Tirdas, 23rd Hearthfire, 4E 201
I killed dragon after dragon, but their numbers seemed endless.
Some other time, for this was a different premonition, I was in Riften. The market was closing, and everybody was ready to head home.
Dragons attacked. They destroyed the market, and I could hear the screams of burning people.
Simultaneously they destroyed the orphanage. If children screamed, I was fortunate enough not to hear them.
The Dragonguard fought bravely, but Riften mainly was wood. The city was lost, and we failed.
I was woken by a giant tongue leaving a slime trail across my face.
I crawled out of bed.
“Yes, Meeko, I had multiple premonitions. Thanks for waking me as they were not pleasant.”
Meeko has always been sensitive to my mood. He had been sleeping on the rug at the foot of my bed. When the premonitions played out in my mind, I was disturbed enough to wake him, and he knew what to do.
I used the spa and then headed downstairs.
Sakiya and Seiko had returned from escorting Aventus to Honorhall Orphanage.
Seiko said, “Wulf, they have thoroughly cleaned the orphanage, which disappointed Aventus. He was hoping to see some evidence of Grelod’s demise. But then the children told him in gory detail what happened, which made him laugh. Was Grelod insane?”
“Pulling a knife on the Riften Guard was the last stand, not insanity. Grelod knew that she would be executed once proof was found of her crimes. She was evil but not insane.”
“Constance told us how she wants to keep the orphanage running and improve it for the children. However, the Jarl claims there are no funds available.”
“I will visit and see what can be done.”
I noticed Inigo was sitting in front of the fireplace. I joined him.
I said, “I think we had better talk.”
“Yes, I am hearing confusing and somewhat disturbing things.”
“What do you think of Skyrim?”
“I like it. It is cold, but my heart is never warmer than when I am here. What do you think of Skyrim?”
“The area around Riverwood reminds me of my birth country, so I am fond of that area. If you ignore the idiotic ‘Skyrim is for the Nords’ morons, the people are warm, hardworking and honest.”
“Yes, imagine the look on Ulfric’s face when he finds a Khajiit is helping The Dragonborn, a Nord hero!”
“Ulfric would be upset to find I am not a Nord.”
“Okay, you are certainly not a Mer and are much bigger than any Breton I have met.”
“My father is Atmoran. My mother is Nedic. I was born on a small island that is part of Roscrea. But my race is now Ningheim after several blessings from The Nine.”
“The Atmoran and Nedic people died out thousands of years ago!”
“Both my parents have been dead for a long time, but I am only twenty-two years of age.”
“You are trying to drive me back into the welcoming arms of Skooma!”
“Remember the advice about gobblygook?”
“Yes, it is better to accept some things rather than ask too many questions.”
“After you have travelled with me a while longer, I may tell secrets very few people know. Secrets that keep me, and those I serve, safe. Until then, you must be patient.”
“Who do you serve?”
“Every mortal on Nirn.”
“Including stinky bandits and The Thalmor?”
“Yes, even them.”
“I have heard the name ‘Rigmor’ in many conversations.”
“Rigmor is my beloved. She is more than a soul mate. As Lady Mara says, we have intertwined souls that will find each other every Kalpa. Rigmor and I were instrumental in stopping The New Order’s invasion. She has recently been made Countess of Bruma, which is why she is absent.”
“What happened to Count Carvain?”
“He died in a horse accident. A particularly nasty clan of vampires took his daughter. His wife committed suicide due to the grief.”
“Bruma is one of my favourite parts of Cyrodiil, and the Carvain family was well-loved. It is sad they are gone.”
“Rigmor was given the title of Countess as compensation for what His Imperial Highness allowed to happen to her family. Rigmor’s father was Ragnar Fjonasson, a hero of The Great War who helped The Redguard defeat The Thalmor after the war. The Thalmor falsely accused Ragnar of a massacre of Redguards and executed him. Rigmor and her mother were enslaved. Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar rescued Rigmor after six months in captivity. Less than a month ago, we rescued Rigmor’s mother, Sigunn, from enslavement. She had been enslaved for four years.”
“Is she the Rigmor of Bruma on the wanted poster?”
“The guards at the jail showed me the wanted poster. They were wondering what she did to be worth fifteen thousand septims.”
“She killed every single person at the Dominion embassy in Bruma. That was their excuse for pursuing her. The truth is, they were afraid of Rigmor. They were afraid that she would be a thorn in their side like her father was. I make no distinction between The New Order and The Dominion. There is no chance The Dominion did not know of The New Order and their plans.”
“When can you see each other again?”
“I have to deal with Alduin. Rigmor has to establish herself in Bruma. It could be some time, Inigo. But there are others far worse off. Every day loved ones are lost to Ulfric’s ambition. Now the dragons will start slaughtering without pity.”
“I can see you are eager to get moving. I will learn as we travel.”
“In my anxiety so evident?”
“Yes. Is there a reason?”
“I have foresight. What I see are possibilities, not certainties. Last night, I saw the destruction of Riften. I need to do something to stop that from happening!”
