Tirdas, 23rd Hearthfire, 4E 201
to Turdas, 25th Hearthfire, 4E 201
Just before I entered Solitude’s Temple of The Nine, Silah called me. I turned, and Silah stood waiting in her spirit form and wearing Blade armour!
As I walked to her, Silah watched me with a blank expression.
I stood before her and asked, “Pease, explain what happened?”
“I am a Jill. Therefore, my duty is to help prevent Dragon Breaks. Several time anomalies have surfaced on Nirn. Lord Akatosh demanded I investigate, which I did.”
“And you didn’t have time to explain and prevent the worry I have experienced?”
“The problem was, Wulf, is you were, and still are, one of the anomalies. We had no idea what was happening, and if I had said that to you, your worries would have been many times greater. I am sorry, but I was doing as instructed.”
“I disagree with the logic of your excuse. However, I am more relieved than angry, so apology accepted. You know my next question.”
“Have you been wondering how Alduin’s allies keep finding you?”
“I’ll take that as a yes. I will use an analogy since you seem fond of those.”
“Silah, without analogies, some gobblygook would remain incomprehensible.”
“Imagine Alduin is a spider, and the infinite threads of possibility are his web.”
“Okay, but picturing Alduin with eight legs is not easy.”
“Sorry, keep going.”
“The larger the web a spider weaves, the bigger the chance of catching prey. The spider needs to locate caught prey before some scavenger does, such as other spiders, birds, etcetera. The spider sits patiently with legs spread and softly touching its web. When an insect flies into the web, it starts moving frantically in an attempt to escape its sticky prison. This struggle vibrates different threads of the web. The spider senses the vibrations through its spread legs, which allows it to triangulate the location of the prey and quickly retrieve it. You are the prey, causing disturbances in the infinite timelines. Think of them as Alduin’s web. He detects these disturbances and uses them to find your physical location. He then sends his allies to kill you.”
“That is a creepy analogy, Silah!”
“Go on, Wulf, ask the obvious.”
“What kind of disturbances in time am I causing?”
“Officially, I am not allowed to tell you. Unofficially, I can tell you we only have a theory and await proof of the said theory. When you come from another plane, the ether or Aetherius, into Mundus, you are like the insect first caught in the web. The disturbance is large and easy for Alduin to detect. Then the disturbance weakens as you synchronise with this timeline.”
“Does that mean that I tell Alduin where I am every time I teleport?”
“I would be behind in my investigations many days if I used horses and carriages.”
“We think you will be alright for a week or two. Alduin needs more allies before he sends any to take care of you. I think he is rather upset that not all dragons are heeding his call. An occasional dragon might physically sight you and attack like happened at the beginning. Many who survived the Dragon War are not keen to repeat that catastrophe.”
“Alduin can send as many as he wants. All the hot-blooded idiot dragons can queue up to die as long as they leave Skyrim’s citizens alone.”
“You and The Dragonguard have defeated some of Alduin’s best allies. Let’s hope he or Odahviing don’t decide to attack. When you encountered Alduin at Sahloknir’s Restoration, you told those with you not to bother attacking Alduin whilst he was airborne. How did you know that about Alduin?”
“I assume I must have read it somewhere.”
“You usually know precisely where you learnt something.”
“I have no idea where I learnt that about Alduin. Was I correct?”
“Yes, and if our theory is valid, you will discover where you learnt that information.”
“There is time travel involved, isn’t there? And that is why I am causing some issues when I return to Mundus.”
“Sorry, Wulf, my lips are sealed. A feat only possible in this form and not when in dragon form. A dragon with lips would look strange, don’t you think?”
“I will be visiting The Dominion Embassy, the main one, not the one in Solitude, later. I hope to find information about other hidden Blades. The carriage ride from here to the embassy will take a few hours, so I would like you to act as a scout for me.”
“Okay, I will only approach you if there is imminent danger.”
Silah vanished, and I decided to return to the Safe House and prepare armour and weapons for our latest recruits.
It was almost 3:00 AM by the time I made it to bed for a few hours of sleep.
I delivered new armour and weapons to Kharjo, Iona and Jordis before heading for the Solitude orphanage.
The door to the orphanage was at the far end of The Temple of The Nine.
The building was large, and as I searched for the Headmistress, I inspected several rooms. The furnishings were of good quality and would accommodate twenty-two children in comfort.
I found the office and said, “Hello, is there anybody here?”
The Headmistress entered from an adjoining room. She was a Redguard in her early thirties.
She asked, “Why is The Dragonborn sneaking around my orphanage?”
“I was not sneaking but searching for you, Headmistress Tiera. And please, call me Wulf.”
“Okay, Wulf, why are you here?”
“I heard you were starting a new orphanage and needed a patron. I want to be that patron.”
