigunn. No god told them to rip your family apart. The Nine have sacrificed much to create all you see and continue to do so. No little girl would have a normal life if it weren’t for them and people like me who aid them.”

“Celestine said you are Champion of The Divines.”

“Yes, I am, and I help them stop evil such as The New Order. I will have to stop Alduin, who also wants to enslave all the people of Nirn. But I can understand you blaming gods. Not everybody gets the same insight as me.”

“Sometimes, I wanted just to give up. Get it over with and see my beloved Ragnar again. But I would always see that little girl playing, trying on dresses or chasing the boys.”

“Were red dresses a favourite even then?”

“Yes, they were! She was wearing one when they came for us. I tried to hold onto her. She was crying when they wrenched her from me. She kicked and screamed, and I couldn’t do anything. I tried to reassure her. I told her everything would be alright and to go with them. I wanted to die.”

In my head, Rigmor’s voice cried out, “Dragonborn! No! No! Dragonborn help! No, please, leave him alone. You have me! Help me! Mercy!”

Sigunn could see my tears streaming and asked, “Wulf, what’s wrong?”

“Rigmor needs me, Sigunn, and I don’t know how to help her. The Nine gave me powers and blessings, and I couldn’t stop the monsters taking her.”

“Oh, Wulf…”

“Please forgive me. I need to rest.”

I exited and then rushed past Lydia and Celestine. Meeko whined.

I entered Rigmor’s tent and slumped into the chair. I reached into my armour and retrieved the red mountain flower from my pocket.

It was no longer crushed and close to disintegrating. I was as fresh as if picked minutes before.

A sense of wonder replaced my despair. I was contemplating the meaning, if any, of the flower’s transformation when sleep took me into its merciful embrace.

Just over three hours later, I was woken by a loud knock on the frame of Rigmor’s tent and a frantic, “Wulf, wake up!” from Sigunn.

I stood and said, “Please enter, Sigunn.”

Sigunn came inside.

“What is the problem?”

“Sorella is missing! Angi has gone to look for her. Sorella took one of her bows. We think she might have gone to try and find Rigmor.”

“How did she sneak out?”

“She said she was going to the privy and never came back. Meeko has also gone to find her.”

“Stay here with Lydia in case Sorella returns. I will take Celestine and help Angi.”

“Hurry!”

I rushed outside.

  • Wulf: Do you two know what has happened?
  • Lydia: Yes, Sorella has gone missing.
  • Wulf: Lydia, stay here with Sigunn. Celestine, you come with me in case Sorella is injured.
  • Celestine: Meeko has gone to find her.
  • Wulf: Hopefully, his giant footprints are easy to follow.
  • Lydia: Wulf, what is that flower you are holding?
  • Wulf: Proof of the power of the love Rigmor and I share.
  • Lydia: Gobblygook?
  • Wulf: Major, wonderful, gobblygook.

I quickly placed the flower in my journal case and went searching for Sorella.

Meeko’s paws left a reasonably easy trail to follow amongst the numerous footprints and hoofprints.

Celestine and I were hurrying, and it was not long before we spotted Angi’s horse.

We found Angi standing on a bit of a hill, calling Sorella’s name.

She heard us approaching and turned to greet us.

I asked, “Angi, are there caves or ruins nearby that Sorella might have entered to look for Rigmor?”

“There are plenty, but we could spend forever searching the wrong ones.”

“Meeko would have followed her scent.”

“I was hoping you would catch up before I followed his footprints. Let’s go!”

Angi leapt onto her horse, and we jogged behind.

We came to an old fort. Meeko had somehow gained entry as his footprints led to its front entrance.

I said to Angi, “Meeko and Sorella must be inside. See the blood on the cairns? They mark this as the home of a vampire clan.”

“The locals call it ‘The Bloodlet Throne’.”

“Rigmor mentioned it to me when we were discussing vampires.”

“It is well known, but nobody does anything about them.”

“Your bow is the best weapon for dealing with vampires. The further away they are, the less damage they can do to you with their Blood Magic. I am immune to it.”

“Why?”

“I have Dragon Blood.”

“Oh.”

“Stay behind me. I want to use The Voice, and it can hurt you as much as it hurts the vampires.”

“Okay. I will follow your lead.”

I turned to Celestine.

“Cast the relevant protection spells on Angi. Don’t worry about combat. I will deal with the bloodsuckers.”

“Okay, I will protect Angi.”

“Let’s go find Sorella!”

We opened the door and entered. A bloodied skull stared at us in greeting.

I warned, “Do not step on the trap!”

We were only a few steps in when we heard the high-pitched scream of a child.

“Sorella!” Angi called out then tried to run toward the heart-breaking sound.

I restrained her and said, “Your only hope of survival is to stay with me. We will get to Sorella and slaughter anything that gets in our way. But I don’t want to lose you as well. Rigmor was enough!”

Angi nodded, and we proceeded with caution.

I used Night-Vision instead of a lamp so as not to give warning to the foe. Vampires can use Heat-Vision, but their mortal thralls can’t.

Angi whispered, “I can hardly see a thing.”

“I can see as if it was midday.”

“More dragon stuff?”

“Yep.”

A vampire and thrall attacked.

“FUS RO DAH!”

Unrelenting Force killed them, Angi jumped, and Celestine giggled.

“Oh, sorry Angi, I forget not everybody has experienced The Voice.”

“Won’t that tell them where we are?”

“Not always. Can you hear the echoes? It is difficult to pinpoint The Voice, and many enemies ignore it.”

“Idiots!”

“I meet very few smart bad guys.”

I decided it was unfair to leave Angi in the dark, so I equipped my lantern.

We approached a gargoyle. I warned Angi, “Get ready.”

“For what?”

The gargoyle came to life and attacked. Angi said, “Fuck!” Celestine giggled.

I waited for the gargoyle to swipe at my head with its clawed hand.

I ducked and sliced across its belly. Angi hit it in the head with an arrow.

The gargoyle turned and tried to run.

I plunged my sword through its head.

The fight was over.

Angi asked, “What was that?”

“A gargoyle.”

“Why isn’t the other one attacking?”

“Sometimes, they are just statues.”

“I hate this place!”

The unmistakable sounds of Meeko ripping into an opponent started not far away. We ran towards the sound and found him battling two vampires.

One was an Argonian.

I lopped her head off.

I Blinked and then skewered the other vampire.

Angi asked Celestine, “Was that more dragon stuff?”

Celestine answered, “No, that was a blessing from The Nine.”

I looked at Meeko. He had a gash on his side from the Argonian vampire’s axe.

I asked him, “Are you okay?”

“Woof!”

“Okay then, take us to her.”

“Woof.”

“Wolves and Death Hounds are protecting Sorella? Well, she will still be frightened, so let’s go!”

We entered a large cavern with lots of scaffolding.

Unrelenting Force killed vampire and thrall alike. Some enemies turned to ash, indicating my Thu’um was strengthening.

A rather toothy gargoyle attacked, and Angi swore once again.

I blocked its initial attack with my shield.

Then I did a backhand swipe across its belly.

The gargoyle collapsed onto its hands and knees.

I said, “This is for scaring Angi!” then broke its neck with a kick to its head.

More enemies fell to my Thu’um.

A wolf trotted up to us then turned around.

I turned to Angi and said, “He wants us to follow.”

“Maybe he wants to see you kick more gargoyles to death?”

“I was trained in unarmed combat. You can’t always have a bow handy to shoot people in the head.”

We followed the wolf and Meeko to a cavern. Sorella stood in the middle of a protective ring of wolves. Several thralls had already been mauled to death.

A pull-chain lowered the bars giving us access to Sorella.

A vampire sitting on a throne demanded, “Who dares intrude? No matter, the fools will be the show’s next act.”

I ignored him and walked up to Sorella.

“Hi, Sorella. It seems your friends are keeping the bad guys away.”

“Yeah, they were supposed to eat me but didn’t.”

“Probably because you are smelly and need a bath.”

“Hey, that’s not true! It’s because I am a Wolf Friend.”

“Yeah, your right. Now, you need to leave with Angi, Meeko and Celestine.”

“You won’t hurt the wolves, will you?”

“No, Sorella, they are your friends, so they are also mine.”

“Okay.”

I looked at some Death Hounds and was surprised Wolf Friend worked on them as well.

I said to Angi, “Take Sorella home. Meeko and Celestine will protect you both.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Wipe out a nest of vampires.”

Sorella asked, “Why is that wolf green? I can see through him!”

“That is Lady Kynareth letting us know she is watching.”

“Cool”

Angi said, “Come along, Sorella. Let’s get you home. And you are a bit pongy!”

Sorella whined, “Angi, I told you, I will drown if you make me have a bath!”

I watched them leave. Meeko returned the glowing wolf’s howl with his own as he left.

I turned and faced the vampires.

Their leader said, “How far do you think she will get? The Broodmother has chosen the child.”

“Kyne and I, The Dragonborn, protect the child. She will get very far, and your Broodmother will die if she persists in hunting children.”

“You are weak and alone. Prepare to die, you fool!”

“Didn’t you hear the part about me being The Dragonborn?”

Unrelenting Force destroyed most of those who had been watching the show. I don’t think they enjoyed this act much at all.

I pulled another chain that lowered more bars so I could access the rest of the complex.

A young-looking vampire stood and tried his Blood Magic on me.

I said, “Don’t they teach at Vampire School that Blood Magic doesn’t work on Dragonborn? Oh well, it’s too late to correct your poor education.”

Just as Unrelenting Force smashed into the vampire, so did an Ice Spear. Some of the vampires are not very adept at aiming their Destruction spells.

The offending mage was at the other end of the cavern,

Sword and Thu’um eliminated every enemy as I made my way rapidly through the first part of The Bloodlet Throne.

When I returned to the pit, some vampires were killing the wolves.

I leapt down and dispatched them, but all the wolves were dead.

I searched the corpses of those who had been viewing the show. On an Orsimer Vampire, I found the following note.

“To the Master of The Bloodlet Throne.

Word is a vengeful Redguard has discovered your coven. Be wary of strangers and keep the wolves loose. They will at least warn you of any impending danger. Do not underestimate this woman, for she is the mother of the girl that died when she accidentally fell into the pit.

She has on her person a cursed bow and a ring of protection. Do not touch these items! The bow is fused with the bones and ash of our brothers and sisters, and to touch it brings death. The ring will cause any vampire who wears it to descend into madness.

I don’t need to impress on you the importance of maintaining absolute secrecy in our activities, and remember, I need them alive. Once or two more will suffice.

M.S.”

M.S. said they need one or two alive. I assume they meant children. The ‘Master of The Bloodlet Throne’ said that the Broodmother chose Sorella. So, was she supposed to be delivered in small, brown smelly piles of wolf turds? Perhaps this ‘Master of The Bloodlet Throne’ couldn’t resist some entertainment. Like Aedriath, who almost beat and whipped to death my beloved Rigmor, who now seems critical to the New Order.

The problem with evil megalomaniacs is they make the worst babysitters!

My Dovah spoke for the first time in days, “You are resorting to dark humour, even when nobody is here to not laugh at it. You are afraid for Rigmor and anxious and not concentrating on this task. Let me do the work.”

“No, I am doing well enough. I don’t need to hide from my emotions.”

“You invented me so you could.”

“The love I share with Rigmor is the cause of my emotions. I will not hide from them!”

“Just concentrate and don’t get killed. That would make it difficult to rescue our beloved.”

My Dovah faded, and I thought about the letter some more. The questions it generates are many. How many covens are there? How many children have been sent to the ‘Broodmother’? For what purpose does she use? I put those questions aside and continued my cleansing of The Bloodlet Throne.

A barred door led to another section of The Bloodlet Throne.

I killed more vampires.

Then I came upon the body of a Redguard woman. She was wearing the armour of an Alik’r warrior.

Hunting undead of any sort makes you a pariah in Redguard society. They have a tribe, the Ash’abah, who deal with the undead. They do this on behalf of all Redguards and are shunned for their service.

I guessed this woman was the one mentioned in the letter and not of the Ash’abah. She was seeking her daughter, and it seems she failed. I hope she took down many of the vampires before her death.

I was hesitant to search the corpse, as I was not a priest of Tu’whacca. But I am sure the Yokudan god would understand the need. Many regard Tu’whacca, Arkay and Xarxes as aspects of the same god.

So, I searched the body and found her vampire-hunting bow, her Ring of Protection and a journal.

The dweomer on the ring was protection against mind attacks. Similar to how I protect myself but useable by those not trained in such things.

The relevant journal entries are,

“The Calling invades our children’s dreams. In a stupor of nightmares, they disappear into the night. Hammerfell has cried rivers of tears for the lost. One day you wake up to find they are gone. That is what happened to Xenia.

I have made it my life’s work to search, hoping I might find her and hunt down the monsters responsible. The Vampires take the little ones into the depths of Hammerfell. I will find them, and I will bring them death.

My bow will burn them and cleanse their evil souls in the hellfire, and my silver arrows will drive into their black hearts. Xenia’s Wrath shall never rest until the last demon is nought but a pile of ash.

My ring will keep them from my dreams and protect me from their sorcery. Finding Xenia’s necklace will let me know. I cannot rest until I find it, so I continue the hunt.

I have tracked them down to their lair, The Bloodlet Throne. Here is the coven of witch-devils infesting Hammerfell. Here is where they operate at the behest of their masters.

Here is where they will meet their death and forever burn in the fires of Oblivion.

I have found their place of abomination, their table, and I am close to their resting place. I can feel it in my bones.

Once the job is done and I have found you, we will be reunited.

Not long now, Xenia, not long now, my love.”

I said over the body, “I will find Xenia’s necklace and bring it to you. It will confirm she was here, but she died accidentally. They did not corrupt her soul.”

I pondered how long Xenia’s mother had pursued the vampires. How many years had they been gathering children via The Calling? How many children never made it to the Broodmother as they fell victim to the many dangers of travel?

I could feel a breeze and followed it to an alcove poorly concealed behind a fluttering curtain.

I entered the tiny alcove and laughed. I thought Delphine’s closet with a sliding back panel was stupid, and that was in a room where a closet belonged. The only furniture in the small alcove was a closet, and the seal to what lay behind it was incomplete. Hence the breeze.

I opened the cupboard and slid the back panel to the side.

I then entered another part of The Bloodlet Throne.

I came upon a pit full of dead adults. Cattle to the vampires. Loved ones to those who miss them.

I followed the noise of many vampires laughing and carrying on as if typical family and friends at a gathering.

They were seated around a dining table, consuming blood and mortal flesh and enjoying themselves immensely.

Unrelenting Force swept across the cavern, and they laughed no more.

I searched for more vampires. I was determined not to leave any alive.

I came upon a group of them discussing what the thunder-like sounds might be and if they should investigate.

I killed them all except for one that was protected around a corner.

She died.

Others attacked.

They died.

I searched the area and found a necklace sitting on top of a set of drawers. Upon its back was writing in Yokudan. It is a language I have not learnt, but I assumed it was Xenia’s.

I made my way back to the Redguard woman’s body and held the necklace over it.

Her spirit arose. Xenia’s spirit materialised and joined her mother’s.

They walked down a corridor and turned to face me.

I intoned, “Tu’whacca, please escort their souls to the Far Shores.”

Xenia waved. I waved back.

Then mother and daughter vanished, and I shed many a tear. I just witnessed the power of love demonstrated in all its glory.

I quickly made my way out of The Bloodlet Throne. The vampires within were examples of the darkness I would face. I knew the darkness would turn me into my Dovah without Rigmor to remind me of the light and goodness.

I teleported to Angi’s.

I handed the letter and journal to Lydia and Celestine.

I explained, “Please, read these. I think we may need to do something about this vampire clan. I have killed all in The Bloodlet Throne, but I fear there are many covens.”

Sigunn was standing outside Angi’s hut.

I asked, “Sigunn, how is Sorella?”

“Angi is with her. The little girl is still terrified, poor thing.”

“Is she hearing voices?”

“Yes, terrible voices inside her head.”

“I have something that will help her.”

“Thank the gods!”

I walked in and found Sorella staring into the flames.

The Broodmother and all her clan will die for daring to harm children!

I asked, “Angi, can I please sit and talk with Sorella?”

“Oh, certainly. I will make myself busy elsewhere.”

Angi went outside, and I sat in the vacated seat.

Sorella looked at me, and I could see the fear in her eyes.

I told her, “Sorella, you are the bravest little girl I have ever met!”

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to find Rigmor.”

“I know you did. That is the sort of thing you do for the people you love. And everybody loves Rigmor.”

“I know you do. Lots!”

“And that is why I will try hard to find Rigmor and bring her back to her friends and family.”

“I know, and Wulf, I don’t hate you.”

“Sometimes we say things we don’t mean when upset and angry. I understand, Sorella, so please, do not worry about that.”

“Okay.”

“Are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah, I think so. Will the bad guys come to hurt me?”

“None of the ones there will ever hurt anybody ever again.”

“I won’t run away again, I promise.”

“Nobody is mad at you, Sorella. We were just worried.”

“Like I was worried about Rigmor?”

“Exactly. Now we need to talk about what just happened in that horrible place.”

“HmmHm!”

“Were you surprised when the wolves didn’t hurt you in the pit?”

“No, because you and Meeko explained what being a Wolf Friend means.”

“What happened when the wolves didn’t attack you?”

“The bad guys got angry at the wolves, and the wolves got angry at the bad guys. Two of the bad guys jumped into the pit and hit the wolves to make them attack me. The wolves killed them, and I screamed because it was horrible.”

“Did you know Meeko was there as well?

“Yeah, he came up to the bars. Some wolves seemed to talk to him with yips and growls.”

“It would have been harder to find you if he hadn’t left his big pawprints in the snow.”

“He isn’t just a dog, is he?”

“No, he is a gift from my gods, The Divines or, as some people call then, The Nine. I am not sure what he is. He has been my friend since I was younger than you.”

“That is so cool!”

“Are you hearing voices in your head, Sorella?”

“Yes. The voices keep talking to me and asking me to go somewhere far away.”

“Do you know where the place is they want you to go?”

“No, they will give me directions as I travel.”

“That is what those bad guys do. They talk to children in their heads. Eventually, each child gets tired of the voices and do as they ask. The bad guys will keep trying to make you do as they say. They will not come to get you. They will wait for you to go to them.”

“I am scared of them, Wulf!”

“I am going to give you a very special ring. You are to wear it all the time and never take it off. It will stop those scary voices asking you to go to them. Can you promise me you will never take it off?”

“I promise.”

“I will explain the ring to Angi, so she knows how important it is.”

I gave Sorella Xenia’s ring, and she slipped it on. A smile of relief crossed her face. Children should only ever have to smile and laugh.

Meeko started to growl and gave a warning bark.

Sorella said, “Wulf, Meeko says bad guys are approaching!”

‘Yes, but they won’t be like the ones from before. Don’t worry. Angi will put arrows in their heads.”

Sigunn burst into the hut and said, “Wulf, a man with hounds is nearby!”

“Probably a scout or a tracker. Please, stay in here with Sorella. They won’t get near you. I can assure you of that!”

I ran outside and yelled, “Lydia, Meeko, protect Sorella and Sigunn. Celestine, come with me.”

As I headed down to see who was approaching, Celestine warned an intruder, “Halt, or I will shove a Fireball up your arse!”

I laughed and said, “Relax, Celestine. He is just a messenger from Lady Azura.”

I walked up to Sethri and told him, “Whatever it is will have to wait until I have said hello to our other visitors.”

“Fair enough, Dragonborn.”

I walked over and stood next to Angi.

I then used Zoom-Vision to have a closer look at the distant figure.

I turned to Angi.

“An Imperial Tracker with his hounds.”

“There’s only one of them. I bet I could take him out from here with my bow.”

“There will be a squad with him. I will go and deal with them.”

“Oh, of course. The Voice!”

“Here, Angi, take this bow. It is called Xenia’s Wrath and is deadly to vampires.”

“I shall teach Sorella how to use it.”

“Good idea.”

I drew my sword and walked casually towards the tracker. He and his hounds attacked.

Unrelenting Force killed them.

I ran forward and saw the enemy conveniently standing in a narrow row.

Unrelenting Force killed all but one New Order soldier who was just outside its cone.

I Blinked to him, laughed at his surprised expression, and then cut his head off.

His head bounced and rolled off the mountain.

The New Order officer was at the back. They are so brave!

On him was this order,

“Captain, New Order Security Squad.

It has come to my attention that that accursed Rigmor and her Guardian were given haven at some worthless Huntress camp South of Falkreath. Now the Guardian is dead, and Rigmor is in captivity, we need to eliminate any loose ends.

Take some trackers and a detachment of my troops, find this camp, and burn it. Execute anyone you find there. Leave no stone unturned.

General Tilar Aedriath.”

As I walked toward Sethri, my hatred for Imperial soldiers who sided with Thalmor surfaced. My dragon eyes came to the fore unbidden.

When I got close to him, Sethri recoiled.

“I am not covered in gore, am I?”

“Your eyes, Dragonborn!”

“Oh, sorry.”

I willed my eyes back to normal.

“Is that better?”

“Lady Azura assures me you are nice and sane and not overly violent towards allies. So, I will ignore those eyes and your laughter just before lopping off that head.”

“If Azura has spoken to you, then you must know that rescuing Rigmor is more than a little important to me. In the meantime, if the gods want to distract me with suicidal vampires and New Order patsies, I welcome it wholeheartedly.”

“I have no idea about vampires, but I get the sentiment.”

“Well, Tendril Sethri, my favourite thief, messenger, disciple and mage, what do you think of this turn of events?”

“In a minute Dragonborn. I have some vital information.”

“If you dare say, ‘All will be revealed,’ I will punch you!”

“You wouldn’t! Oh, I can see you would.”

“Information, please, Sethri!”

“Not all will be revealed, but some.”

“Start with the important information. Do you know where Rigmor is?”

“Not exactly, but I know a man who does.”

“Tell me what you know.”

“Rigmor is being kept at the same location as a Portal Gate.”

“They are called Oblivion Gates. Azura has no idea where it is. Don’t tell me there is a powerful force blocking her insight. No seer has seen it, so she has no idea where it is.”

“She can sense Rigmor is safe at the moment.”

“Bullshit! To know that, she would have to sense Rigmor’s soul. To sense her soul, Azura would have to know where she is. Plus, the term ‘safe’ is meaningless. Safe from rabid skeevers? Safe from the temptation of Sweet Rolls? She is in the hands of her worst nightmares, and that is not in any way, shape or form, safe.”

Sethri showed no reaction to my dismissal of Azura’s crap.

“Lady Azura said some of The New Order soldiers are searching the massive evacuation site in Markarth.”

“Well, that is a waste of time. The Dwemer artefact market is flooded! But there are many large excavation sites in Markarth, so a bit of a narrower clue would be appreciated.”

“My Mistress did not know what they are looking for.”

“Anything else?”

“She did mention about you being dead for three days.”

“Yeah, sorry about the smell. A bit like young Draugr, isn’t it?”

“Huh?”

“Well, technically, I was alive since my soul did not completely leave my body, thanks to Lady Azura. I was in The Void and used my love for Rigmor to empower my will. My willpower, in turn, enabled me to re-enter my body. But I was close enough to dead as it makes little difference.”

“This flippant mood will go away eventually?”

“I hope not because then I will be a miserable bastard. What about this man who knows where Rigmor is?”

“Does the name Jonte Malesam ring a bell?”

“Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath. He is another New Order lackey who needs killing.”

“He got cold feet when The New Order desecrated Azura’s Shrine…filthy dogs! So, he legged it and is now in hiding.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He won’t spill the beans to me. He says he will only speak to you.”

“And how in Oblivion would he know who I am or was?”

“Are you for real? You’re the talk of every Stormcloak and Empire camp in Skyrim. I wonder why that is?”

“My stunning good looks and extra-large member?”

“Ahh, no. Storm-Blade and Varon were hauled before the High Council of Tamriel for a game of arse-slap because all-night drinking parties were held in yours and Rigmor’s name.”

“That is typical, that is. Us grunts do all the work, and do we get a good arse-slap? No. Bloody officers!”

Sethri shook his head then continued, “Everyone assumes you’re dead, including The New Order. But you don’t roll through Diamond Ridge without it getting noticed.”

“Noticed by who, Sethri? Very few people knew of the place, so who would notice? And we did not just roll through. You just said they think I am dead. Being a corpse kind of precludes rolling. Well, voluntary rolling anyway.”

“Well, they’re so rattled they even sent people to ‘mop up’ a Huntress and some orphan kid out here in the arse end of the world.”

“That has zero to do with being rattled. Aedriath is simply getting rid of loose ends that may come back to bite him on the bum! I bet this Malesam wants to meet me in some dim, dark cave miles from pesky guards and patrols. Am I right?”

“Well, Malesam knows your alive.”

“Seer was part of his title. I bet he is also a disciple of some Daedric Prince. It is so easy to get promoted when people think you have foresight.”

“Ahh, so that is why he would know where the Portal Gate, I mean Oblivion Gate is. Find that Dragonborn, and you’ll find Rigmor.”

“You are so much like your Mistress and use many superfluous words to make sentences that sometimes make sense. But I have to dig to get the information amongst the refuse. Please, mark on my map this ‘secret location’ I am to meet Malesam.”

Sethri marked my map, then I had a look and laughed, “Boulderfall Cave. It is a dim, dark cave miles from pesky guards and patrols! I must be a seer! How much is the pay?”

“You’ll be needing to convince your newfound family to find greener pastures if I were you.”

“I started thinking about that as soon as this lot appeared. My house in Whiterun would have been ideal, but that city might be under siege for a while if The New Order invades. My Safe House in Solitude might not be safe if I cram more fugitives inside there. Do you have any suggestions?”

“As it happens, I got an old farm where they can stay. It’s a bit derelict, but they could get it in ship-shape in no time.”

“Where is this mansion?”

“Just outside Riften. That kid probably hasn’t seen a summer, a proper tree, or a spring flower. Or even another kid. Ever thought about that one?”

“You have a good heart, Tendril, and I appreciate your help. As for Sorella, I think about every child I see. I just rescued that little girl from vampires who prey on children. If I could drop everything else right now, I would spend my time hunting them down and wiping them out!”

“Azura mentioned how you and Rigmor feel for each other. She says it is a special bond. It is something she has never seen before, and she is a god! For Rigmor’s sake and your own, just do what is needed to get her back.”

“Here is my map once more. Please mark the location of your farm.”

Sethri did that and handed my map back to me. I looked at it and said, “Well, it is not far from Boulderfall Cave. I can’t fret about the time taken to do this. The proximity of Malesam makes that easier.”

“It should be safe. It is Stormcloak territory, so there are no Thalmor to worry about.”

“There is another group hunting me. They don’t give a stuff about where they are. Suicide squads, you might say. Let us just hope they do not find your farm.”

“They have nothing to do with The New Order?”

“No, they want to kill me because I am The Dragonborn. Baa’Ren-Dar will need to know where we are.”

“Leave that old Khajiit up to me.”

“Thank you, Sethri. I will get these people settled on your farm as quickly as possible. Then I will meet this Malesam. He was working with the enemy, and he had better have a good excuse!”

“We are all counting on you to get Rigmor out of wherever she is alive.”

“The whole world will be counting on me soon. Don’t forget the dragons Sethri. They are as much a threat as The New Order, and I am Nirn’s best hope of stopping them from enslaving all.”

“That is another thing that Azura mentioned. Farewell, Dragonborn, until next time.”

Sethri went running off. I went to tackle Angi. Walking into Oblivion might be a safer task!

Angi was standing outside her hut with her arms crossed. She was probably pissed off that she didn’t get to shoot any bad guys in the head.

I entered the hut looking for an ally and found Sigunn.

I said to her, “Sigunn, I killed that lot, but The New Order know where we are. We have to leave here before they send more. They want to wipe out anybody who might know their plans, including Sorella.”

“I don’t think Angi is going to like this. If she stays, so will Sorella.”

“If I have to tie Angi up and throw her over a horse, I will. This place will still be here after we defeat The New Order.”

“Where will we go?”

“There is a farm located near Riften. No Thalmor or New Order troops will dare show their faces in The Rift.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Ask Angi and Sorella to come here, and we will explain the situation to them. Angi might listen to you and is unlikely to put an arrow in your head.”

Sigunn laughed, then said, “Okay! I will try to talk sense into her.”

Sigunn quickly gathered Angi and Sorella.

  • Sigunn: Today, we were attacked and got lucky, but Wulf says more will come.
  • Angi: Lucky? I didn’t even get a shot in before Wulf killed all of them!
  • Wulf: What if I wasn’t here? There were enough of them to reach this hut, then what?
  • Sigunn: The enemy is trying to cover its tracks, so we must leave here and move elsewhere.
  • Angi: Nah! This place is my home now. Let them come. I am staying!
  • Sorella: Yeah! If any bad guys come, we will put arrows in their heads.
  • Wulf: Without me, you would not have stopped them reaching this hut. Next time they will send more. Lydia and Celestine and Meeko or other guards could die protecting you, and for what? Stubborn pride!
  • Sigunn: There is a farm located in The Rift. We will all be safe there. Angi, you and Sorella are in grave danger here, and they won’t stop until…
  • Angi: I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I am staying here, and so is Sorella.
  • Wulf: Well, that is too bad because we are moving and you will talk about it! I will not allow a child’s life to be endangered because of pure stubbornness and stupidity! This place will still be here after we defeat the New Order. It would not look any better with gravestones decorating it!
  • Angi: Gah!
  • Sigunn: Angi, listen to Wulf. It is our only chance, and he has to go and find Rigmor.
  • Wulf: As I said, Angi, we are moving, and I do not have time to argue over your only choice!
  • Angi: So where are we supposed to go?
  • Wulf: As Sigunn said, it is a farm in The Rift, not far from Riften. It is one of the safest places if The New Order invades. It will be safe from Thalmor and New Order patrols and hunting parties.
  • Angi: Okay, but it is only temporary until all this is over. I’ll gather some things, board the old place up, and prepare for the journey.
  • Wulf: Wise choice. I would hate to have hogtied you to a horse.
  • Sorella: That would be funny!
  • Wulf: Until Angi got hold of her bow again!
  • Sorella: Yeah, arrow to the head time.
  • Angi: I need you to do something for me.
  • Wulf: Of course. What do you need me to do?
  • Angi: I promised Sorella I would get her a pony, and she will need one for the trip. Mathias in Falkreath has one he is trying to sell.
  • Wulf: Where will I find him?
  • Angi: He spends most of his spare time drinking in ‘Dead Man’s Drink’.
  • Wulf: Okay, I will see a man about a horse, and you lot can pack everything up.
  • Angi: As I said, I will board this place up, pack Rigmor’s tent and make sure Sorella is prepared.
  • Wulf: I will ask several of my friends to scout ahead and clear any danger before we ride into it. It is a long journey, so make sure you have plenty of water and travel rations.
  • Sorella: I am not used to riding a horse.
  • Wulf: In that case, I will ask Celestine to prepare some ointment.
  • Sorella: What for?
  • Angi: Your bottom, dear Sorella. It will not be happy! But a good bath will help soothe it.
  • Sorella: Aww, I thought you had forgotten.
  • Angi: I had, but my nose just reminded me.

I went outside and spoke to Celestine.

“We are moving to a farm near Riften. Please look at my map, decide with Lydia what route we should take, and mark the map for me. Then I want you to summon two more Blades, scout ahead, and clear any problems before we reach them. Set off as soon as I return with a pony for Sorella.”

“Who was that monk or whatever he was?”

“Tendril Sethri, a devotee of Lady Azura. It is his farm we are moving to.”

“Okay, Lydia knows Skyrim well and will pick the safest route. Where are you getting the pony?”

“Falkreath. It won’t take Hashire long to get there.”

“Just remember, Wulf, he can’t fly anymore.”

“He can still run down a mountain.”

“Your ability to hold on is questionable.”

“I am not in danger when I fall, Celestine.”

“Yes, but if you fell off, Hashire would be laughing till the end of this Kalpa.”

I summoned Hashire, who said, “Nice of you to let me know you are still alive.”

“We are connected. You would know of my demise.”

“They tried to bring me back with Ren. Celestine explained that they might as well try and move a mountain and that I was more stubborn than a mule.”

“More like a thousand mules, in a bad mood.”

“I stayed there thinking that you might need to ride me back. But no, you just teleported and left me out in the cold and snow.”

“You don’t feel the cold.”

“It is the principle, Wulf.”

“I am sorry that after battling The Void for three days and panicking over Rigmor’s capture, I forgot about you.”

“Apology accepted.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“So was I.”

We rode to the site of the skirmish.

Hashire remarked, “Wulf was here! You can tell by the people and animals whose internals were turned to mush by The Voice and the odd decapitation.”

“Turn left, my sarcastic friend, and let’s ride down the mountain!”

“Wow, we never do that anymore!”

“Well, here’s your chance to do it again.”

“Wahoo!”

Hashire dashed along the slope when he could and leapt from rock to rock when he couldn’t.

I managed to hang on, but it wasn’t easy!

We reached the road, and my elated unicorn asked, “How about that! Impressive, was it not?”

“You’re a bit slow. That New Order soldier beat you. Mind you. He had a head start!”

“I shall put up with you bad jokes, Wulf, as I know you are battling the need to scream with frustration.”

“I thought I would quickly find Rigmor and rescue her when I regained my body.”

“And relieve yourself of some of your guilt. You want to find Rigmor because you love her dearly. But you also feel responsible for her being in this situation.”

“I am responsible! I was her Guardian and failed in that task!”

“Rigmor will not blame you. Did she fight against them when you were incapacitated?”

“No, but how would you know that?”

“I guessed, but thanks for the confirmation.”

“She didn’t fight because she was terrified of Aedriath. She bravely faced him minutes before, then the monster of her Night Terrors returned and killed her Guardian.”

“You told me we are connected, so I would know of your death if it happened. I think your connection to Rigmor is even more sensitive. It is how you found her via Ethereal Travel. She would have realised you were not dead.”

“She left me a trail of red mountain flowers to follow.”

“So, even when the monster had her, she trusted that you would find her once more.”

“Lady Azura says she is safe, but that is bullshit. The goddess has no idea where Rigmor is or her condition. And I don’t either. I searched for her soul whilst in The Void. I was positive I would be able to find it, but I could not. I thought about going to my room in Aetherius and searching, but instinct told me it would be futile. Something is hiding or clouding her soul. That is what instinct tells me.”

“Your father would be able to tell you if that is true.”

“But Father, like Azura, would not know where she is.”

“Do you think she is dead?”

“No! No matter where she is now, her death would be known by me. That I know for certain.”

“Rigmor has faith in you, Wulf. Use that to combat your worries and anxieties. Then I won’t have to suffer your sad sense of humour.”

“Get a move on, you ancient nag!”

“I love you too.”

Hashire started trotting towards Falkreath. I stood on his back.

He asked, “Ah, why are you doing that, Wulf?”

“We hadn’t run down a mountain for some time. Neither have I done this for some time.”

“That is because you smacked your head on a low branch last time and almost killed yourself.”

“You should have said, ‘Duck!’”

“I did, and you replied, ‘Yeah, there is a swan as well’ just before your head met the branch.”

We entered Falkreath, and I left Hashire unhitched out the front of Dead Man’s Drink.

The tavern’s name reminded me of a poem I wrote when five years of age.

  • Witches and warlocks are coming to tea,
  • We are having lizard’s gizzards and bumblebees,
  • With two cat eyes and one dog nose,
  • With skull tea and a dead man’s knee.

Hey, future scholars, I was only five!

A female Justiciar walked past without pause, which is good. Killing her in the middle of Falkreath might have caused issues.

I entered, and Dead Man’s Drink was full of scumbags. Namely, New Order troops and brown-nosed Imperials.

As I approached the bar, three Legionnaires were hassling any female of any race that caught their eye. They were crude, unfunny and a disgrace to their uniform. Although I would have liked to punch their lights out, I had more important things to do.

I asked the barmaid, “Excuse me. I am looking for Mathias.”

“He is sitting to your right. I think his arse is nailed to that stool.”

There were three mugs in front of Mathias. Two were empty, and a third full of mead that he was consuming at an impressive rate.

I sat down and hoped Matthias was sober enough to discuss the pony. The wary look he gave me wasn’t promising.

“Good morning to you, Mathias.”

“Well met, traveller, have you come to wet a parched throat?”

“I am here on business. That is why I knew your name. Mine is Wulf, by the way.”

“And what can I help you with, Wulf?”

“I have a small child and am looking to buy a suitable mount.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place. My brother recently brought his young daughter a pony. But before my niece knew about it, she fell gravely ill. She will not be able to ride any horse for quite some time, so my brother has decided to sell it. Any money will help him and his wife, Indara, pay for the medication my niece needs.”

I brought out my gem bag and found a good-sized emerald worth at least five hundred septims. Way more than the pony is worth.

“Will this do? It is worth at least five hundred septims if you sell it to one of the Khajiiti caravans.”

“There is one that parks just outside the front gates, but that is far more than the pony is worth.”

“I didn’t hear that last part properly. I thought you said, ‘You are robbing us blind only offering five hundred septims for that fine mount. But I will take it, you evil bastard!’”

“Yeah, right. That is what I said!”

“It is a deal then. Can you take me to it?”

“Sure, follow me. It is just around the corner at the back of the tavern.”

“Wait and finish your mead. Do you mind answering some questions for me in the meantime?”

“Sure. What do you want to know?”

“What is with all the Thalmor and Imperials?”

“The Imperials are a bunch of drunks on leave. They think they are above the law! They’ve been drinking all day, bragging and hassling the womenfolk.”

“I know some excellent people in the Legion. That lot is a disgrace to the uniform!”

“The Thalmor are Special Squad Officers. There should be five of them, but one has gone into the mountains. He took a detachment of troops to deal with some terrorists.”

“Terrorists? That is amusing.”

“I hope the one who went up the mountains returns soon. Once they leave, Falkreath can get back to normal. It feels kind of edgy with all these soldiers here. Like a tinderbox ready to explode.”

“Ready to lead me to the horse?”

“Sure, follow me.”

The three loud mouth drunks were giving a poor serving girl a hard time as she tried to sweep away some of the mess they had created.

As Mathias and I walked by them, they started to harass him.