“Then you had better meet this Malborn fellow.”
“I want you to come along and look brooding and dangerous. Delphine might trust him, but I don’t.”
“Yes, we do not know much about this Malborn fellow. We should be watchful and make him think twice about double-crossing you.”
“He is supposed to smuggle my gear into the embassy. I will tell him there is no need. If he seems disappointed, we will know he is not trustworthy.”
“I will return as Plays-With-Beavers in a few minutes.”
A while later, we exited into the city.
Inigo exclaimed, “You are one huge swamp swimmer!”
“And you are one very blue flea city.”
“Solitude reminds me a little of Cyrodiil. There is a thin veneer of civility masking the dirty doings beneath. It is nice, though.”
“The politics in Skyrim are nowhere near as dirty as in Cyrodiil. The main reason is that Holds cannot be conquered or their territory be taken. Cyrodiil always has the potential for inter County wars.”
“High Rock never seems to stop having fights over territory!”
“They do band together when an external threat looms.”
“I am looking forward to giving Malborn one of my stares. I hope he doesn’t wet himself.”
As we approached the inn, Inigo said, “I’ve never tried winking at a Skeever before. I usually just slay them on sight and save the subtle body language for the ladies.”
We entered a packed Winking Skeever!
Inigo asked, “How are we finding Malborn in here?”
“A Wood Elf should be easy to spot. They even make Thalmor look masculine.”
“You mean the male Thalmor. The women Thalmor already look masculine. And that is not racist, for I am not talking about all Altmer.”
“I think it is their uniform. No curves!”
“No breast jiggles.”
“Rigmor would call you a pervert.”
“And she would be correct.”
It didn’t take long to spot a likely candidate sitting by himself. I sat opposite him. Inigo stood behind with his arms crossed and an impressive look of contempt.
I asked, “Are you Malborn?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Our mutual friend sent me.”
“Really? You’re who she picked? I hope she knows what she’s doing.”
Inigo issued a very impressive growl.
I told Inigo, “No, Fang, there is no need to rip his liver out… just yet.”
Malborn couldn’t see Inigo, but he knew somebody dangerous was behind him.
I said to Malborn, “I am two feet taller than you and could snap your neck in a split second. The best bit is that nobody would see me do it. I have travelled to Oblivion and faced an angry god as close as you are right now. I have killed thousands of warriors in combat. So shut up and tell me what needs doing!”
“I apologise. I didn’t mean to offend you!”
“If I were truly offended, you would be dead.”
“Oh, umm, well… here’s the deal. I can smuggle some equipment into the embassy for you. Don’t plan on bringing anything else in with you. The Thalmor take security very seriously. I’m ready to go. Give me what you can’t live without, and I’ll make sure to get it into the embassy. The rest is up to you.”
“I don’t need you to smuggle anything in for me. I just need you to be ready to sneak me into the embassy proper when an opportunity arises.”
“You’re joking, right? She promised that she was sending someone who knew what they were doing… If you actually want to get out alive, I’d bring whatever you need to move quietly and kill quickly.”
“I could turn invisible then kill everybody in The Winking Skeever in seconds. No weapons or armour required.”
“Okay, I believe you. I’ve got to go and will find you at the party, don’t worry.”
“I am relying on you to stop a bloodbath. Fuck up, and lots of people will die. I won’t be one of them, but you might be.”
Malborn stood, looked at Inigo, gasped and then moved away quickly. At least he had the good sense not to run and attract attention.
I walked up to Inigo.
I remarked, “That was a very impressive growl!”
“Not as impressive as my mother’s. She could make Fergus and me soil our pants with her growl.”
“Now, I wouldn’t mind sitting and downing a few pints, but….”
“You want to stop Alduin. So, what is next?”
“A quick visit to my museum. I need some research conducted for me.”
“I wonder if there will ever be an Inigo Gallery?”
“If we stop Alduin, we will all be famous.”
It didn’t take long to find Auryen in the museum.
- Auryen: Good day, Guild Master.
- Wulf: Good day to you, Auryen. This blue flea haven is Inigo.
- Inigo: I am pleased to meet you, Auryen.
- Auryen: I am pleased to meet you, Inigo, but I am curious about your colouring.
- Inigo: Perhaps I will sit and tell you the story one day soon. But right now, Wulf is in a hurry.
- Auryen: He always is.
- Wulf: I have a filled Dwemer Lexicon. It comes from Avanchnzel. Its removal caused mental health issues for an Argonian who has asked me to return it for her.
I handed Auryen the lexicon.
- Auryen: These are fantastic inventions. Do you know what they do?
- Wulf: Yes. That small cube could contain all the knowledge of an extensive library.
- Inigo: They must be tiny books, and the Dwemer must have had excellent eyesight.
- Auryen: There are no books inside, Inigo. How the knowledge is stored is unknown to anybody but The Dwemer.
- Inigo: And since they are all dead, nobody knows.
- Auryen: Precisely. A Receptacle machine will open the lexicon and allow access to the knowledge within via a telepathic link. The link can cause insanity as it is meant for Dwemer, not any other race.
- Wulf: Madras might have helpful information about Avanchnzel. I don’t know when I will get time to visit there, but Madras can come if he wants to.
- Auryen: I will get him onto it right away. Others might want to accompany you.
- Wulf: Maybe they can do so on other digs. I am not used to Dwemer ruins, and Madras’ knowledge would be an asset.
- Auryen: Agreed. Is there anything else?
- Wulf: No, not at the moment. Please, apologise to the guild members for me. I haven’t spoken to any of them for over a month.
- Auryen: After revealing who you are, they have not complained about your absence. They visit the Safe House and catch up on the news from The Dragonguard.
- Inigo: Maybe Wulf will have more time after we kick Alduin in the privates!
- Wulf: Ingo, we are going to kick him out of Mundus.
- Inigo: I am going to kick him in the privates first!
Auryen laughed as Inigo, and I headed for the Safe House.
Just as we entered the Safe House, the bells of Solitude started to sound. I quickly exited and stood on the balcony.
I yelled, “Dragons are attacking Solitude! Everybody, onto the streets and defend the city. Mages, the dragons must be stopped before you attend to any wounded!”
I summoned Silah. She didn’t respond.
I leapt over the balcony and ran onto the street.
A Dovah attacked me with Ice Form.
I looked up to where he landed
It was Yolvithbrom, the observer of Viirmaarkron’s attack on Windhelm. He was already getting pierced by arrows and Ice Spears from The Dragonguard.
I used The Voice and said, “FIN NIKRIIN YOLVITHBROM LOST BO WAH DIR!” (The coward Yolvithbrom has come to die!)
Before he could reply, I hit Yolvithbrom with Fire Breath. My Dragonfire made him scream in pain. He took to the air. I didn’t know his accomplice’s name, but he showed evidence of Dragonguard ferocity.
Yolvithbrom landed near Castle Dour.
He used Ice Form and killed many Solitude Guards who had clustered together.
He had learnt his lesson and did not let me get close enough to burn him with Fire Breath. However, my Lightning spells were doing significant damage.
The civilians had obeyed the bell and headed for the nearest building as per the plan The Dragonguard had explained to Jarl Elisif and General Tullius. That was the advantage of a stone city like Solitude over a wooden one like Riften or Whiterun. In those more combustible cities, civilians would have to make their way to a building of stone or one with a stone cellar.
I decided to stay close to Castle Dour. The swarms of tightly packed Legionnaires and City Guard would be too tempting for the dragons to ignore.
Predictably, Yolvithbrom landed once more with the intent of killing many with a single Shout.
My Dragonfire changed his mind.
Despite knowing the dangers, some Dragonguard clustered together. The other dragon strafed us with Dragonfire. Meeko was not amused.
Yolvithbrom’s ally landed nearby.
I called out, “FUN ZU’U WO HI LOS US HI DIR.” (Tell me who you are before you die.)
“ZU’U LOS VOKUNREL. DAAR LOS AAN YUVON GRAH!” (I am Vokunrel. This is a fine battle!)
I hit Vokunrel with Lightning as Yolvithbrom dove towards me.
Vokunrel performed an impressive mid-air turn and placed himself between Yolvithbrom and me.
My Dragonfire, meant for Yolvithbrom, hit Vokunrel, who screamed in anger and pain.
After experiencing Dragonfire earlier, Meeko had wisely positioned himself under an archway.
Meeko told me Vokunrel had landed in Castle Dour’s courtyard.
I Blinked my way to the courtyard, but Vokunrel had already taken off once more.
Legionnaires were bunched together, and Vokunrel swooped to strafe them.
Lightning and Ice Spears leapt toward him from Dragonguard mages. Vokunrel took significant damage and crashed into the courtyard.
A couple of Pilgrims were slow to react to the danger.
I Blinked to Vokunrel, who ignored the pilgrims and turned to face me.
The number of arrows and Ice Spears sticking out of Vokunrel was a testament to the strength of the Dovah. However, they were also a testament to how large numbers of mortals can defeat powerful dragons.
Other combatants came swarming into the courtyard as I prepared to leap upon Vokunrel.
I landed on Vokunrel’s head and used embedded arrows and Ice Spears as handholds as he tried to shake me loose.
I suspected the attack on Solitude was honey to the fly once more. That suspicion was proven correct when Yolvithbrom engulfed Vokunrel and me in Dragonfire.
Vokunrel screamed in pain and rage.
I thrust my sword into his brain and then leapt off the dying Dovah.
A crowd gathered as I absorbed Vokunrel’s soul.
Once the absorption finished, I ran past the spectators as I knew Yolvithbrom was still at large.
I could hear Yolvithbrom’s Thu’um and Blinked towards The Blue Palace’s courtyard.
Screams told me people were falling prey to his Ice Form Shout.
As I ran at Yolvithbrom, I noticed most arrows embedded in his hide were those of The Dragonguard. I don’t think the guards and Legionnaires hit him any less than Vokunrel, but their bows were not powerful enough to penetrate.
Yolvithbrom lunged at me, so I ducked and moved to the side. His massive jaws clamped shut inches from my head.
I did a backhand swipe with my sword, which cut deep into Yolvithbrom’s snout.
I then leapt upon his head and plunged my sword into his brain.
I jumped clear as Yolvithbrom threatened to crush me with his death throws.
Inigo and others watched as I absorbed another soul.
Inigo turned to me.
“Wulf, what is all the glowing and fire?”
“I absorbed Yolvithbrom’s soul, and he will not appear in any future Kalpa. He is erased from time from this point forward. Before you tell me how terrible that is, I must advise it is not voluntary. It is the nature of what I am, and even The Divines cannot alter it.”
“Do the dragons know this before they fight you?”
“Yes. Some dragons can do it to other dragons, but not many. However, they know I am The Dragonborn, Dovahkiin in their language, and the penalty if they lose.”
“Why is it necessary for you to absorb their souls?”
“I gain their knowledge of The Thu’um.”
“You seem sad when you do it.”
“I am despondent, Inigo. Dragons are magnificent beings, and Alduin hasn’t turned them all. Many have aided mortals against Alduin and other despotic Dov. My father had a Dovah friend who joined the Imperial Army, and you have met Silah. Dragon allies are unsung heroes.”
“Where is Silah?”
“I do not know. I summoned Silah, but she didn’t come. I hope nothing has happened to her.”
I looked around, and the first corpse I noticed was that of a young Legionnaire. She looked to be in her early twenties. How many would mourn her death? One deceased child would put me in a dark place, and Rigmor was not here to drag me out of it. Therefore, I stopped looking at the dead.
A crowd had gathered, and whispers of Dragonborn could be heard. Nobody spoke to me as if I was a god or another immortal who deserved reverence.
The crowd parted as I approached. People emerged from their shelters as I headed for Castle Dour’s courtyard.
I stopped to check on Meeko.
“Yes, Meeko, I am okay. What about you? I don’t think you enjoyed being roasted!”
“That is a good attitude, my fleabag. The dragon is dead, and you are still with me. Therefore, you don’t care about a singed whisker or two.”
I gave Meeko a quick scratch behind the ear and continued towards the courtyard.
A sizeable crowd had gathered to gawk at Vokunrel’s remains.
Some of the braver locals got close and touched the skeleton.
I turned toward the gathering gallery.
Henry, whose father died fighting Ulfric’s rebels, asked, “Are you The Dragonborn?”
“Yes, Henry, I am The Dragonborn. But I didn’t kill these dragons by myself. Many brave people fought by my side, and they should never be forgotten. Many have died but don’t get carried away by the false glory of battle. They fought and died because it was the right thing to do and didn’t seek glory!”
“That is what Ma says about Da. I miss him, but I understand why he had to fight.”
I approached Captain Aldis.
He said, “The city owes you and The Dragonguard a great debt, Dragonborn.”
“If I weren’t in Solitude, they wouldn’t have attacked the city, Captain Aldis. All this death and destruction had one purpose. Alduin wanted me to fight and hopefully die. The dragons will think twice before attacking Solitude again as it is easier to defend than some other cities.”
“I saw one dragon breath fire on you and the other dragon, so what you say rings true. They wanted you dead, no matter the cost.”
“Yes, that sums it up. Now I have to figure out how the dragons know where I am.”
The Dragonguard mages were sweeping the streets for the injured. I gathered a couple of Dragonguard warriors and headed for The Blue Palace.
I approached a sombre looking Jarl Elisif.
She asked, “Dragonborn, how bad is it out there?”
“I have no idea, my Jarl. Two mighty dragons attacked and are dead. How many civilians, guards and soldiers have died, I do not know. Dragonguard Mages are helping attend to the injured.”
“A Legate reported that a few fires will soon be extinguished. He also reported that you and The Dragonguard saved the city. But I must ask, what could you do if the dragons were to attack multiple cities simultaneously?”
“Nothing, my Jarl.”
Elisif gasped, and I continued, “Solitude’s citizens should be commended for evacuating the streets quickly. Many visitors to the city, such as mages, mercenaries, caravan guards, etcetera, fought beside your guards, Imperial soldiers and The Dragonguard. Together we had the time and firepower to bring down the two dragons. That was due to Solitude being of rock and mortar. I fear wooden cities such as Whiterun and Riften would not fare well and be destroyed before the dragons were stopped. Even if myself and The Dragonguard were in place to fight the dragons.”
“At least the dragons are not discriminating. Windhelm was also attacked, so I was told.”
“That is correct. The dragons are not out to destroy the cities, my Jarl. They are trying to kill me. My presence in Solitude is what prompted today’s assault.”
“I don’t know if that is accurate, but I hope you don’t suggest you need to live elsewhere!”
“I must protect the mortals of Nirn, my Jarl. If I have to live in a cave away from everybody, then so be it.”
“I might not be a soldier, but I know this. If an enemy besieging a city loses too many troops when assaulting it, they will continue to lay siege instead of trying again. You and The Dragonguard staying in Solitude is safer for both the city, its citizens and you.”
“That is sound logic, my Jarl. Therefore, we will remain in Solitude.”
“Good, because I am making you a Thane. That is if you will accept that title.”
“I would be honoured to be your Thane, my Jarl.”
“Then it is settled. The paperwork is already done, and I arranged for your new housecarl, Jordis the Sword-Maiden, to meet you in Proudspire Manor.”
“You were confident I would accept?”
“Why would you refuse?”
“You have me there, my Jarl. There is no reason I would refuse such a generous gesture.”
“The title was earned, Thane.”
“Yes, of course, my Jarl.”
“And Wulf, do not blame yourself for what occurred. Alduin wants you dead, and no matter where they live, the people of Nirn need to protect you so you can protect them.”
“If only guilt would listen to logic, I could accept such things.”
I bowed to Jarl Elisif and headed for Proudspire Manor.
We entered, and Jordis greeted me.
“I am honoured to meet you, my Thane.”
“And I am pleased to meet you. But, please, Jordis, call me Wulf.”
“As you wish.”
“What I wish is time to sit and chat, but unfortunately, I have to visit Riften. I suggest you make your way to my Safe House attached to Dragonborn Gallery. The Dragonguard can fill you in on who we are and what we do.”
“Okay. I have heard rumours and read questionable news sheets. I am sure the true story will be more believable.”
“I wouldn’t count on that, Jordis.”
Wujeeta was standing on a costly table. Luckily the boots she wore were soft-soled.
“Ahh, Wujeeta, why are you up there?”
“I am rigorously attacking some cobwebs.”
“Do you like the house?”
“It is lovely. I thought I would tidy this place and then visit your other house. I heard what you said to Jordis, so I will have no trouble finding it.”
“Don’t faint when you see the state of that place. The Dragonguard are not the neatest people on Nirn.”
“Don’t worry, Wulf, for I will soon get them straightened out!”
“I hope you do. Once The Dragonguard realise there is a housekeeper, they might become even lazier when cleaning up after themselves.”
“Not with me to scold them!”
“You know, I think you will win any battle of wills against them.”
“I know I will.”
“Where is Olette?”
“She was going to explore the city when the bells started tolling. When she opened the door and saw the dragons, she quickly closed it and sat reading. She didn’t even stir when the house shook while I almost had to change my britches!”
“Has she gone to do the delayed exploration?”
“Yes, and Olette said if you come to visit that you shouldn’t worry. She is not interested in mangled corpses, but she might have a look at the dead dragons. She promised not to get in anybody’s way.”
“Olette is wise beyond her years, Wujeeta.”
“That she is.”
“Don’t fall and break your neck while clearing cobwebs!”
“I can’t stand them existing in this fine house.”
My Dragonguard squad and I teleported to the Khajiiti caravan camp outside Riften. I had gems to sell, and Ri’saad would be travelling to Morthal. Ahkari was apprenticed under him and gave fair prices when dealing with me.
Ahkari was sitting in her customary place when I approached and held out a hefty bag of gems. She took the bag with a smile and said, “It seems the very rich Dragonborn can find the time to become even richer but not visit Ahkari!”
“I am visiting now, aren’t I?”
“Only because you know Ri’saad’s routine, and this is the only caravan not travelling today.”
“Ri’saad has taught you well. I am glad I do not have to barter with you. You would see through all my strategies.”
“That is the truth.”
“Your caravan is growing in size, Ahkari.”
“There are several orphans amongst the pride, and they are too young to be travelling with us with the civil war and dragons.”
“Do they speak Tamrielic?”
“Oh yes, very well. There are many Khajiiti orphans due to purges by The Thalmor in Elsweyr. They are not satisfied with killing the adults. Once they declare a family as enemies, they desire to eliminate them all, no matter their ages. Elsweyr is full of snitches who would sell the location of a child without hesitation. Ri’saad agreed to take some in, but I think his generosity has been abused.”
“They are children of rebels, aren’t they?”
“Yes, that is so.”
“There is a new orphanage in Solitude. That would be a good place for them. The Thalmor would not dare try and harm them there.”
“It would be good if they can be together as there are some Furstock the people of Skyrim are not accustomed to seeing.”
“Cathay-raht and Tojay-raht.”
“One of the first Khajiiti I ever met was Cathay-raht. He was over twelve feet in height!”
“You will see Ra’ario in the camp. She is only seven years of age but taller than most Nords and all the Cathay in our pride. The ears on some Furstock grow quickly, and the rest of the body takes time to catch up. These large ears can make them seem taller.”
“Be careful, Ahkari, as the dragons have become more aggressive.”
“Yes, and that is why it is a pity we will lose one of our better guards.”
“Why is that?”
“Kharjo wishes to aid you. He is a fine and brave warrior.”
“I know Kharjo. He will be a welcome addition to my team if that is his desire.”
“Then speak to him. We are about to pack and leave for our next destination.”
Heavy rain started to fall but did not dampen the mood of the Khajiiti camp. Ra’ario walked past the campfire and dwarfed the adult Cathay.
I approached Kharjo. He led me to a quieter part of the camp.
“Ahkari says you want to help The Dragonguard and me.”
“Yes, if this one could join you, he would prove most useful.”
“I agree. Welcome to my team.”
“This one must help pack away the camp.”
“In that case, I shall come and collect you in about an hour.”
I walked over to Ra’ario, who greeted me with a smile that would melt anybody’s heart.
“Hello Ra’ario, I am Wulf.”
“You are The Dragonborn, yes?”
“Yes, I am. How do you like Skyrim and travelling with the trade caravan?”
“Skyrim is nice, but I grew up in a city. I find this travelling fun for a short time but am not Baandari and prefer the safety of large walls around me.”
“You are a very well-spoken kitten. How old are you?”
“I am seven years and will be eight years soon.”
“If I can find a nice place for Khajiiti orphans to live, would that please you?”
“Could Ra’ario return to learning her letters?”
“Yes, that would be what an orphanage teaches, among other things.”
“Then, if this place is inside a city, Ra’ario would be very pleased.”
“I can’t promise anything, Ra’ario, but I will inquire and see if this desirable thing is possible.”
“This one hopes it is so.”
We entered Riften and made our way to Honorhall Orphanage.
Constance looked nervous as she watched me approach.
“Relax, Constance. I know what you want to do and am pleased to assist.”
“Priestess Dinya said you would, but I require a lot of money.”
“You have plans for renovating this orphanage?”
“Yes, I have drawn them up over time and even arranged quotations for required work.”
“Without Grelod’s knowledge?”
“It was a dream of mine. Grelod would have laughed and shattered it.”
“I am sorry the children and you had to witness her demise. I was hoping she would just submit to justice.”
“If she did as you think and sold children to enslavers, am I a naïve fool not to realise it sooner?”
“No, Constance, you are not a naïve fool. It is almost inconceivable that such people as Grelod can live amongst us undetected. But they do, and they are cunning and ruthless. She would have used that knife on you if you had confronted her with suspicions.”
“The children have seen much death. Many of them witnessed the violent demise of one or more parents. Lately, relatively few have been orphaned due to disease or accident. Their inappropriate reaction to Grelod’s death is understandable but indicates they need nurturing and love. I want to give them both.”
‘Then you shall be given a chance to do so. How much coin is needed?”
“Constance, Priestess Dinya knew I would help because she knows who I am and why The Divines have placed me on Nirn.”
“Aventus says you are The Dragonborn.”
“Yes, and The Nine want me to help mortals whenever I am able. Poverty is as much my enemy as Alduin. The Divines have given me powers to fight Alduin. They have given me the skills to earn enough money to help fight poverty. Therefore, you need not fear asking too much.”
“Fifteen thousand septims is required.”
“Done. I will arrange with Jarl Laila Law-Giver to pay the artisans and craftsman, so it appears she is funding it. This plan will ensure the renovations are done correctly as nobody wants a bad reputation spread by a Jarl.”
“Oh, that is clever.”
“I will also arrange an account with funds for the running of the orphanage. You will need to keep a simple ledger of purchases and receipts. I will inquire about the standard wages for a Headmistress of an orphanage. You will be paid twice that amount into your account.”
“But why? I will have everything I need in terms of food and lodging.”
“The money is yours to do with as you wish. I am sure you can think of practical ways to spend it. Who knows, you may even want to marry one day.”
“One wish at a time will suffice for now.”
“I hope to have a string of orphanages spread across Skyrim. There is a new one opening in Solitude, so that will make two I can assist for now. I will check back when I can and see what progress has been made and if you have any problems.”
“Thank you, Dragonborn.”
“Please, Constance, call me Wulf.”
As I looked for Aventus, I heard Inigo making some of the children laugh. He seemed to have a natural affinity for them and was happy to answer questions about his colour.
I found Aventus sitting in Constance’s bedroom.
“Hello, Wulf. This place is so much better with Grelod gone!”
“She was an evil lady, but it is wrong to feel joy at the death of others.”
“I know, and my parents would scold me for it.”
“Well, hopefully, you and the other children can put all that behind you and thrive with Constance’s help.”
“What we want is baths and proper privies.”
“They are being arranged. This place will soon be busy with craftsmen and artisans.”
“Wait till I tell the others!”
Aventus ran off to spread the important news. I gathered The Guardians and headed for the exit.
We entered Mistveil Keep.
Jarl Laila Law-Giver stared at me as I approached. She seemed apprehensive.
“Good evening, Jarl.”
“Good evening, Dragonborn.”
“I wish to pay for the renovations to Honorhall Orphanage by depositing the required funds into Riften’s account. The craftsman and artisans will effectively be hired by you, which ensures their work will be of the highest quality. And, of course, it will appear as if you have been most generous. I would also like to know if any houses are available for purchase.”
“Ah, that leads me to something I wished to discuss with you. My steward has informed me that you’ve made quite an impression in The Rift. Several of our citizens have expressed their admiration.”
“I have done nothing but be charitable to several.”
“Much like Mjoll, you’ve become a champion of our Hold. You have helped people with their difficulties and have assisted with their needs.”
“I find it surprising when obeying The Ten Commands of The Nine Divines seems unusual or praiseworthy. It cost me nothing to give fire salts to Asbjorn and Ice-Wraith teeth to Marise. Giving coins to beggars should be automatic to all who profess to follow The Nine.”
“You have done far more.”
“Jarl Laila Law-Giver, what’s your stance on the civil war?”
“While I feel Ulfric’s cause is just, my concern is for the people of The Rift. How can they continue to lead their already meagre lives with dark clouds looming overhead? My heart goes out to them. If only our coffers were deeper, I could protect them as they were my own family.”
“How is Ulfric’s cause just? He does not have proof that Talos desires death in defence of his worship. He murdered High King Torygg. He slaughtered thousands of innocents when he retook Markarth from the Reachmen. He weakens The Empire while The Dominion laughs and waits for their chance to finish us off. He is a liar, a murderer, a blasphemer and champions nobody’s cause but his own.”
Unmid Snow-Shod, Laila’s housecarl, reached for his sword.
I warned him, “Unmid, if you dare break the rules of parley and draw that sword, your head will roll before you can blink. I have killed thousands on the field of battle, and you would not be much of a challenge.”
Laila yelled, “How dare you draw a weapon on a guest, Unmid! Remove yourself from this room until I have finished business with The Dragonborn.”
Unmid grumbled as he stomped out.
Laila asked me, “Do you refuse the position of Thane because we differ in opinion?”
“Do you want me as Thane simply to bolster your popularity with the people who respect what I do?”
“No, I do not want you as Thane to bolster my popularity. I believe you are a good influence on my citizens, and that is the truth. I have set my Hold on its path in this war, and it is too late to amend my stance. However, that does not alter my genuine appreciation of all you have done.”
“Then I will gladly accept the position, but do not be surprised if I lead an army to take that throne from you, my Jarl.”
“To be Thane, you must purchase property within the city. We have a house, Honeyside, beside the lake. It has been vacant for some time. Your new housecarl, Iona, has been the property’s caretaker and awaits your arrival there. Arrange payment for the house and renovations to the orphanage with Anuriel. And Dragonborn, I hope it does not come to The Legion storming this city. The blood of innocents would be an inevitable outcome.”
“That blood would be on Ulfric’s hands, my Jarl.”
Anuriel looked worried. I wondered if there was something between her and Unmid.
I arranged the payment for Honeyside and the fifteen thousand septims for the orphanage renovations. Then I left Mistveil Keep with Dragonguard in tow.
I sent Vayu to bring Kharjo to Honeyside.
We made our way to Honeyside and entered.
Iona approached me.
- Wulf: Greetings, Iona. I am Wulf. Please call me that and not Thane or my Thane or any other title.
- Iona: I am pleased to meet you, Wulf.
- Wulf: This house looks well equipped for a mage. It has all the equipment and abundant bookshelves.
- Iona: Yes, the previous owner was a mage who vanished during his experiments with Dwemer technology. Most Nords dislike magic. Consequently, superstition left this wonderful house vacant for far longer than it should have been.
- Inigo: Do you mean to tell me I could have paid rent on this beautiful abode instead of the cell in prison?
- Iona: Ah, the infamous blue Khajiit. Is Inigo your name?
- Inigo: Yes, that is my name. Infamous? Wulf, you will have to help me remove the ‘in’ from infamous!
- Wulf: Iona, you will be living in my mansion in Solitude with my two other housecarls, Lydia and Jordis.
- Lydia: I will help you acclimatise to Wulf and The Dragonguard, Iona. They are… unusual.
- Wulf: Oh, Seiko, you will also be moving in with the housecarls. With Olette and Wujeeta, it will be an all-female household!
- Seiko: Wulf, I think you will find the two houses mingle during the day. And Iona, you will soon feel at home.
- Iona: I thought being housecarl to The Dragonborn might be different.
I quickly looked around Honeyside and noted a spa that Rigmor would enjoy.
When Vayu returned with Kharjo, we made our way to the balcony overlooking the lake. Rigmor will love it!
Kharjo was looking a bit lost. Inigo noticed that as well and came over.
Kharjo stood when Inigo approached him.
“Hello, Kharjo. My name is Inigo. I did not get a chance to speak to you at the caravan. I am pleased to meet you.”
“Now, aren’t you a strange one?”
“You have no idea. Anyway, how are you doing?”
“That is an astute question, for we are far from home, and this is a cold, hard land.”
“We are, and it is, but the snow and ice only serve to highlight the warmth we feel for those we care about. It is not so bad.”
“Hmm. I had not thought of it that way. Fortune smiles upon this meeting.”
“I hope so. It is good to have you with us.”
Vayu yelled, “Dragons!”
Three dragons flew overhead. One of them strafed the balcony.
We scrambled down the stairs. Explosions surrounded me, and I found it hard to keep my balance.
Vayu stayed on the stairway and doused the fires by lifting water from the lake with Magicka.
I yelled, “The dragons are attacking Riften’s south gate. Kharjo and Iona, use your bows. You do not have protection against fire and ice on your armour.”
A fourth dragon joined the fray as we desperately fought against the first three.
After almost an hour, we finally silenced the last dragon. They hadn’t said a word during the battle. I learnt their names by absorbing their souls.
Seiko asked, “Wulf, how do the dragons find you?”
“I have no idea. I saw the first three that attacked us just then in a premonition. In that possibility, we were inside Riften when they attacked. The city was destroyed.”
“Our decision to come and look at the balcony saved Riften.”
“Partly. It was a lot later in the day in my premonition, and we had just exited Mistveil Keep when they attacked.”
“Alduin doesn’t like you much, does he.”
“I don’t know if he can keep losing his underlings at this rate.”
We gathered together and teleported. Vayu teleported to the Safe House with Kharjo’s hand on his shoulder. Then he summoned Inigo. I teleported to Proudspire Manor with Iona’s hand on my shoulder. Then I summoned Seiko and Lydia.
I asked Jordis, “What did you learn from The Dragonguard?”
“I heard amazing tales of survival. First, it was themselves as outlawed Blades ending up in Akavir. Then they told me Rigmor’s story, and I wept. The Dragonguard said there are things that you will tell me when the time is right. To prepare me for that time, they discussed the concepts of gobblygook and mumbo jumbo, which are weird names but make sense.”
“I am now Thane of Riften and have another housecarl. Her name is Iona. I will prepare a suit of armour similar to Lydia’s for each of you. That is the armour of The Dragonborn’s bodyguards. I want you to learn how to use a katana. Do you prefer to use a shield and a one-handed sword?”
“Yes. That is what I have used all my military career.”
“You will soon adapt to the katana. Lydia soon saw its benefits over normal swords.”
“Wujeeta has prepared supper. Will you be eating with us?”
“Sorry, no. I have to prepare your armours and look for a missing dragon.”
“A missing dragon?”
“Yes. The dragon’s name is Silah, and she is a friend of mine.”
I walked over to Iona.
“Iona, Wujeeta has prepared a meal. Sit with the other ladies and relax. I will see you tomorrow morning and answer any questions you may have.”
“That might be a long list!”
“You will find it is not so strange. There are things threatening innocents. We kill those things to protect the innocents. We are just soldiers, Iona.”
“I just saw you leap onto the heads of four dragons and stab them in the head. Then the dragon bodies burnt, and you stood and absorbed some light. That is not what a normal soldier does.”
“We are just soldiers with slightly different foes than others.”
“Well, at least it won’t be dull.”
I sat opposite Olette.
“Well, young lady, what do you think of Solitude?”
“It is so big! It will take me weeks to find all the secret alleyways and stuff.”
“I know you will be careful, Olette. But I must ask you not to head underground. The Solitude sewers are not like the Riften Warrens. There is nothing friendly down there.”
“Okay, Cap’n. There is enough above ground to see anyways. I had a look at The Bards College. I so want to become a bard, but they said I have to be sixteen years of age.”
“Perhaps I can hire a music tutor for you? But I want you to go to school, Olette. I will inquire about what is available when I get the chance.”
“And the reading and writing will help me be a bard?”
“Definitely. Plus, you can learn about some of the histories of Nirn, so you understand better what The Dragonguard and I are all about.”
“Can I learn something else in my spare time, Cap’n?”
“And what would that be?”
“I want to learn how to fight like The Dragonguard so I can help people. Many people commented on how magnificent The Dragonguard was when defending the city. Like the heroes me Ma was always goin’ on about. But I know you all do it for the people you help, not to become famous. That sounds like the best thing I can think of.”
“We can teach you, Olette. I even have Blades armour that might fit you.”
“You look upset, Cap’n.”
“I have had to kill a lot of dragons today. I don’t like killing them, Olette. Plus, my friend dragon, Silah, is missing. I am going to search for her now.”
I stood and looked at the three at the dining table. The others would join them soon, and I have no doubt much chatter will result.
As I walked past Wujeeta, I said, “The meal looks marvellous, Wujeeta.”
“It had been a long time since I could cook with many ingredients. I enjoyed it.”
“What about the Safe House?”
“It was disgusting, but Wujeeta soon made it respectable. Some there are very tall, but they listened to Wujeeta. I have a good angry face!”
“I bet you do. But your smile is magnificent, so perhaps that can be your best weapon?”
“It has its uses.”
I left Proudspire Manor and made my way to The Temple of The Nine. I did not have Rigmor to soothe me and put my worries in perspective. Perhaps some time with my gods will approximate Our Peace.
Then I will find Silah.