“Oh! And why is that?”
“I am not just The Dragonborn but also Champion of The Nine. I was placed on Nirn to help the mortals of this world in whatever capacity I could. I envisage several orphanages across Skyrim that are funded by me but independent. You would be free to run this orphanage without interference as long as the fundamentals of The Ten Commands of the Nine Divines are taught. The children and staff are free to pursue any religion they desire, but that moral code is a good foundation for better adults.”
“I agree, even though I am devoted to the Yokudan Pantheon, The Ten Commands’ basics should be taught outside of a religious context.”
“Have you decided on a name for your orphanage?”
“King Hall. That was the name of this unused building donated by Jarl Elisif.”
“So, do you accept my funding, Headmistress Tierra?”
“Yes, and I thank you. I have already spent every septim I had to get the building to this stage.”
“I will set up an account that you can draw from. I will pay your wages into your own account. A simple ledger of expenses and receipts is all I require. Send me the details of your account via my museum.”
“Will the children be welcome in Dragonborn Gallery?”
“It is being built as an educational facility and not as a celebration of me. All are welcome to the museum.”
“Now, all I need is some children!”
“I know of some orphans desperately needing a home. They are Khajiiti, but of different Furstock than the Cathay that you are used to seeing. They are children but taller than you.”
“It will be good to have a mixture of races residing here. Children accept each other as they are, and I hope the loss of parents is an experience that creates a bond amongst them.”
“Okay, I will send some of the Khajiiti children to King Hall. Here is a bag of gems to tide you over until the accounts are organised. Trade them with the Khajiiti caravan that parks itself outside the front gates. Let them know that Wulf sent you. They can provide nearly everything you need and will trade the gems at competitive prices.”
Tierra took the bag of gems with a smile and said, “I look forward to hearing the laughter of children echo within these walls.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Headmistress Tierra.”
I walked back to the Safe House with a smile on my face. I was doing something for mortals that didn’t involve killing.
Before changing into Plays-With-Beavers, I willed myself into my Aetherius Room and placed my gear there. Then I returned, transformed and made my way outside once more.
As I walked to the stables, I was not surprised my appearance drew no comments. It would have been a far different experience in the streets of Windhelm.
As I walked past the Khajiiti caravan, I used Zoom-Vision to have a look.
I saw several kittens of various Furstock.
I reached the stables and saw Delphine waiting in front of the windmill. My carriage was also there.
I walked up to her, and she stared at me.
“Yes, Delphine, it is me.”
“You truly are an Argonian!”
“Every inch of me!”
“I suppose I should expect the unexpected when dealing with you and The Dragonguard.”
“That would be best for your sanity.”
“You aren’t carrying any weapons, which is good. They won’t allow any guest to be armed.”
“I figured that out, Delphine. This party is not my first infiltration.”
“Oh, of course.”
“Malborn is a bit timid, so I hope he doesn’t fail me. I told him if he did, there would be bloodshed. Anyway, it is time for me to go. Please, can I have the invitation?”
Delphine handed me the invitation. It looked legitimate enough.
I told Delphine, “I will meet you in Riverwood once this is over.”
I climbed aboard the carriage, and the journey to the embassy began.
The trip was without incident. Silah acted as scout and kept far enough away not to scare the driver.
As I climbed off the carriage, a Redguard walked by.
He said, “Ah! A fellow latecomer to Elenwen’s little soiree. And you arrived by carriage, no less! I salute you, sir! My lateness is due more to me getting lost on the way up this gods-forsaken mountain than to any desire to arrive late. I prefer to arrive early. Often the day before the party. So as not to miss out on any of the drinking.”
“Why get here early? They bring out the cheap wines first. When they run out, they dip into the good stuff!”
“Ah, a connoisseur. There’s not enough drinking in the world today, wouldn’t you agree?”
“There is not enough debauchery of any form! Your name, good sir?”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Razelan. I am Plays-With-Beavers.”
“Ah, do you know the connotations of that name amongst the Nords?”
“I am a Dibellan Artist and chose that name to advertise my expertise. I might change it since almost half of my clients are male.”
“Plays-With-Eels and Beavers?”
“Hey, that’s not too bad. Let us make our grand entry and hope the lesser beings have already finished the cheap swill!”
“Please, you first. I insist.”
A particularly slim female Thalmor Wizard was acting as the doorperson.
“Your invitation, please, Sir.”
I handed over my invitation. She briefly looked at it and then checked it against a list. I felt a subtle probe of Magicka sweep over me. The wizard was satisfied and said, “I have scanned you for weapons. All seems in order. You may enter, Sir.”
Razelan had no difficulty either and followed me into the embassy.
Razelan sauntered past Ambassador Elenwen, who couldn’t hide her disdain for him.
I decided to play confident and walked up to Elenwen with a toothy smile.
She said, “Welcome. I don’t believe we’ve met. I am Elenwen, the Thalmor Ambassador to Skyrim. And you are?”
“I am Plays-With-Beavers, Nirn renowned Dibellan Artist. It is most pleasing to meet you, Madame Ambassador.”
“Dibellan Artist? I am unsure as to what that is?”
“Lady Dibella is the patron of all things beautiful. I am trained in conversation, painting, music, dancing, sculpture, singing, and my speciality, lovemaking.”
Elenwen looked stunned.
I continued, “Surely, Elenwen, you have heard of The Dibellan Arts? I spread the word of my goddess by bringing people to Nirn shattering sexual peaks. I have studied all sentient species’ mating habits and genitalia and have never failed to satisfy any of my thousands of clients. My tail gives me an advantage over many, thanks to the various attachments I can put on its end. It is like having multiple partners, but there is only me, doing what is needed to please my partner.”
Elenwen had a distant look as she muttered, “Attachments!? Mmm…the possibilities….”
Malborn must have been listening and decided to intervene from behind the bar.
- Malborn: Madame Ambassador, I’m so sorry to interrupt…
- Elenwen: What is it, Malborn?
- Malborn: It’s just that we’ve run out of the Alto wine. Do I have your permission to uncork the Arenthia red?
- Elenwen: Of course. I’ve told you before not to bother me with such trifles.
- Malborn: Yes, Madame Ambassador.
I used the diversion to make my way to the gathering.
The party guests looked like they were attending a wake.
I noticed Razelan sitting by himself, so I walked over to him.
I asked, “Are these parties always so much fun?”
“Nobody likes The Thalmor, except for Thane Erikur. He would sell his soul for a few septims.”
“So, apart from free alcohol, why have you attended this party?”
“I’m in from the south, on business. And if you want to do business in Tamriel these days, you’d better get used to cosying up to The Thalmor, like it or not.”
“There is a young lass with a tray full of drinks. Yet you sit here empty-handed and sober. I take it you are not to be served the beverages you desire?”
“My friend, you are very perceptive! I have a powerful thirst that cannot be slaked! Elenwen told the waiters to cut me off, the frigid bitch!”
“Then I shall risk life and limb to procure your sustenance. Let’s hope I don’t die of boredom on the trek!”
One of the Jarls stared at me as I walked past him.
Several other guests also stared at me. Elisif was staring into infinity. I think the boredom put her into a trance.
I walked up to the waitress.
“Young lady, what substance fills these goblets?”
“Colovian Brandy, Sir.”
“Oh well, I suppose it will have to do.”
I picked up a goblet and headed back to Razelan.
“There you go, Razelan, Colovian Brandy.”
“Wonderful! Is there anything I can do to repay your bravery?”
“Well, I need a slight distraction to slip out the back with one of the guests. Hopefully, her husband won’t notice, and nobody will hear her cries of passion!”
“In the few seconds you were there, you found a client?”
“She found me, Razelan. Many admire my expertise, and I am well known amongst the married but sexually dissatisfied.”
“Amazing! How many clients do you, umm, service in a day?”
“I have put a daily limit on ten. Sometimes more if an orgy is involved.”
“I am in the wrong business!”
“Oh, of course. Watch the master at work!”
Razelan skolled half of his brandy and then made his way to the centre of the room.
He said, “Attention, everyone! Could I have your attention, please! I have an announcement to make! I propose a toast to Elenwen! Our mistress! I speak figuratively, of course. Nothing could be more unlikely than that someone would actually want her in their bed. Although… most of you are already in bed with her! But again… I speak figuratively, of course!”
As guards tried to grab Razelan, I made my way to Malborn, who said, “Let’s go, let’s go! Before anyone notices us!”
We walked through a door, which Malborn quickly closed behind us. He lent on it with relief on his face.
He said, “So far, so good. Let’s hope nobody saw us slip out. We need to pass through the kitchen. Just stay close and let me do any talking, got it? Follow me.”
As we passed by a Khajiit cook, she took objection to me.
- Tsavani: Who comes, Malborn? You know I don’t like strange smells in my kitchen.
- Malborn: A guest feeling ill. Leave the poor wretch be.
- Tsavani: A guest? In the kitchens? You know this is against the rules…
- Malborn: Rules, is it, Tsavani? I didn’t realise that eating Moon Sugar was permitted. Perhaps I should ask the Ambassador…
- Tsavani: Tss! Get out of here. I saw nothing.
- Wulf: What is it you wanted this time, Malborn? Oral or anal or both?
- Malborn: I…ah…
- Tsavani: So, this guest is not ill.
I walked up to Tsavani and said, “I would invite you for a threesome, pretty one, but Malborn only likes males. Perhaps later, I can make your tail curl?”
Tsavani grinned as I joined Malborn in the larder.
He stood with arms crossed and was not pleased.
“You have a problem, Malborn?”
“Thank you for ruining my chances with the ladies in this place.”
“You can enjoy the company of both genders. I do.”
“I need to lock the door behind you, or the patrols might notice something’s wrong.”
“Wait for a second while I change.”
“But you didn’t give me anything to smuggle in!”
“It will only take me a second or two.”
I willed myself into my Aetherius Room and slowed time to a crawl.
I looked over at my Guardian General armour. I associated it with Rigmor, which triggered the longing I worked hard to suppress.
All my time on Akavir and when I first arrived in Skyrim, I knew something was missing. I did not feel complete, and I always knew why. I yearned to meet Rigmor once more, but I never allowed myself to hope it would happen.
Then I did meet Rigmor once more, and for the first time in years, I felt complete. Her soul resonates with mine, and after less than a week of separation, I find it hard to cope without her presence. She is probably feeling the same, and that upsets me no end.
It would be easier to cope if I knew how long we would be separated. But I don’t, and that unanswered question makes the separation even less palatable.
I donned my armour and retrieved my weapons.
I put on the mempo. Like the Guardian General helm, it would make my appearance, even my gender and race, different for each person who sees me for the first time. I have no idea what Malborn will see since he met me in Argonian form.
I willed myself back to the larder. To Malborn, I was gone less than a second. He squealed with fright.
I laughed and said, “Shush, Malborn. We don’t want Tsavani thinking you are not enjoying our tryst. I have a reputation to uphold!”
“You are Khajiit! And where did you get that armour? And how did you change into it so quickly? And….”
“I am here to infiltrate this embassy because I am the best. So, this is farewell, my squeaky friend. Don’t forget to walk a bit funny as you pass Tsavani.”
I exited into the embassy proper. Malborn locked the door behind me.
I listened in on two Thalmor guards.
- Guard #1: Did you see those robes march in this morning? Who’re they with? More of the Emissary’s treaty enforcers?
- Guard #2: No. They’re high mages, just in from Alinor. I guess that Herself is finally getting worried about all the dragon attacks. Plus, we have lost many patrols lately, and not to dragons.
- Guard #1: Well, it is sort of good they are here. I’ve been wondering how we were supposed to defend this place from a dragon.
- Guard #2: If a dragon does show up, maybe we’ll get lucky, and it will eat the mages first. That might give us enough time to kill it.
- Guard #1: Ha. I’d like to see those arrogant bastards taken down a notch. They always look down their noses at us lowly footsloggers.
I Shouted Slow Time and approached the guards.
I killed the first guard. The second reacted to his death with disbelief on his face.
The second guard had time to draw his weapons.
He screamed as I cut him down. To me, it was a deep baritone in pitch. His weapons clattered to the ground as his lifeless body crumpled between them.
I rushed up some stairs. A Thalmor Wizard had heard the scream and summoned a Storm Atronach.
He saw me rushing towards him but didn’t have time to cast his spell before I thrust my sword into his belly.
He died, and his summoned Atronach vanished.
I searched the building and found nothing of use, so I decided to head for Elenwen’s solar.
Before exiting out into the courtyard, I cast Shroudwalk, the improved version of Invisibility taught to me by the Psijic Order.
There were about two dozen Thalmor in the courtyard. I could have entered the solar undetected, but my hatred for The Thalmor is intense. Therefore, I stood in the middle of the courtyard and Shouted Storm Call.
Lightning started hitting and killing Thalmor.
Inside the embassy and solar, it would sound like an intense thunderstorm. The Thalmor started running for cover, so I cast Mayhem.
As The Thalmor fought each other, the lightning fell, and soon all were dead.
At the entrance to the solar, I cast Shroudwalk again.
I entered, and if the sentry had been watching the door, she would have seen it open and close. As it was, she was making her way upstairs.
I walked to her and said, “The only good Thalmor is a dead Thalmor.”
She drew her sword and looked around frantically for the intruder.
I cut her down.
A snitch was making a report to a Justiciar. I listened to the conversation in the hope I would learn something useful.
- Gissur: But I need that money! I earned it. I have my own expenses, you know…
- Rulindil: Silence! Do not presume, Gissur. You are most useful, but do not presume. We have other informants who are less… offensive.
- Gissur: But no one else has brought you such valuable information? Etienne, he’s talked, hasn’t he? He knew where that old man was that you were looking for, he told me himself.
- Rulindil: As we agreed, you’ll get the rest of your money when we confirm his story.
- Gissur: So, he has talked! I knew it!
- Rulindil: Everyone talks in the end. Now, I have work to do. