Sundas, 21st Hearthfire, 4E 201
& Morndas, 22nd Hearthfire, 4E 201
Near daylight, Rigmor woke and telepathically said, “It is okay, Wulf. Get a couple of hours of sleep. I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities thrust upon me. If you hear of a Countess murdering an advisor, be assured Malesam deserved it.”
“I can’t control when this happens, Rigmor. If you are in despair, I will come. That is the strength of our love, and nothing can stand in its way.”
“Go, sleep, and don’t worry about me. I will cope. Bruma’s citizens greeted me warmly, and their faith in me will provide all the encouragement I need.”
“One day apart, and we are this soppy!”
“Don’t they use that word in your romance stories?”
“Weird. Just weird.”
My ethereal spirit returned, and I slept for several hours.
I broke my fast and then talked to Dae and Daenlyn.
- Wulf: Tell me again what the plan is.
- Dae: We will go to the Windhelm Docks. There, we will investigate the ship called Northern Maiden.
- Daenlyn: If the captain and crew are Miraak devotees, we shall speak to the local garrison commander and ask that the crew be detained. Nobody is going to allow assassins to hunt The Dragonborn.
- Dae: If the captain and crew innocently transported them from Solstheim, we will insist they take us there, at the regular going rate, of course.
- Daenlyn: If Northern Maiden is not viable transport, we should easily be able to find another ship that is.
- Dae: We shall visit the inns and taverns of Raven Rock. Daenlyn can do some entertaining, and I will listen to the gossip and see if there is any mention of Miraak.
- Daenlyn: We shall also visit Raven Rock’s temple. The priests may know of Miraak.
- Dae: I will request an audience with Councillor Morvayn.
- Daenlyn: If it is safe to do so, I will accompany Dae to the Skaal village to speak to the Shaman.
- Dae: If that historian, Tharstan, is there, we shall speak to him.
- Daenlyn: If safe, we shall visit Thirsk Hall and talk with the Nords who reside within.
- Wulf: Okay, that sounds good. Remember, you are there to gather information, not confront Miraak or his Goons.
- Dae: I have done my share of intelligence gathering.
- Wulf: I know, Dae. I wouldn’t have asked you to do this task if I had doubts about your abilities.
- Daenlyn: It is apparent to me, in the short time I have had the privilege of observing, that Wulf rarely asks others to wander into danger without him by their side.
- Dae: True. I should be more patient with the old man, shouldn’t I?
- Wulf: Old man? I am one of the youngest in the Safe House!
- Dae: Yes, but I am the youngest. Therefore, I have the indisputable right to regard the rest of you as old farts.
- Wulf: Daenlyn, you are correct. The assigning of dangerous tasks is not something I have much experience with.
- Dae: We shall gather information and not attack Miraak or his Goons. I will zap here if there is anything vital you need immediately to know.
- Daenlyn: Relax, Wulf. Raven Rock is a fairly busy place, and two nosey outlanders will not attract much attention.
- Wulf: The Divines will guide and protect you in all things.
- Daenlyn: Even an antlered unbeliever such as myself?
- Wulf: The Divines made all you see and love all who live on their creation.
As Dae and Daenlyn made last-minute preparations for their trip, I told Vayu what I had planned for the day.
“Wulf, you can settle a wager I have with Celestine. I said you would ethereally travel to Rigmor. She said you wouldn’t as you have mastered your thoughts.”
“What hope has self-restraint and logic got against the power of love?”
“That is what I said. So, did you visit Rigmor?”
“Rigmor was overwhelmed, and she found it hard to cope without Our Peace. She was weeping, and my heart decided she needed me. I think she will be okay from now on.”
“I am sure she will.”
“Okay, first thing today, I will visit Jarl Elisif and tell her we placed Torygg’s warhorn at Father’s Shrine.”
“Celestine said your patience with Ambassador Elenwen is wearing thin.”
“She dared call Talos worship a cult! Who knows what they have done to the poor wretches whose only crime was worshipping Father? I don’t think that The New Order was alone in illegally enslaving Skyrim citizens.”
“And after the Jarl?”
“I will go to Riverwood and see if Delphine has resources we can use.”
“I think you should also visit Jarl Balgruuf to get a report on casualties and the aftermath. Then you can put The Battle of Whiterun behind you.”
“That is a sensible idea. I should come to you for advice more often.”
“Oh, keep still my beating heart. Such pleasures do those words envisage.”
“On second thought, I might consult a rock.”
My squad for the day consisted of Lydia, Celestine, Ishen and Seiko. I explained to them our morning itinerary.
Wherever Ishen goes, so does Kinomaru, his wolf. Kinomaru was a starving pup that Ishen discovered whilst hunting in dense woodland. Ishen took pity on the pup and brought him back to our headquarters. The dedication of Ishen and the healing skills of Restoration mages saved Kinomaru’s life. Dragonguard shamans imbued the wolf with magical protection and spells. Kinomaru’s bite inflicts potent poison damage.
We made our way to The Blue Palace, and when we entered, it seemed deserted.
It was too early for Jarl Elisif to be holding court. That didn’t stop Justiciar Thilinaine from snooping.
- Thilinaine: Your armour looks very Akaviri in design and similar to The Blades outfit.
- Wulf: The Blades originated from The Dragonguard. We are Dragonguard, hence the similarity.
- Thilinaine: Dragonguard? They no longer exist!
- Celestine: Oh no! We are figments of our imagination!
- Wulf: I am Wulf Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Nine Divines. We are Dragonguard, trained by Swordmasters and shamans of various Akavir races in Akavir.
- Thilinaine: There are only eight Divines!
- Wulf: I speak to Lord Talos here on Nirn and in Aetherius. I also speak to the other eight Divines who have never said Talos is not one of them. So, Justiciar, I stand before you confessing my devotion to Talos, the Ninth Divine. Are you going to try and arrest The Dragonborn when dragons threaten Nirn?
- Thilinaine: No, but I will report to my superiors that I suspect a nest of outlawed Blades lives close to this palace and that a Jarl refuses to do something about it.
- Seiko: Wulf, can I cut his head off now?
- Wulf: No, Seiko, Jarl Elisif probably likes the carpet and covering it in blood would upset her.
- Thilinaine: Are you threatening me?
- Lydia: He is not very bright, is he?
- Wulf: You have a very dark complexion for an Altmer. Is there Redguard blood in your heritage, Justiciar? It must be difficult in Alinor when you are not entirely of the superior race.
- Thilinaine: We will see who is laughing when a squad of Thalmor come to arrest you all!
- Wulf: I have killed many squads of Thalmor recently. Try sending several squads so I can kill even more!
We pushed past the Justiciar. When we knocked on Elisif’s door, a palace guard let us in and escorted us to Elisif’s dining room.
Elisif was the only person dining on a table designed for a dozen. I felt sorry for the young woman.
- Wulf: My Jarl, we placed High King Torygg’s warhorn on Talos’ shrine.
- Elisif: Even when dealing with more significant issues, you took the time to do this for me. I am eternally grateful.
- Wulf: Thalmor were there. They have arrested several people for praying at that shrine. Does the White-Gold Concordat require them to list detainees, where they are kept and what punishment is given?
- Elisif: Yes, but they do not adhere to those rules. I am constantly faced with citizens asking me what has happened to their loved ones and friends.
- Wulf: At least I leave the Thalmor dead where their blasphemous colleagues can find them!
- Elisif: You kill Thalmor?
- Wulf: Every chance I get. Justiciar Thilinaine just threatened to send squads of Thalmor to our Safe House. If he does, they will die. If Imperial Soldiers try and arrest us, we shall vanish. His Imperial Highness can then explain why he allowed such idiocy to his citizens.
- Celestine: The Thalmor kidnap, enslave, torture and kill the innocent. Therefore, every Thalmor patrol we eliminate improves the safety of Skyrim’s citizens. It is no different than killing invading soldiers, Jarl Elisif.
- Lydia: Those we killed last night had orders from Elenwen. Those orders were to kill any of your citizens found praying at the shrine. That is not what is allowed in the White-Gold Concordat. Why should we play by the rules when they are murdering those we are sworn to protect?
- Wulf: It is a pity that Ulfric uses the excesses of The Thalmor as an excuse to cause far more significant death and suffering.
- Elisif: Few people know that my husband was considering annexing Skyrim. We could have done so without bloodshed. A peacefully annexed Skyrim would not have handed Ulfric the title of High King. Ulfric knew this, and that is why he acted as he did. That is why he murdered my beloved husband.
- Wulf: Ulfric’s days are numbered, my Jarl.
- Elisif: So General Tullius assures me. But Wulf, hearing it from you makes it seem more probable.
- Wulf: I could walk into The Palace of Kings and slaughter Ulfric, and there is nothing anybody could do to prevent his death. But that wouldn’t stop people from thinking he was right to start the civil war, and some will continue to fight. To truly end The Stormcloaks, Ulfric’s ulterior motives must be proven. When he dies, he will be hated, not admired, by most who wear the uniform of the rebels. I will educate his ignorant followers, and they can choose to stay a rebel and die or go home and live.
- Celestine: One reason Wulf despises Ulfric is the misuse of Talos. Ulfric uses Talos as an excuse to slaughter Talos worshippers.
- Lydia: I doubt Ulfric truly cares about Talos.
- Wulf: And just now, my Jarl, when I walked in and saw you dining alone, my hatred for that murdering, lying blasphemer tripled. High King Torygg should be laughing with you as you both prepare for a day of serving the people.
- Elisif: Yes, I find this time before court hard to bear. Perhaps I should have my meals with others.
- Wulf: We must leave now, my Jarl. We shall teleport from here, so don’t be alarmed when we vanish. Hopefully, today we can take the first steps to eliminate the dragon threat.
We teleported just outside the entrance to Riverwood. A guard walked past and said, “Good morning, Thane. We are slowly getting used to you appearing out of thin air here and in Whiterun. This time I didn’t startle or reach for my weapon! However, that dragon of yours has caused a few guards and citizens to soil themselves.”
Silah called down, “Why be afraid, guard? Wulf only lets me off my leash after I have eaten my fill of condemned prisoners.”
The guard looked at Silah, turned pale and briskly walked away.
We entered The Sleeping Giant Inn.
Then we made our way to Delphine’s ‘secret’ room.
- Wulf: Delphine, do you know how the Tongues defeated Alduin?
- Delphine: No.
- Wulf: It seems nobody does. Unlocking that mystery is our priority. I thought I would ask you first. I will also ask The Greybeards and Paarthurnax.
- Delphine: Do you know who and what Paarthurnax is?
- Wulf: We are well aware of the atrocities he committed, Delphine. But Paarthurnax took responsibility for his actions and cooperated with Lady Kynareth to teach mortals The Voice as a form of apology and redemption.
- Celestine: Paarthurnax killed many when Alduin’s second in command. He agreed to cooperate with Lady Kynareth, and it can be argued he has saved the lives of every mortal since.
- Wulf: Alduin has restored Paarthurnax’s replacement, Odahviing. Dragons are starting to attack civilians. The Second Dragon War has begun.
- Delphine: That is grim news. I’ve figured out where the next dragon will come back to life.
- Wulf: Where?
- Delphine: Near Kynesgrove.
- Wulf: Sahloknir is buried near Kynesgrove. His burial mound was untouched when I recently rode past it.
- Delphine: I think we need to see if Alduin has restored that dragon. That will give us some idea of his progress.
- Wulf: I agree. The Dragonguard shall visit Kynesgrove, and I want you with us, Delphine.
- Delphine: It will take us many hours to get there.
- Wulf: It will not take long after I teleport us to Windhelm.
- Delphine: Teleport?
- Wulf: I will explain it when you are ready to travel. We will wait for you outside.
As we headed for the exit, Seiko asked, “Why not start with the Greybeards and Paarthurnax?”
I explained, “If The Greybeards know what the Tongues did, they should already have provided that information to me. Paarthurnax might know, and I will visit him soon. But this trip to Kynesgrove won’t take long and is worth our time.
As soon as we exited the inn, I sent Silah ahead to scout around Windhelm.
Half an hour later, Delphine exited the inn wearing an impressive, if old fashioned, suit of armour.
“Delphine, we will travel via the ethereal plane to Windhelm. You will be in complete darkness and will experience cold more severe than you can imagine. That unpleasantness will last just over a second. Then we will appear near the stables of Windhelm.”
“Is this ability part of your blessing from Akatosh?”
“No, it is a form of magic once common on Nirn. Due to Dragon Breaks and other events, much knowledge of magic was lost. Teleportation used to be quite common, and coaches would not travel for days overland. They would enter a transit station and travel thousands of miles in seconds.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Put your hand on my shoulder, and don’t let go. After teleporting somebody a couple of times, the hand on the shoulder is not required.”
“Okay, I am ready.”
“A word of advice on fighting dragons. Let me and summoned minions attack the snout. Stay back until you can attack the dragon’s flank.”
“Do you think we will encounter a dragon?”
“There is a good chance. They are in greater numbers than you realise.”
“Place your hand on my shoulder, Delphine.”
Delphine did as I asked, and a second later, we materialised outside Windhelm. A dragon was attacking the city!
Silah said, “Wulf, Viirmaarkron has already killed many guards of Windhelm. Another Dovah, Yolvithbrom, is observing the battle.”
I turned and saw Yolvithbrom in the distance.
I used my Thu’um and said, “DO NOT HARM THE SILVER AND BLUE DRAGON. SHE FIGHTS FOR US!”
Viirmaarkron attacked some guards on Windhelm’s external battlements.
I used my Thu’um once more and said, “SILAH, FORCE VIIRMAARKRON AWAY FROM THE GUARDS!”
Silah flew towards Viirmaarkron, who performed desperate acrobatics to escape her Dragonfire.
Viirmaarkron flew towards the harbour and landed. As I ran towards him, Silah strafed him with Dragonfire.
Viirmaarkron lifted before I could reach him. Silah raked him with her claws.
Viirmaarkron spiralled out of control and then crashed to the ground.
Celestine hit Viirmaarkron with Ice Spikes. Silah continued to attack with Dragonfire.
When I was close enough, my own Dragonfire engulfed the enemy, and he screamed in anger and pain.
One of Silah’s minions hit Viirmaarkron with mighty blows with its mace.
Viirmaarkron lifted once more before I could engage him with my sword.
Viirmaarkron flew over Windhelm’s battlements. I could see The Dragonguard engaging him with spell and bow.
In desperation, Viirmaarkron tried to land close to me and knock me over.
I leapt back and kept my balance.
Viirmaarkron snapped at me.
I ended his life with a flurry of sword strokes.
As I stood still and absorbed Viirmaarkron’s soul, Silah landed next to me.
Silah stared at me, and I knew she shared my regret at Viirmaarkron’s fate.
When it was over, she said, “Never again will Viirmaarkron feel the thrill of flying.”
“It was his choice, Silah. Alduin does not possess his followers.”
“Yolvithbrom went ethereal after the battle. He was wise not to try where Viirmaarkron failed.”
Curious locals came running to the scene and mingled with surviving guards.
Silah told them, “Thank The Nine for sending their champion, The Dragonborn. Thank him and The Dragonguard for their valiant defence of Windhelm. Morn the brave guards who gave their lives defending the city.”
Delphine came running to me. She looked as shocked as the locals.
“Now, Delphine, do you realise how little Farengar and yourself know about Dov?”
“I knew that some dragons fought beside mortals against Alduin. Never did I think I would see such a thing!”
“Come, let us head for Kynesgrove before Ulfric appears. I don’t know if I could stay my sword if he did.”
Silah took to the air to scout ahead.
As we entered the centre of Kynesgrove, a woman came running towards us from The Braidwood Inn.
- Iddra: No, you don’t want to go up there! A dragon… it’s attacking!
- Wulf: Please, what is your name?
- Iddra: Iddra, I am an innkeeper.
- Wulf: Iddra, no dragon is attacking Kynesgrove at the moment. So, calm down and tell me where you saw it.
- Iddra: It flew over the town and headed towards the old dragon burial mound.
- Celestine: The safest place for you is in the inn’s basement. If a dragon sees you running out in the open, it is an invitation for him to attack you.
- Iddra: Okay.
- Wulf: I am The Dragonborn, and we will take care of the dragon, Iddra.
We started up the hill towards the dragon mound. Iddra headed towards the inn.
I could sense Life Force being transmitted, not absorbed. The energy lit the trees surrounding the mound.
Silah said, “Wulf, Alduin is here!”
The dark form of Alduin lifted from the mound and roared his defiance.
Life Force continued to light up the burial mound area as we ran. I noticed an arrow flew past Alduin.
I yelled, “Stop firing on Alduin! You cannot harm him while he is flying. He will not attack until he has restored Sahloknir. To do so would waste the Life Force already expended.”
Alduin hovered over the burial mound and restored Sahloknir.
He said, “Sahloknir, ziil gro dovah ulse!” (Sahloknir, ever-bound dragon spirit!)
Then Alduin Shouted, “SLEN TIID VO!” (Flesh against time!)
Sahloknir spoke as his body reformed around his skeleton within the mound.
- Sahloknir: Alduin, thuri! Boaan tiid vokriiha suleyksejun kruziik? (Alduin, my overlord! Has the time come to revive the ancient realm?)
- Alduin: Geh, Sahloknir, kaali mir. (Yes, Sahloknir, my trusted ally.)
- Alduin: Dovahkiin, zu’u koraav nid nol dov do hi. (Dragonborn, I do not recognize you as Dov, dragonkind.)
- Silah: Dragonguard, Sahloknir cannot fully restore till he leaves the burial mound. He will be vulnerable!
- Alduin: You do not even know our tongue, do you? Such arrogance, to dare take for yourself the name of Dovah.
- Wulf: Grik pahlok wah mindol hi mindok do me! (Such arrogance to think you know about me!)
- Silah: Alduin, Wulf tinvaak Dovahzul hi mey! (Alduin, Wulf speaks Dovahzul you fool!)
- Wulf: Zu’u am Dovahsebrom! Zu’u los kaal do fin rah! Bormahu laan zu’u wah oblaan hi. Zu’u lost kriaan pogaan do hin kendov ahrk hi los faas! (I am Ysmir, Dragon of the North! I am Champion of The Divines. Akatosh sent me to end you. I have killed many of your warriors, and you are afraid!)
- Alduin: Sahloknir, krii daar joorre. (Sahloknir, kill these mortals.)
I yelled, “When Sahloknir emerges, attack his flanks. Do not get in the way of me and his snout!”
Sahloknir burst from the burial mound. His skin was yet to pigment.
Sahloknir roared, “I am Sahloknir! Hear my Voice and despair!”
I replied, “Sahloknir, you will not have the chance to fly. After I absorb your soul, you will cease to exist. Such is the price you pay for disobeying Lord Akatosh.”
The Dragonguard attacked the dragon’s flanks. I prepared to leap upon him.
I leapt and landed on Sahloknir’s snout.
As the Dovah tried to shake me free, Kinomaru attacked his face and The Dragonguard, plus Delphine, bloodied his flanks.
Sahloknir roared, “Thuri du hin sille ko Sovngarde!” (My Lord will devour your souls in Sovngarde.)
I replied, “Half of us aren’t Nords, you delusional moron!”
Sahloknir shook his head wildly from side to side but could not dislodge me.
I plunged my sword into his brain.
Then I leapt off and barrel-rolled whilst Sahloknir went silent and died.
When I got to my feet, Silah called out, “Alduin has gone ethereal. I do not know where he is.”
I stood still and absorbed yet another unwanted soul.
Then I walked over to Delphine.
She asked, “What did you and Alduin say to each other?”
“I accused him of being a coward.”
“All those words just to say that?”
“Just the usual boasting and baiting in battle, Delphine.”
“I thought that other hidden Blades might have information on how Alduin was defeated. We had quite a few archivists and historians within our ranks.”
“But you have no idea where they are.”
“No, but The Thalmor may have information regarding suspected locations of Blades.”
“Shall I knock on their embassy door and ask politely for that information?”
“I think I can arrange something a bit more subtle than that. How about you visit me tomorrow night. That should give me the time needed to arrange your visit.”
“Okay. I will teleport you back to Riverwood. Hand on my shoulder.”
Delphine placed her hand on my shoulder, and a few seconds later, we appeared outside her inn.
I told her, “I am intrigued by what you have planned.”
“Let’s wait and see if I can manage it first. I am a bit rusty with this stuff.”
“Okay then, I will see you tomorrow night.”
Delphine entered her inn. I talked to my squad.
- Ishen: Jumping on Sahloknir’s head was a bit showy!
- Wulf: The quickest way to end the fight was plunging my sword through Sahloknir’s brain.
- Celestine: Delphine might prove helpful. Vayu believes she should have been executed.
- Wulf: She did what she thought was right and not for personal gain. If I am willing to forgive Paarthurnax, how hypocritical would it be to condemn Delphine?
- Lydia: Delphine has decades of local knowledge. If she can get you into the embassy, that will prove her worth.
- Seiko: I can’t imagine Wulf walking casually through the embassy. He would do a Rigmor!
- Wulf: I can control myself, Seiko. Gathering information would be my priority, and killing Thalmor would be a bonus.
- Celestine: What now?
- Wulf: Vayu suggested I visit Jarl Balgruuf and get a final report on The Battle of Whiterun.
- Celestine: That is a good suggestion. It would bring some closure to that unpleasant experience.
- Wulf: I will teleport into Breezehome and then summon you.
When we were gathered together, we stepped out of Breezehome and headed for Dragonsreach.
Partway there, we found Ri’saad and his caravan walking toward us.
- Ri’saad: Hello, Wulf and friends.
- Wulf: It is always a pleasure to see you, Ri’saad.
- Razita: Wulf, are you headed for Dragonsreach?
- Wulf: Yes, I wanted to talk to Jarl Balgruuf.
- Ri’saad: Do not bother. Ri’saad’s people had a pleasant lunch and talked with the Jarl. That one thanked us for manning the walls during your slaughter of The New Order.
- Razita: Some of Ulfric’s men stormed into Dragonsreach demanding to parley with the Jarl. When he explained he was entertaining guests, Ulfric’s men laughed, started with their racist comments, and tried to rile us into fighting.
- Ri’saad: Khajiit thanked Jarl Balgruuf for his hospitality, and we started to leave.
- Lydia: Do you have any idea what Ulfric’s men wanted?
- Razita: We didn’t leave as quickly as we could have. We were curious and heard the beginning of their discussion. Ulfric thinks to take advantage of the lull in fighting as troops return to their civil war muster points. He thinks Jarl Balgruuf should strategically position his men to give The Stormcloaks an advantage when hostilities return. Jarl Balgruuf’s anger was great. We decided to hasten our departure at that point.
- Wulf: Whenever I think my contempt for Ulfric could not increase, something comes along to prove that a fallacy. Ulfric is an arsehole!
- Ri’saad: This surprise meeting does give Khajiit an opportunity. Before leaving with Rigmor’s mother to Cyrodiil, Baa’Ren-Dar enquired with this one about a most unusual Khajiit.
- Razita: The Khajiit’s name is Inigo. Baa’Ren was told of him by a Mother Cat priestess.
- Wulf: Dinya?
- Razita: Yes. She was concerned that Inigo was imprisoned in Riften’s jail. But not for a crime. Inigo is paying to stay there.
- Wulf: Unusual, but why would this interest me?
- Razita: Paying to stay in jail is strange enough. Inigo and his brother, Fergus, are famous amongst Khajiiti. They are heroes and very well respected. However, they have been missing for some time. It is unlikely Fergus and Inigo would part voluntarily.
- Ri’saad: Khajiiti Furstock come in many colours. Inigo is unique as that one is blue.
- Celestine: This is getting weird enough to be of interest to Wulf!
- Ri’saad: Khajiit would be grateful if Wulf were to visit Inigo and hear his tale.
- Wulf: You said he and his brother are heroes.
- Razita: The brothers travelled all over Cyrodiil doing good deeds for others. They saved villages from giants and bandits, rescued people from enslavers, dealt with spider plagues, etc. They accepted very little or nothing in the way of payment. Their actions changed the mind of many regarding the Khajiiti people.
- Seiko: Wulf, they sound like good Dragonguard recruits.
- Wulf: Okay, since my visit with Jarl Balgruuf is postponed, I will visit Inigo.
- Ri’saad: Once again, Dragonborn proves he is a friend of Khajiiti.
- Ishen: You had Wulf nibbling at the bait with Inigo paying to stay in jail.
- Seiko: When you said Inigo was blue, Wulf swallowed the bait, and you had him hooked.
- Wulf: I will teleport into Mara’s temple then summon you all.
- Lydia: All this zapping around Skyrim is making me dizzy.
- Ishen: I think, Lydia, that is your natural state.
- Seiko: Don’t hit him, Lydia. Ishen cries for hours when people smack him in that smartarse mouth.
I teleported into the temple and summoned the others.
- Wulf: I apologise for appearing out of the ether like this Priestess.
- Dinya: Please, Wulf, call me Dinya.
- Wulf: Dinya, I am enquiring about Inigo.
- Dinya: Baa’Ren-Dar said you would eventually come to investigate that unusual Khajiit.
- Wulf: Did one of Azura’s seers tell him?
- Dinya: No. Baa’Ren said you would not be able to resist the tale of a blue Khajiit that is paying to stay in Riften’s jail.
- Celestine: And that, Wulf, is why Baa’Ren-Dar is a good politician. He doesn’t need a seer to predict how people will behave.
- Wulf: Dinya, did you pass on a message from Lady Mara to Baa’Ren-Dar before he left here?
- Dinya: Yes, but sometimes I do not know the content of such messages. I speak the words of Lady Mara whilst entranced, not unlike how the Sybils pass on Lady Dibella’s messages. I don’t know the contents of that message.
- Wulf: That is okay, I do, and the secrecy protects Rigmor.
- Dinya: I am used to such things, Wulf. There is no need for an explanation.
- Wulf: I will visit Inigo and see what his story is. Many Khajiiti are concerned for him and his brother’s welfare.
- Dinya: There is a favour I would ask of you, Wulf. I know you are probably busy with the dragons and other concerns.
- Wulf: You can but ask, Dinya.
- Dinya: There is a young girl who hangs around the marketplace. She sells information to earn a few septims.
- Wulf: Olette. She is quite an excellent little spy, but that is a hazardous profession.
- Dinya: Her mother died in The Warrens a few days ago. Olette told us of her mother and begged us to bury her properly. We did so, and Olette’s mother was one of the fortunate ones. She had Arkay’s Rights intoned and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Most of the unfortunates are rolled into the canal and float out of Riften, gifts for the Slaughterfish.
- Wulf: I will check on Olette’s welfare as well.
- Dinya: Olette outright refuses to entertain the idea of living in the orphanage. Caring for her mother kept Olette grounded. I fear she may become just another plaything for the depraved males corrupting the gifts of Dibella. That is a shortcut to an early death, Skooma addiction or both.
- Ishen: Wulf, should you concern yourself with these individuals when all are at risk from Alduin?
- Wulf: We have no other avenues of enquiry concerning Alduin and must wait on Delphine. Mortals like Inigo and Olette are who I fight for. It is neither a waste of time nor a burden to help such people. Every individual is of value to me, Ishen.
- Ishen: My apologies. I stand corrected.
- Wulf: I shall speak with Olette first. Inigo is in no danger in his cell. A child on the streets of Riften is in constant peril.
- Dinya: Lady Mara’s blessings upon you, Wulf.
We exited the temple and headed for the market.
Olette was leaning against a fence and not paying attention to the activities around her.
I coughed, and she turned around.
“I am not interested in another lecture, Cap’n.”
I stepped closer, and the sadness in Olette’s eyes wrenched my heart.
“I am not going to lecture you, Olette.”
“Where is Rigmor?”
“Rigmor has been made Countess of Bruma. That is where she lives now.”
“You will visit her, though, won’t you?”
“Rigmor will be visiting me soon. For now, she has to stay in Bruma and learn how to be a countess.”
“Oh, it is like Rigmor is going to school!”
“Yes, it is very much like Rigmor is going to school.”
“Do you need information, Cap’n?”
“I see you look a little down and wonder why. Will that cost me?”
“It’s my Ma. I found her body down in The Warrens. She wasn’t in her usual place, and it took hours to find her. The people in the temple buried her and stuff.”
“Oh, Olette, I am so sorry. I hope there is something I can do for you.”
“The priest said all these fancy words when they buried Ma, but I want to say goodbye to her my way. I am gonna go down to the docks by the fishery. Ma always used to like sitting down there with her feet in the water. You can join me, I guess. If you feel like it.”
“Yes, Olette, we shall join you there. Then we can all remember your Ma.”
Olette nodded, then ran off.
As we walked toward the exit to the docks, I heard some sniffling.
Without looking, I asked, “Is that you, Ishen? Does Olette remind you of a lost wolf pup in the forest?”
“Yes. What killed Olette’s mother?”
“Skooma. Olette has killed to keep the lechers from her. She is excellent at information gathering and used the coins earned to keep herself, and her mother fed. I also think the money stopped her mother prostituting herself.”
“Do you think Olette paid for the Skooma that killed her mother?”
“Where is her father?”
“He is a sailor with bastards spread all over Nirn.”
“Why does she refuse to go to the orphanage?”
“I have no idea.”
We exited onto the docks.
When we turned the corner past the fishery, a female Argonian approached us.
She said to me, “You. You must take the Lexicon. Free me of my burden.”
“What is your name, and what is your burden?”
“I am From-Deepest-Fathoms. The memories are my burden. I cannot stand them, so you must take them away, return them to Avanchnzel. You must take the Lexicon from me. Please… take it now.”
“You removed a Dwemer Lexicon from Avanchnzel?”
“Please… take it now.”
“Give me the lexicon, From-Deepest-Fathoms.”
She handed me the Dwemer Lexicon, and relief washed across her face. As she walked away, From-Deepest-Fathoms said, “You must bring it to Avanchnzel, in the west. Return it to them. It must go back.”
Lydia asked, “What was that all about?”
“I don’t know. We shall ask the experts in The Explorers Guild. They will know more about the lexicon and that Dwemer site.”
I managed to fit the lexicon in my journal case.
Olette was waiting for me at the end of the pier. However, another female Argonian intercepted us.
She said, “Please help me. I’m going to lose my job at the Riften Fishery.”
“Hello, I am Wulf. And you are?”
“Wujeeta. I really need your help! I don’t want to lose my job at the fishery! What am I going to do?”
“Why would you lose your job, Wujeeta?”
“My job at the Riften Fishery is in danger. The owner, Bolli, said that if I show up for work in this condition one more time, then I’m out. I don’t mean to do this to myself, but I can’t help it. I tried some Skooma a year ago, and I can’t stop ever since then! If you could give me a healing potion, I could cleanse this poison from my body and get back to my life.”
“Do you like working at the fishery?”
“Bolli is a good man. He pays us well and watches out for us. I used to work at the Black-Briar Meadery, but Indaryn and I never saw eye-to-eye. That elf has no patience at all. It’s probably for the best anyway; I’m far better at fishing than working in a meadery.”
I cast Grand Healing on Wujeeta.
She gasped, then said, “Your kindness will never be forgotten. Here, take this. It’s all I can offer for what you’ve given me.”
Wujeeta offered me a gold ring.
I said, “No, Wujeeta. I don’t need to be paid for doing the right thing. How do you feel?”
“I am feeling much better.”
“What made you start using Skooma?”
“I was curious. I’m not sure what it’s made from, but I can tell you that you’ll never crave anything else once you’ve had a taste. The Dunmer came up with the stuff a long time ago. Very illegal and very hard to come by. I got mine off of a merchant ship in Solitude. That was the worst mistake I ever made.”
“Who supplies it in Riften?”
“Look, I don’t think I should say. I mean, the suppliers could kill me!”
“They are killing people with Skooma. Do you know the little girl over there?”
“Yes, that is Olette. She showed me sympathy when I confessed my addiction to her.”
“Her mother died the other day. She, too, was a Skooma addict. So, Wujeeta, I ask again, who supplies this poison in Riften?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. I get my Skooma from Sarthis Idren. He has some sort of a setup over at the Riften Warehouse. You can’t get inside. They’ve kept that place locked up tight since the war began.”
“I could pick the lock, but that is noisy. Who can I get the key from?”
“I overheard Bolli say that only the Jarl carries the key to the warehouse. When I meet Sarthis there, he’s usually waiting for me outside with his bodyguard.”
“What are you going to do now, Wujeeta?”
“If it wasn’t for Skooma, I’d already be on my way out of this horrible city. All my gold… completely gone. Now I have to start over. I’ll never use Skooma again! Although, I suppose a little mead now and then would be harmless.”
“You would just become dependent on mead when times get hard. This city is already full of drunks whose gold vanishes down their throats as quickly as any Skooma addicts. How about if I give you a job on my estates? They are large and well away from Riften, and I need a housekeeper.”
“Solitude. I will pay you a fair wage, and you can live in luxury!”
“Why would you trust me with such a position?”
“I can tell a good soul when I meet one, Wujeeta. Circumstance and poor decisions have deprived you of an easier life. I would like to give you the chance to improve yourself, and I need a housekeeper.”
“I…I would very much like that chance.”
“Then tell Bolli you quit and why while I speak to Olette.”
Olette was standing at the end of the pier, waiting for us.
We got close and stood still.
Olette said, “So, Ma. I don’t really know what to say. You were gobbling up Skooma, getting drunk at the Bee and Barb, or pining over papa most of the time. But…there were other times too. So, I guess I should talk about them. I remember how you used to read me stories about the Champion of Cyrodiil and how you’d make me dance with you at the Bee and Barb when the bard started chirping about some hero or another. I was so embarrassed. But it was fun, really…And I remember you used to call me Little Dartwing. That was nice. So, thanks…for all that stuff. Rest easy, Ma.”
Sniffles behind me let me know Lydia, Seiko, and Celestine were as touched as I was.
I said to Olette, “That was beautiful. It is important to say your final farewell, and I know it does not stop the hurting altogether but did it help?”
“Yeah. I…I just…I just needed to say goodbye.”
“What do you think you will do now?”
“I dunno. Ma is in a better place, but I ain’t. Beggar’s Row ain’t exactly the best of it.”
“These ladies are Lydia, Seiko and Celestine. The man is Ishen, and the fleabag is Kinomaru. He is a sort of wolf. Do you know Wujeeta?”
“Oh yes, she is hooked on Skooma and gets it from the same warehouse as Ma did. Wujeeta was always kind but never had any septims spare to give me.”
“I just hired Wujeeta as my housekeeper. How would you like to live with Wujeeta and my friends? You can learn to read and write and other skills if you wish.”
“That sounds good but on one condition. My Pa is a sailor, and he always moves from place to place. I would hate that! So, wherever it is, I wanna live there for a long time!”
“You can live in my manor in Solitude. But you can visit my museum and my other house there and meet many different people.”
“A manor? Oh, well, how fancy. I always wanted to go to Solitude. Lots of pockets to pick from. And that Bard’s college!”
“There will be no need to steal, Olette. I will give you an allowance which you can spend on whatever you want.”
“Okay, Cap’n. You have a deal.”
“You will get there by carriage. It is a long way, and you won’t get there till tomorrow evening. Wujeeta, Ishen and Kinomaru will be with you.”
“The carriage will stop when I need to pee, won’t it?”
“Yes, Olette. It occasionally stops so people can stretch their legs and have a pee if they need to.”
“Do you think I could become a bard, Cap’n?”
“Yes, as long as you work hard at learning your letters and practice singing and playing the instruments.”
“I will. I already know how to play drum, flute and lute a bit. I always pester bards when they visit Riften.”
“Olette, why didn’t you want to go to the orphanage?”
“I often talk with the children there. They told me that when you turn sixteen, you have to leave. That is not so bad because you are supposed to have a place where you apprentice or earn an honest wage. The problem is, the ones who leave are never heard from again. There are no letters or visits or anything. And they might have been friends for years with other children still at the orphanage! The orphanage doesn’t have baths or washbasins, or proper privies! The lady who runs the orphanage, Grelod the Kind, beats the children and is cruel.”
“Has anybody told the authorities about this?”
“Aventus Aretino ran away about a week ago. He kept sneaking out and telling guards and others, but they just marched him back to the orphanage. The other children would be too scared to say anything, so nobody believed him. Then Grelod would beat him till he couldn’t sit. The last time he escaped, he took some money from Grelod’s desk and went back to his house in Windhelm, where he lived with his parents till they died.”
“I will investigate the orphanage, and if Grelod is doing what you say she is, she will be in jail for a very long time.”
Wujeeta returned, and Olette rushed over to tell her the news. They were both genuinely excited about their change of fortune.
I said to Ishen, “Please, Ishen, hire a carriage to Solitude. Here is a spare key to Proudspire Manor. Get Olette and Wujeeta settled in the house. I don’t know when I will be able to visit them. Not long, I hope.”
“It’s okay, Wulf. They will be looked after. Is there any reason you are not going to teleport them there?”
“Wujeeta still has Skooma in her system, so travelling through the ethereal plane might induce hallucinations. I want them to bond, and a long carriage ride is a good way to achieve that.”
“Okay. I will see you back in Solitude.”
Ishen and Kinomaru rounded up the two new household members, and they left for the stables.
I summoned Taku. A few seconds later, the surprised Dragonguard appeared in front of me.
I told him, “It is good to see you wear our armour once more, Taku.”
“I will admit, it does feel good to wear it once more.”
“Ishen and Kinomaru are escorting our new housekeeper and urchin to my new estate.”
“A young girl called Olette.”
“What are we doing now?”
“We are going to visit a blue Khajiit in jail.”
“That sounds thrilling!”
“We already fought and killed two dragons today. We don’t need any more thrills. If you want to the story around those, ask the ladies.”
Taku chatted with the others as we entered Riften and made our way to the jail.
When we entered the jail, I found a note on a table. I read it to the others.
The crazy Khajiit in Cell One is not to be disturbed. He paid us good money for that cage, so don’t go bothering him. If he’s still here in a month, I think we should enforce a slight rent increase. I doubt we’ll get the chance, though. You’ve all seen the way he looks. Won’t be surprised if he tries to end his life soon. If you see him in a particularly suicidal mood, get in there and stop him. He’s been using the key we gave him, so if you need in there in a hurry, use the spare in the broken strongbox above the fireplace. A dead man can’t pay rent!
When we approached Inigo’s cell, he talked to a dragonfly in a jar, “What’s that, Mr Dragonfly? The outside world is a scary place? Well, yes, I suppose it can be. It can be beautiful too. You should try it.”
I told the others to stay out of sight, and then I picked the lock and entered. Inigo watched me as I looked around the room.
On the table was ‘Mr. Dragonfly’, a journal and books.
Against a wall was a lute with several arrows embedded in it.
I stood before Inigo and studied him. He stared into my eyes, and I could see his soul was tarnished.
After a few seconds, he said, “Come to kill me at last, have you? Thank the Gods. I can bear the guilt no longer.”
“Why would I want to kill you?”
“I know I must die. Beware though. My newfound honour demands I defend myself.”
“Do you think you know me?”
“I am in no mood for jokes. Strike me down! Take your revenge!”
“My name is Wulf. Yours is?”
“You don’t remember? Ah, that is my fault also. I am Inigo, your so-called friend, and I am the one who killed you.”
“As you can see, I am quite healthy.”
“I tried, so I am guilty, and you must kill me!”
“I hope you weren’t an assassin and got paid for a botched job. That would be unethical! Tell me, Inigo, why are you in this cell?”
“After I shot you, I finally realised my mistake and tried to turn myself in. Your body was gone. The guards did not believe me and said I was wasting their time. I had to pay them to put me in this cell. It is where I belong. I needed to repent. I still need to repent.”
“If you thought I was dead, why were you expecting me?”
“I heard of a remarkable adventurer, both brave and resourceful, matching your description. I knew it was you. It had to be! I knew you would be coming for me, so I waited. Are you going to kill me or not?”
“Tell me what you think happened.”
“I see that I must relive it again. Your memory is not what it was. We met doing a job.”
“What kind of job?”
“The killing kind. We were hired by a lord called Dupan to kill his brothers. Dupan would inherit a great fortune and promised us much gold in return for their demise. Do you remember none of this?”
“No. It sounds interesting, though. Keep going.”
“Before we left, Dupan told me that if only one of us returned from our mission, that individual would get the other’s reward. I was hooked on Skooma and had a debt problem, so….”
“You tried to kill me for the other half of the reward?”
“I tried. That is what matters. It was not an easy choice. We only knew each other for a short time, but I had grown to like and respect you. We got on well and fought bravely side by side. I threw all that away for gold and Skooma.”
“Did you get the reward?”
“No. Dupan was murdered by his sister before I made it back to his keep. Our deal died with him. Money is an evil like no other, my friend. It is only just that I die at your hand.”
“Are you still a Skooma addict?”
“No. I am done with the stuff. I want to die with my senses intact. Kill me now. I am ready.”
“This remarkable adventurer you heard about, was there anything unique about him?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can assure you, Inigo, that I have never been and never would be a thief, burglar, murderer or bandit. If you truly know me, you would know that. You could also say what is unique about me. So, what is unique about me, Inigo?”
“You have a penchant for rhetorical questions?”
“True, but I am not the person you remember. You said you have ‘newfound honour’. You show remorse and have weaned yourself off Skooma, which is not an easy thing to do. No, Inigo, I will not kill you.”
“You are the person I remember. I would recognise your smell anywhere. My life is yours to take. Do it.”
“Let me prove that I am not the person you think I am. I am offering you a chance to redeem yourself by aiding my colleagues and me. Help us help others, Inigo.”
“I will fight and travel with you?”
“Yes, Inigo. Do not waste your life rotting in here. Help us and truly repent for your sins.”
“So, I might die defending you! Yes! I accept! I feel lighter now you have given me this opportunity. You will not regret this.”
“Just watch where you aim that bow of yours.”
“Do not joke about such things, my friend. The sadness I feel for what I have done is brutal enough…for now.”
“Do you mind if I ask you some things?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Tell me about your past. I want to understand why you became a Skooma addict.”
“My brother and I never knew our real parents. We were found abandoned in a smelly shack by a soldier on his way to battle. We melted his heart with our fuzzy little faces, and he carried us to the nearest town. He deposited us at an orphanage, where we spent most of our childhood.”
“Most of your childhood. Does that mean you were adopted?”
“Yes, my brother and I were adopted by a couple of retired assassins. I guess the orphanage did not do a family background check.”
“They probably had good backstories prepared. Retired assassins as parents would have resulted in an interesting childhood!”
“Mine was perhaps a little more unconventional than most, but I suppose all childhoods are interesting to a degree. My parents provided me with love and encouragement. Apart from the nightly training sessions, we were a normal family.”
“Did you have problems with other children?”
“Yes, I was bullied by the other Khajiit children because of my unusual colour and markings. My mother showed me a handy trick with a rock and a glove. I was never bothered again.”
“Some bullies only understand violence. I assume that nobody was seriously harmed?”
“I never seriously hurt anyone till I was a lot older.”
“Did the training sessions involve various weapons?”
“My father showed my brother and me how to use a sword. My mother taught us the bow. Happy childhood memories.”
“In what part of Elsweyr did you live?”
“We grew up in Riverhold, not far from Cyrodiil. My brother and I headed for the Imperial City to find our fortune when we came of age.”
“Did you find your fortunes?”
“I found love for a time, at least. My brother found his death.”
“Love is worth more than gold.”
“True, but now that I think of it, maybe it wasn’t love. It was brief and, as it turned out, one-sided. Anyway, all that happened later.”
“Your brother died?”
“I will come to that soon. There is a little more to hear first.”
“Are your parents still alive? It could not have been easy seeing their boys leave home.”
“My mother and father are both gone. They died protecting a trading caravan a few years back. I guess I am an orphan again.”
“I am sorry for your losses, Inigo.”
“That means a great deal. Thank you.”
“Retired assassins and later on caravan guards. Your parents sound fascinating. What were they like?”
“I suppose they were an odd couple, an Argonian and a Khajiit, but they adored each other and us. Despite their previous profession, they were good people.”
“There are many types of assassins. I judge on deeds, not job title. What did you and your brother do in Cyrodiil?”
“We found much work as sellswords. We never made it to the Imperial City, but we made a lot of coins.”
“Once again, there are different types of sellswords. What kind of jobs did you do?”
“A bit of giant-killing here, a bit of necromancer slaying there. It is hard to deny those in need, whether they have the coin or are poor. We took gold when offered, but sometimes, we worked for nothing. We made more than enough from those who could pay anyway.”
“So, unlike the Companions in Whiterun, you had compassion and empathy! You never made it to the Imperial City? It is said that many roads lead to it, so where did your travels take you?”
“All over Cyrodiil, from the Gold Coast to the Jerall Mountains. It is a wonderful land but quite tame compared to Skyrim.”
“Yes, all the bandits and wild animals in Cyrodiil call themselves nobles. All except for a newcomer who will shock them with her decency and honesty.”
“Those were happy times. We travelled during the day and camped out under the stars at night. Life was good.”
“Then, something happened that resulted in your addiction to Skooma.”
“Yes, I awoke one morning to a lot of noise outside our tent. My brother staggered in bleeding and pushed our father’s swords into my hands. He said that if I loved him, I would run. He used the last of his strength to rip out the back of the tent and push me down the slope beyond.”
“Who attacked you?”
“Some Khajiiti hating locals had blamed us for a spate of robberies in the area and had decided to take the matter into their own hands. Twelve of them had snuck up on us during the night. My brother died, but I live because of him.”
“What was his name?”
“His name was Fergus. I miss him very much, but part of me is glad he did not witness what became of me after his passing.”
“Many people would be mentally scarred from such an experience. I am sure Fergus would understand.”
“Maybe you are right. It is a nice thought, but I suppose I will never know.”
“Do you wish you had stayed and fought?”
“Every day, my friend. Every day.”
“I am so sorry, Inigo. I can only imagine what losing your brother like that was like.”
“That morning, I lost all that was dear to me. Unfortunately, I also uncovered a side of myself I never knew existed.”
“I have a very dark side, Inigo. I am fortunate to know it is there. I also know it would dominate me if certain people in my life died. So, Fergus’ death started your spiral to Skooma addict?”
“Yes. I was recruited by a group of bandits a few years ago. That led me to discover Skooma, which led to nastiness. I was with a bandit girl for a while. Unfortunately, she was using me and wanted protection, not affection. As soon as she found somebody more psychopathic, I was dropped like a sack of troll dung.”
“You said that maybe it wasn’t love. You also thought it was one-sided.”
“I thought I loved her. She seemed like the only bright thing in a very dark place. We dulled each other’s pain somewhat. Regrettably, she was a vicious, manipulative harpy.”
“Did you stay with the bandits after that?”
“No, I left the bandits and took the only ally I had with me. His name was Felix. He was a big fellow and good in a scrap. He was also an addict, but we thought we had it under control. We became mercenaries together.”
“You didn’t have the Skooma under control, did you?”
“After a few months, Felix and I had made a little gold, but our addiction to Skooma was getting in the way. My friend, no one trusts an addict, especially not another addict.”
“Why did Felix become addicted?”
“He never spoke about his past, but it was clear he had also been through a great deal before becoming a bandit. That life did not seem to suit him. He was violent but had retained some dim vestige of honour. At some point, he had been an educated man, I am sure of it. I wish we had met under different circumstances.”
“Did you part as friends?”
“No. One day Felix burst into my chamber. Instinct took over, and I reacted. His murder was my second last step on the road to dishonour. Trying to kill you was my last. My journal tells the rest. Read it if you want. I do not enjoy speaking about such things.”
“Do you miss Skooma?”
“From time to time, my body does, but my mind is made up. I am never touching the stuff again! It helped me smother some painful memories, but it took my sense and reason as payment. It was not a fair trade.”
“Depending on how things go, I may be putting a Skooma manufacturer out of business later. Today, you are the third person I have spoken to whose life has been impacted by the foul substance.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“Ri’saad told me about you.”
“He is a good person. He gives people like me a chance at redemption by working in his caravans.”
“Your past deeds, your good deeds, have made you a topic of conversation around the caravan campfires and other places within Tamriel. If you travel with me, you will be able to continue doing good deeds.”
“You have companions with you?”
“Yes, Inigo. Collect your gear, and I will introduce you to my friends when we are outside of this place full of snitches.”
Inigo gathered his swords, bow, books and Mr Dragonfly. Then we left the prison.
I introduced my companions.
- Wulf: Inigo, I have many titles. The important one at the moment is Dragonborn.
- Inigo: You are The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: Yes, and I am also a Thane of Whiterun. Lydia was assigned as my housecarl, and now she is a friend.
- Lydia: I am pleased to meet you, Inigo.
- Inigo: Likewise, Lydia.
- Wulf: You may have noticed we wear a distinctive style of armour.
- Inigo: Yes, it is similar to what The Blades used to wear.
- Wulf: Celestine, Seiko and Taku were once Blades. They fled to Akavir when The Blades were declared outlaws. There they trained with the Akaviri and became Dragonguard.
- Inigo: Dragonguard?
- Wulf: Dragonguard are sworn, as are Blades, to serve Dragonborn. However, like with Lydia, I regard them as friends, not subordinates.
- Seiko: I look forward to travelling with you, Inigo.
- Taku: When do we get to kill some Thalmor, Wulf?
- Inigo: Ahh, I look forward to travelling with you, Seiko. And, um, killing Thalmor with you, Taku.
- Taku: Do you like killing Thalmor?
- Inigo: It is not as fun as killing giant spiders, but I don’t like what they did to Elsweyr.
- Taku: What is fun about killing giant spiders?
- Inigo: They make the best crunchy sound when you hit them!
- Celestine: Inigo, you are weird, which means you and Wulf will get along just fine.
- Inigo: You are not wearing armour. Are you a mage, Celestine?
- Celestine: Yes.
- Wulf: Celestine is a Master Mage. She keeps us healthy when in the middle of a fight.
- Inigo: You are The Dragonborn. Does that mean you fight dragons?
- Wulf: Yes, we had to kill two of them today.
- Inigo: What happens now?
- Wulf: I will take you to our Safe House in Solitude. When I get a chance, I will adjust a suit of armour to fit you. Then you can start to accompany me.
- Inigo: I don’t have a horse.
- Wulf: You won’t need one. Put your hand on my shoulder.
Inigo did as I asked. A few seconds later, we stood in the Safe House.
- Inigo: That was fun!
- Wulf: The cold and dark didn’t bother you?
- Inigo: Why would you go to the effort of rescuing me from my cell only to harm me minutes later? I have heard of teleporting. Is that what we did?
- Wulf: Yes. The cold and dark were the ethereal plane. It touches all places in the universe but is very small. Therefore, if you have the skill and know your destination, it provides almost instant transport to anywhere in the universe.
- Inigo: I am no longer using Skooma so that made no sense at all.
- Lydia: Inigo, if you travel with Wulf, you will soon learn to accept such things. We call it gobblygook.
- Inigo: Okay, give me other examples of gobblygook.
- Wulf: I speak to gods and have the blood and soul of a dragon, plus I have a room in Aetherius. You think your colour is unique. Well, you are still Khajiiti. I am the only Ningheim on Nirn of any colour! I have died once, and I don’t recommend The Void as a holiday destination.
- Inigo: Ah, can I go back to my cell where things were relatively normal?
- Wulf: Speaking to a dragonfly is not normal.
- Inigo: Mr Dragonfly is not a normal dragonfly.
- Lydia: Don’t listen to him, Inigo. He talks to his horse and dog.
- Wulf: Hashire is a unicorn, not a horse. Meeko looks like a dog, but he isn’t one.
- Inigo: This house is bustling!
- Wulf: All of the people here at the moment are ex Blades who are now Dragonguard. I have a mansion in Solitude called Proudspire Manor, and some Dragonguard will move into there so that this place is not so crowded. This house is attached to my museum called Dragonborn Gallery.
- Inigo: All of this would cost a lot of money.
- Lydia: Wulf is very rich, Inigo.
- Wulf: I will give you your own space here, Inigo. Follow me.
Lydia went off to talk to others while I showed Inigo his partition.
I told him, “This partition is yours. Decorate how you want. From now on, nobody else will use your bed. Ask for clean sheets and blankets.”
Inigo walked into his partition and quietly said, “Thank you, Wulf. I will work hard to atone for what I did to you.”
“Hopefully, you will soon realise I am not the one you wronged. However, when you accompany me you will be helping people, as you and Fergus used to do. That is what a good soul like yours is meant to do, and I am glad I can help you do so.”
“Fergus would want me to keep doing good for others.”
“He would also understand the impact of his loss and how he died would have on you. I will have your armour ready as soon as I can. I will also restring your bow and hone your swords. But for now, I have to go and take care of some Skooma dealers and makers.”
I collected my squad, and we teleported back to Riften.
We made out way to Mistveil Keep.
When we entered, Jarl Laila Law-Giver was having supper.
I approached and waited for her to address me.
She said, “I usually don’t attend court matters during my meals. This interruption had better be for something important!”
“Jarl, I am Wulf Welkynd, also known as The Dragonborn. I don’t waste people’s time with trivial matters!”
“Oh, I was unaware that such an important guest was to visit me. Forgive my misplaced annoyance.”
“I don’t give a rat’s arse for courtly manners. However, I do like to stick to the letter of the law in most things. Therefore, I ask for permission to wipe out a den of Skooma merchants who are poisoning your citizens.”
“Sarthis in the warehouse?”
“Yes. Thanks to the civil war, I assume you have a skeleton garrison and feared losing more guards.”
“Not only that, we have informants within the city guard. Every time we’ve made a move to arrest him, Sarthis has escaped.”
“If you can provide the key to the warehouse, we can surprise him. If he surrenders, we will deposit him in your jail. If he resists, we shall eliminate him and his guards.”
“Excellent. Wait a second.”
The Jarl pulled out an impressive keyring that held dozens of keys. She found the one she sought and handed it to me.
She said, “Here is the key. Sarthis is just one of the dealers. If you can find where the Skooma is manufactured, that would close down more than just his business.”
I nodded, and we made our way to the warehouse.
At the warehouse door, I used Heat-Vision and whispered to the squad, “There are two people. One to the right, one to the left.”
I unlocked the door, which was only marginally quieter than picking it.
We entered with weapons drawn.
I said, “Sarthis, with the authority of Jarl Laila Law-Giver, I place you under arrest. I advise you do not resist, for that would mean certain death.”
Sarthis yelled, “Kill them, Orini!”
Sarthis’ bodyguard charged at Lydia, who pushed her shield against his. That unbalanced Orini, who then staggered backwards.
Taku then removed Orini’s head.
Sarthis came charging from another room.
Taku pivoted and killed Sarthis with a slice across the breast. His dai-katana had cut through Sarthis’ armour with ease.
I said, “That was good work, Lydia and Taku.”
Taku replied, “I was worried I might be a bit rusty.”
I searched Sarthis and found a key.
We made our way to the warehouse’s basement.
Sarthis’ key opened the door to a small room.
Within the room was Sarthis’ supply of Skooma. There were also bowls of Moon Sugar. Often dealers will supply Moon Sugar to those who make the Skooma as part payment. The Moon Sugar is processed to make more Skooma.
There were no chests, sets of drawers or cupboards in the storeroom. However, there was a small satchel that had a note inside. I read it to my squad.
We just got a shipment of Moon Sugar from Morrowind and are refining it now. The Skooma should be ready by the time you get to Cragslane Cavern. Bring sufficient gold or don’t show at all. We don’t need your pitiful supply of Moon Sugar.
I said to my squad, “The Jarl will be tucked up in bed by now. Let’s go home, get some sleep and tackle Kilnyr and his crew tomorrow.”
We teleported back to the Safe House. While the others went to bed, I took Inigo’s swords and bow to the workroom.
Inigo’s bow was made of ebony and superbly crafted. After I restrung it and placed my usual Dweomer upon it, it was equal to any that the Dragonguard wield.
Inigo’s swords were also made of ebony. After honing them, they were excellent, but I thought a katana, wakizashi combination would be better for Inigo. Therefore, I honed a matching pair of the Akaviri swords so he could decide which to wield.
I had a lighter version of my armour that was enamelled in blue. The set was new, so I had to place my Dweomer on it. After I finished, I quietly placed the weapons and armour inside Inigo’s partition.
I staggered up to my room, fell onto the bed and managed a few hours of sleep.
After breaking my fast, I went to Inigo’s partition. He was placing his family’s swords in his chest.
I said, “Follow me. We are going to clear out a Skooma producer.”
My squad for the day was Lydia, Seiko, Sakiya and Inigo.
Inigo and I waited downstairs for the others to finish their preparations.
I asked him, “Why did you choose the Akaviri swords?”
“They are very light and fast. That allows me to hit more times and parry easier. I noticed most of you carry katana and dai-katana.”
“For the same reasons you discovered. A katana allows me to inflict greater damage than a conventional sword in a given amount of time.”
“I feel guilty putting my father’s swords away.”
“Would your father prefer a dead, sentimental son or a live non-sentimental son?”
“Yes, that is what I told Mr Dragonfly, but he insists on making me feel guilty.”
The rest of the squad joined us, and we teleported to Riften.
We made our way to Mistveil Keep. I hoped the Jarl had finished her morning meal.
Alas, she had not.
She asked, “Did you deal with Sarthis?”
“He and his sidekick, Orini, did not want to surrender but attacked instead. They are both dead.”
“It’s nice to receive good news for a change.”
“We know where the Skooma is being made. We are now going to close down that operation.”
“Yes, that source must be destroyed once and for all!”
“We shall report back when it is done.”
“If you do this for me, you will be well on your way to a title in Riften.”
“We do this because it is the right thing to do, Jarl. Not for monetary or other gains.”
I turned to my squad and said, “Cragslane Cavern will take a few hours to reach on foot. We have to pass by a fort that is probably infested with bandits. Rigmor and I killed them last time, but they breed rabbits!”
We exited Riften near the stables. Then I summoned Silah.
Inigo drew his bow and yelled, “DRAGON!”
Silah laughed and asked, “Wulf, who is your blue friend?”
“Silah, meet Inigo. Inigo, say hello to Silah.”
Inigo replied, “Um…hello, Silah.”
“Hello, Inigo. I better not hover here talking as the population get concerned and might start shooting arrows my way.”
Silah gained height and acted as our scout once more.
As we started our trek to Cragslane Cavern, Inigo muttered to himself, “Gobblygook. I must accept gobblygook even if it is in the form of a huge dragon.”
As predicted, Fort Greenwall was populated by bandits.
I didn’t bother with a Shout and ran at the bandits.
The first bandit was surprised when I knocked his hammer aside and cut his head off.
Silah’s minion ducked a fireball. Inigo killed a bandit with an arrow to his head. Angi would approve.
I shortened another bandit.
Silah landed and asked a bandit, “Are you the one who put this arrow in my forehead?”
Inigo cut down another bandit while saying, “I will punish him for you, Silah!”
Silah took off, and I watched in awe of Inigo’s dual weapon skills.
Inigo’s dance of death was as impressive as mine. He flowed smoothly from one bandit to the next and brought down three in as many seconds.
Silah said, “Thanks, Inigo. That was impressive swordsmanship!”
Inigo replied, “I am better with my bow.”
Rigmor and I did not enter the fort last time. My squad and I did this time, and we slaughtered all enemies within.
Bodies lined our path of destruction.
We continued onwards.
Undead had repopulated a watchtower Rigmor, and I dealt with once. I laughed as I remembered Rigmor’s reaction to reassembling Skeletal Warriors.
We turned left just past the watchtower and headed overland to the cavern.
Bandit sentries proved a minor inconvenience.
I released two wolves from their cages. They bounded away with a couple of yips. I would like to think they were thanking me.
We entered the cavern where I killed the single entrance sentry with my bow.
Then we ran into the cavern’s central area and killed every person.
I entered a smaller cavern, and Kilnyr stood with his back to me. I guessed he had been sampling his product. He seemed oblivious of the carnage in the larger cavern.
I snuck up and slit his throat.
We returned to the main cavern and inspected our handiwork.
Inigo came over to me and said, “That was quite satisfying. But more Skooma makers and peddlers will soon replace them.”
“When the civil war ends, such slime will find it more difficult to survive in Skyrim. But I don’t intend to run around taking down minor criminals. This action was personal as their Skooma negatively impacted two people I know.”
We teleported to Riften.
Seiko asked, “After we have reported to the Jarl, what are we doing?”
“We are going to investigate the orphanage. I think the children are being sold into slavery.”
“The children leave at sixteen to work on farms or be apprenticed etcetera. Then their friends in the orphanage never hear from them again. No visits, no letters, nothing!”
“That’s terrible. Some of the orphans are probably forced into prostitution on foreign soil!”
The Jarl was, thankfully, on her throne this time.
I told her, “The Cragslane operation has been stopped.”
“Well done! Your continued efforts have been of great benefit to the people of Riften.”
I did a short bow to the Jarl, then we exited Mistveil Keep and made our way to Honorhall Orphanage.
We entered the orphanage and then stood and listened to Grelod, the headmistress, address the children.
Grelod said, with pure contempt in her voice, “Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear?”
The children replied in unison, “Yes, Grelod.”
Then she said, “And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Nobody needs you, and nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you’re here. That is why you’ll always be here until you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world. Now, what do you all say?”
Once again, in unison, the children replied, “We love you, Grelod. Thank you for your kindness.”
Grelod snarled, “That’s better. Now scurry off, my little guttersnipes.”
As the children moved away, I approached Grelod.
I could see her soul was as black as soot. The woman was devoid of compassion and should not be in charge of an orphanage.
- Grelod: What do you want?
- Wulf: I have heard some disturbing things about this orphanage.
- Grelod: Who from? Was it Aventus? Why that little bastard! You tell him I’m coming for him! And when I find him, it will be the beating of his miserable life!
- Inigo: If my friend were not here, I would cut you down where you stand!
- Grelod: You’re trying to frighten me, hmm? Do your worst!
- Wulf: Where do the children go when they leave here?
- Grelod: Weren’t you listening? Into the wide, horrible world.
- Wulf: Why are they never heard from again?
- Grelod: How would I know. Who are you anyway to come in here asking questions? Dangerous questions that could get you… hurt…
- Wulf: I am a protector of children and the last person on Nirn you want as an enemy. Feel free to try and stop me if you wish as I spend a few minutes having a look around.
- Grelod: You think you can intimidate me? In my orphanage? Ha! Not bloody likely. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get changed. I have an important business meeting to attend. Supply and demand are the backbones of all trade.
In one room were two buckets that served as privies for the children. There were no washing facilities.
Grelod’s private quarters were large and luxurious.
A boy child wearing only underpants approached me.
- Philan: Sir, me and my two brothers arrived a few days ago. Our parents were killed by those people who attacked Morthal.
- Wulf: My name is Wulf. What is yours?
- Philan: I am Philan and am the oldest by a year. That makes me the big brother, so I ask for your help.
- Inigo: Why are you in your underwear? Are your clothes in the wash?
- Philan: Our clothes were torn and ripped and covered in blood. Constance took them from us and burnt them, thinking she could simply go to the market and buy some more. Grelod threw a tantrum, saying she didn’t have money to burn and the clothes would have sufficed for the new guttersnipes.
- Wulf: You and your brothers have only worn underwear for how many days?
- Philan: Two. Grelod is withholding Constance’s wages, and when that adds up to enough, Constance will be allowed to buy us clothes.
- Inigo: She wants Constance to pay for your clothes out of her wages?
- Philan: Yep. And Constance says it may take a couple of weeks for her to earn enough.
- Wulf: What kind of clothes do you and your brothers like to wear.
- Philan: Our father always wore robes. That is what we have grown up wearing.
- Wulf: I shall go to the market and buy some robes and boots for the three of you.
- Philan: Grelod will take them from us.
- Wulf: No, she won’t.
- Philan: Thank you, Wulf.
I stormed over to Grelod and said, “I will do all I can to have you removed and thrown into the wide, horrible world.”
I then talked to Constance.
- Wulf: Constance, I am Wulf. May I ask, is Grelod always like that?
- Constance: Sadly, yes. Even the townsfolk have taken to calling her ‘Grelod the Kind’.
- Wulf: What happens to the children when they come of age?
- Constance: Some become apprentices. Others are happy to be sent to farms as agricultural workers. They are not tossed out as some people imagine.
- Inigo: Who organises the placements for the children?
- Constance: Grelod. She invites prospective employers to visit. They talk to the children, and if they like what they see, they offer employment. A few seem to employ a large percentage of the orphans.
- Wulf: I have heard that the children are never heard from again. Is that true?
- Constance: Grelod controls all the correspondence in and out of the orphanage.
- Inigo: So, if the children write letters to those who have come of age, they might never be sent?
- Constance: I suppose so, but why would Grelod do that?
- Inigo: If you don’t hear from the children who have left, do you think Grelods doesn’t pass the letters on to the children here?
- Constance: I keep telling myself that. The probable explanation is too horrid to contemplate.
- Wulf: Constance, I see you are full of compassion and love for these children.
- Constance: These children need love and comfort. I try…But…I’m sorry, you should go. The children aren’t up for adoption, and it’s cruel to get their hopes up. Besides, Grelod hates visitors.
- Inigo: Except for the visitors who come to inspect the children.
- Constance: All of these children deserve a better home. But there’s nothing I can do.
- Wulf: You deserve a better employer.
- Constance: My only concern is for the children. The poor darlings have no one else.
Grelod yelled, “Constance! Hroar’s crying at night is keeping me awake. I’ll give you one chance to talk the tears out of him, or he is getting the belt!”
I walked past Philan’s brothers as I exited the orphanage on my way to the market.
Locals told me that Grelka might have the child’s robes I sought.
“Grelka, would you have three robes suitable for a male child and three pairs of children’s boots?”
“For your boys?”
“No, for three orphaned boys in the orphanage.”
“Oh, that is kind of you. Constance came crying to me, saying they needed clothes, but Grelod refused to pay for them. Normally I would have given them to Constance and hoped for payment later. But with the civil war, dragons and that New Order mob, I can hardly afford to feed myself as it is.”
I picked a ruby worth at least three hundred septims from my bag.
I asked, “Would this cover the three outfits?”
Grelka knew the ruby was worth many times the price of the clothes.
She tried to hand it back, saying, “Sorry, I can give you enough change. Do you have septims or a smaller gem?”
“Grelka, you are having problems that are not of your making. I think this ruby is just the right amount, and I expect no change.”
Grelka smiled and picked out three excellent robes from her inventory. The child-sized boots were also of good quality.
I walked back to the orphanage with a smile of my own.
I gave the boys their new clothes. Ten minutes later, they were keen to show me how they looked.
Masqubo, Kastellen and Philan were transformed into more confident individuals. There is a reason why prisoners are kept in rags or their underwear.
Grelod came over.
She sneered, then said, “Those rags will burn as readily as their original clothes. We can play this game as many times as you like. You buy them. I burn them. Round and round.”
“Where does the money go, Grelod? Do you have a large estate somewhere just waiting for its finishing touches? How many more children do you have to sell to slavers before retiring? Do you want this to be the last batch, so you won’t let them be adopted? Each guttersnipe is sold to the highest bidder as your dark soul strives to find some enjoyment out of the poor deal dealt by fate. I will find the evidence, and then your old knees will complain as you kneel before the headsman.”
We exited the orphanage once more. I said, “We are going to Windhelm.”
I teleported to the entrance to Windhelm and then summoned Inigo. He accepted the summons without realising what I had done.
- Sakiya: Wulf, how did you manage to summon Inigo? It usually takes days of knowing somebody before you can do that.
- Wulf: I have found that the period of getting to know the person well enough has shortened considerably. I don’t know if that is due to me teleporting more than on Akavir or some other factor.
- Sakiya: Equally as odd is Inigo’s acceptance of the summons. Most people are afraid of the sensation of the request. It is like having a foreign voice in your head asking you something you don’t understand. They panic and can’t accept.
- Lydia: Wulf warned me, so I didn’t panic and accepted the summons. Otherwise, I think I would have done what Sakiya described.
- Inigo: I heard Wulf say, ‘Come to me, Inigo.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ That was all. Perhaps my past addiction to Skooma has made me less fearful of gobblygook?
- Wulf: That is as good an explanation as any.
- Seiko: Wulf, we can’t let that monster run the orphanage!
- Wulf: We need proof of her actions, Seiko. Let’s talk to Aventus Aretino and see what he can tell us.
Inigo asked, “Khajiiti are banned from this city. Should I enter and risk confrontation?”
“Yes, you are with me and if anybody objects, I will straighten them out. If you try to defend your right to enter, they will not listen.”
We entered Windhelm, and a few guards looked at us but did not approach. A child told us where Aventus’ house is.
We knew the directions were correct when we overheard a Dunmer woman talking to a young boy outside Aventus’ home.
- Grimvar: Then it’s true, what everyone is saying? That Aventus Aretino is doing the Black Sacrament? He is trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood!
- Idesa: Oh, Grimvar… always with the nonsense. No, no, of course not. Those are just tales…
- Grimvar: Fine. Then I’ll invite him out to play. He lives right there. I’m going to knock on his door…
- Idesa: No, child! Wait! That boy, that house – they’re cursed.
- Grimvar: Ha! Then I’m right. I knew it. He’s trying to have somebody killed!
- Idesa: All right. I won’t deny it, child. What you heard is true. But Aventus Aretino walks a dark path. His actions can lead only to ruin. Now, enough. We will speak no more of this. I am the only friend you need.
- Wulf: Excuse me, Grimvar, is this the home of Aventus Aretino?
- Grimvar: Do you know my father? He’s really important. He even talks to the Jarl sometimes.
- Wulf: Wow! What is his name?
- Grimvar: His name is Torsten Cruel-Sea. He’s really rich ‘cause he owns a farm called Hollyfrost.
- Wulf: I know that one. I have ridden past it.
- Grimvar: He told me once that he wanted me to grow up and be a sailor, ‘cause that’s where all our family names come from. But I don’t want to be a sailor or a farmer. I want to be a warrior! The strongest one ever!
- Idesa: Excuse me, Sir, who are you, and why are you seeking out little boys?
- Wulf: I am Wulf Welkynd, and assure you I am merely trying to help Aventus. May I ask who you are?
- Grimvar: It is alright, Idesa. He is The Dragonborn! I watched from the battlements as he and his friends and a pretty dragon killed the evil dragon yesterday.!
- Idesa: Oh, I apologise. I am Grimvar’s full-time nanny.
- Wulf: There is no need to apologise. You were protecting both boys from possible harm.
- Idesa: Yes, this is the house of Aventus inherited from his parents. It was boarded up when his mother died, and he was taken to the orphanage. But he returned one day and has locked himself inside ever since.
- Wulf: How does he feed himself?
- Idesa: Concerned citizens leave food parcels at his front door.
- Wulf: I have been told something to explain his reluctance to stay at that orphanage. I will talk to him and see if there is any truth to what has been said.
- Grimvar: Dragonborn, are you the strongest warrior ever?
- Wulf: One of the strongest. But I would rather be a farmer or a sailor. Killing people is neither fun nor something to generate pride. Listen to your father on this.
- Idesa: They are wise words from a hero, Grimvar. Perhaps he is right, and being a warrior is not something you should wish for. Now come along. We have errands to run.
Idesa and Grimvar chatted away as they headed towards Windhelm Market.
The door to Aventus’ house was locked, and he did not respond to my knocking.
I picked the lock, and then we entered.
We could hear Aventus saying a ritual over and over. A ritual which I will not recite within my journal.
Inigo whispered, “The boy is doing The Black Sacrament of the Dark Brotherhood. My parents taught Fergus and me about the different assassin guilds. Aventus wants somebody assassinated, and I think we can guess who that is.”
Sakiya sneered and said, “I used to receive my target information by carrier pigeon or coded inside a courier delivered letter. A ritual? No wonder The Dark Brotherhood has trouble attracting clients and members!”
“Were you an assassin, Sakiya?”
“Yes, and quite a good one.”
Upon a table was a letter which I read to my colleagues,
“Master Aventus Aretino,
Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak wishes to express his deepest sympathies at your mother’s death. Naalia was a good citizen and brave widow.
Unfortunately, because you are fatherless and have no other known relations, the jarl cannot allow you to remain in your home unsupervised. Therefore, in no more than a week, you will report to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften, where you will reside until your sixteenth birthday.
The Aretino family home in the city of Windhelm will, of course, remain your property. The building will be securely locked and ready for your return in six years.
Note that I am unsure of the education provided to you by your recently deceased mother or if you possess the ability the read the letter I am currently composing. Therefore, a member of the city guard will call upon you in one week at your home and provide escort to the orphanage. Hopefully, his arrival will not come as a complete shock.
With greatest respect,
Steward to our most noble jarl, Ulfric Stormcloak.”
We entered a room and found Aventus on his knees and hunched over. He constantly stabbed the floor with an iron knife as he recited the ritual.
On the floor was a complete skeleton. Two organs were arranged to mimic their location inside the body. One organ was the heart, and the other was the stomach. A book with the symbol of the Dark Brotherhood on its cover lay next to the skeleton.
I coughed to get Aventus’ attention. He stood, and I could see he was exhausted.
- Aventus: You’ve come at last! I knew you would!
- Wulf: I did not answer a summoning if that is what you think.
- Aventus: It worked! I just knew it! I knew you’d come.
- Inigo: I know that ritual Aventus. A ten-year-old boy should not be meddling with these things.
- Aventus: But I did the Black Sacrament, over and over. With the body and the… things. And then you came! Assassins from the Dark Brotherhood!
- Wulf: We are not assassins.
- Aventus: You must be! I prayed, and you came, and now you will accept my contract!
- Wulf: Why do you want to hire assassins?
- Aventus: My mother, she… she died. I… I’m all alone now. They sent me to that terrible orphanage in Riften. The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind. But she’s not kind. She’s terrible to all of us. So, I ran away and came home. And then I performed the Black Sacrament. Now you’re here! And you can kill Grelod the Kind!
- Wulf: Does Grelod beat the children?
- Aventus: Yes, and for no reason! You try to do everything she asks, but that is not good enough for her!
- Wulf: Is her cruelty the only reason you fled the orphanage?
- Aventus: The other children told me that you have to leave the orphanage when you turn sixteen. The older children are never heard from again! Even if they promise to visit their younger friends, they never do. I would never get adopted because Grelod does not allow it. I would have turned sixteen and vanished like the rest.
- Wulf: But you have this house to come back to?
- Aventus: You don’t understand. The ones that left had organised jobs on farms and so on, but they never visited or wrote, so who says they arrived where they were supposed to? I would never have made it back here. I just know it!
- Wulf: We are not assassins. But we are investigating Grelod and will stop her if she is doing what you say.
- Aventus: Please hurry. I’m kind of lonely here. As much as I hated getting sent to Honorhall, I really miss my friends there!
- Wulf: Do you like Constance?
- Aventus: All the children love Constance. She is kind and cares, unlike Grelod, who treats her bad as well.
- Wulf: We are going to vanish now. Don’t be afraid. I am a mage, and it is a way for us to travel quickly.
- Aventus: Oh, so you are not going invisible?
- Wulf: No, Aventus. Please don’t ask if I can make you invisible.
- Aventus: Why would I do that?
- Wulf: Every other child who thinks I am a mage asks if I can make them invisible.
I placed a Mark where I was standing.
Then we teleported to Riften and walked towards the orphanage.
At the bottom of Mistveil Keeps’ steps, I told the others, “Wait here. I will ask a guard to accompany me and arrest Grelod.”
Inigo stood with his hands on his hips, and anger shone in his eyes.
“Wulf, you are under more control than me. I want to go in there and tear Grelod’s throat out with my claws!”
“Inigo, it is a terrible thing to witness when I let my anger or hatred rule my actions. I do not want to wrestle with the same feelings you expressed. At all times, I must be careful not to harm innocents. Therefore, I will ask a guard to arrest Grelod so I am not subjected to the hatred that pours from her mouth. Once she is imprisoned, evidence of her crimes will be sought, and no doubt found.”
I approached a Riften guard.
“Guard, I am Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn.”
“I am well aware of that, Dragonborn. Pictures of you in that armour are all over the news sheets. But we have been told not to bother you on your important business in Riften.”
“Disturbing allegations against the Headmistress of Honorhall Orphanage reached my ears from several sources. I have spoken to Grelod and inspected the premises. She is beating the children, refusing to let them be adopted and has provided inadequate bathing and toileting facilities. She is not fit to be the Headmistress. There are also disturbing rumours that she has been selling the older children into enslavement. She should be arrested and questioned. A search for corroborating evidence of the enslavement accusations needs to be conducted.”
“Then accompany me, Dragonborn. A frail old woman should not require much effort to take into custody.”
We entered the orphanage, and the guard confronted Grelod.
“Grelod, you have been accused of mistreating the children under your care and other serious matters. You are under arrest and will be incarcerated while an investigation is undertaken. If charges are laid, you will have access to an attorney of your choice or one appointed by the court if financial constraints are an issue.”
As expected, Grelod’s anger and venom spewed forth. She yelled, “What? How dare you? I will not be intimidated in my own orphanage. Get out! Get out this instant!”
Grelod drew a dagger.
The guard warned, “You have no hope of fighting your way out of this. Any combat will endanger the children, so put the knife down and come quietly.”
Grelod’s sudden and vicious attack caught the guard by surprise. She slashed his stomach and drew blood.
Grelod was out of control, and her actions endangered the children. The choice was easy. I stepped forward whilst drawing my sword and killed Grelod.
Grelod’s headless corpse fell to the floor. Her dagger clattered onto the ground next to it.
There was a moment of silence, and then the children started to cheer and clap. They were not horrified by the headless corpse but relieved their nightmare was over.
The guard asked, “What now, Dragonborn?”
“Go to the Temple of Mara. Ask them to come and remove the body and take care of Constance and the children. The allegations still need to be investigated, but any questioning can wait for a few days. The children may seem fine, but they will need help understanding what just occurred.”
“You can trust me, Dragonborn. All will be done as you have requested.”
I exited the orphanage and walked over to my squad.
Inigo asked, “What happened, Wulf?”
“Grelod attacked and cut the guard with a knife. She was out of control and endangered the children. I chose to remove the danger. So, I stepped forward and killed her.”
“And the children witnessed this?”
“The children cheered as Grelod’s head rolled and her blood pooled. I have asked the guard to get the Temple of Mara involved. Grelod’s crimes will still be investigated, and I will return and see what is happening in a few days.”
“Are we going to tell Aventus?”
“Yes, I will Recall to the Mark I placed, then summon you.”
I appeared at the Mark and then summoned the others.
Aventus asked, “Well? Grelod the Kind. Is she… you know?”
“A guard tried to arrest Grelod. She attacked the guard with a knife and hurt him. She was so angry she might have hurt the children, so I killed her. It was not an assassination, Aventus.”
“Aha! I knew you could do it! I just knew it! I knew the Dark Brotherhood would save me!”
“Listen closely, Aventus. We are not assassins. I am The Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. Do you know what that means?”
“The Dark Brotherhood members worship another type of god. I could not be a member of the Dark Brotherhood and Champion of The Divines at the same time. I don’t murder people. We don’t murder people.”
“But I did the Back Sacrament?”
“For the Black Sacrament to work, a special person called The Listener has to be told of your prayer. There hasn’t been a Listener in The Dark Brotherhood for a long time. Nobody in The Dark Brotherhood heard the ritual. We came here because Olette told us about you.”
“I told other adults, but nobody listened. That is why I did the ritual.”
“I understand. What do you want to do now?”
“I will go back to the orphanage and live with my friends. Maybe we can be adopted now.”
“You can’t go back till late tomorrow. I will ask two of my friends, Sakiya and Seiko, to stay with you. They will take you to the orphanage tomorrow afternoon.”
Sakiya and Seiko started to make plans. Seiko would remain with Aventus while Seiko goes to the Safe House and retrieves meat, vegetables and soap. Aventus will be fed and less smelly before returning to Honorhall Orphanage.
Lydia, Inigo and me teleported to Riverwood.
We entered The Sleeping Giant Inn. Delphine saw us and motioned for us to follow.
We made our way to Delphine’s hidden room. Before we could talk, we had to wait till Inigo stopped laughing at the sliding door in the cupboard cliché.
I asked, “Delphine, do you have a way into the embassy?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I am impressed. That did not take long.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time, remember? While the Thalmor have been looking for me, I’ve been watching them.”
“So, what is your plan? How do I infiltrate the Thalmor Embassy?”
“The Thalmor ambassador, Elenwen, regularly throws parties where the rich and connected cosy up to the Thalmor. I can get you into one of those parties. Once inside the Embassy, you can get away and find Elenwen’s secret files.”
“I assume you have a contact within the embassy to help me get away and find Elenwen’s secret files.”
“Yes, I do. Malborn is not up for this kind of high-risk mission, but he can help you. He is a Wood Elf and has plenty of reasons to hate the Thalmor. You can trust him.”
“With your level of paranoia, it must take a bit to gain your trust.”
“The Thalmor wiped out his family in Valenwood during one of their purges that we never hear about. He hates the Thalmor at least as much as I do.”
“I assume the dress is formal. No armour or weapons?”
“And Malborn can get my equipment inside the embassy?”
“Yes. I’ll get word to Malborn to meet you in Solitude at the Winking Skeever. Do you know it?”
“I live in Solitude, Delphine. So yes, I know it.”
“The next party is the day after tomorrow. I’ll work on getting you an invitation to the party. Meet me at the Solitude stables at midday on the twenty-fourth. I will have a private carriage arranged to take you to the embassy in style. Any questions?”
“What are the details of my persona on the invitation?”
“I hadn’t decided. Do you have a suggestion?”
“The invitation should be for an Argonian called Plays-With-Beavers. His occupation is Dibellan Artist.”
“This is no time for joking, Dragonborn!”
“It is no joke, Delphine. The next time you see me, I will be a well dressed Argonian. No makeup and no illusion. I will change back into Ningheim when I retrieve my gear.”
“The Divines take people from any race and give them particular blessings, and from that point forward, their race is Ningheim. I will be an Argonian, Delphine.”
“Okay, but why that name and occupation?”
“I will try to avoid small talk with the other guests. However, if I have to engage with people, that name and occupation will be useful. I can spin yarns around it, and all will remember Plays-With-Beavers.”
“Unless you intend to leave no witnesses, your description when you change to Ningheim will be distributed by The Thalmor. You will end up on as many wanted posters as Rigmor did.”
“Every description of me will be different. I will appear to be of different races, heights, builds and even genders to those asked to describe me.”
“I won’t ask how that can be. Any more questions?”
“Are Elenwen’s quarters within the main embassy?”
“No, she shares a solar with a couple of other senior Thalmor. It happens to house the dungeons, so she doesn’t have far to go when she wants to interrogate somebody.”
“If I encounter her away from the guests, she will die.”
“That would be tragic.”
“Yes, I am sure the population of Skyrim would be distraught. I will meet with Malborn in the morning and you at Solitude Stables at midday on the twenty-fourth.”
I teleported us to the Safe House.
Inigo asked, “Can you show me your Argonian disguise?”
“It is not a Disguise, Inigo. Give me fifteen minutes, and I will come downstairs as I will appear at the party.”
Inigo and Lydia went to raid the larder. I headed to my clothing collection in the museum and then went to my bedroom to change into Plays-With-Beavers.
Firstly, I put on suitable underwear then transformed into an Argonian.
Then I donned the fancy clothing.
I went downstairs and spoke to Inigo.
He laughed and asked, “So, Plays-With-Beavers, are all parts of you scaly?”
“How many times do I have to say this? I am Argonian. Except I still have Dragonblood and a dragon soul.”
“You even sound Argonian! Could you change into a Khajiit?”
“Yes, but I would have to shave first. The body parts that make Wulf a Ningheim are converted to the target race. The Khajiit transformation has trouble with beards, and the result is weird. However, if I shaved, the Khajiit transformation is as convincing as this.”
‘You said to Delphine that when you change back to Ningheim, no two descriptions will be the same.”
“I will wear a mempo, an Akaviri mask. It has a Dweomer that does as I said. I wore similar when Guardian General.”
“Lydia told me that The Divines don’t want The Dragonborn and The Guardian General to be the same person.”
“They think the separation of identities will prove useful in the future. It is not a great burden, so I am happy to comply.”
“You have gone out of your way to help people. I am glad to be by your side, Wulf.”
“I think you will prove a valuable addition to our ever-growing team, Inigo. Goodnight.”
I went to my room and changed back to Ningheim.
I climbed into bed and had no difficulty falling asleep.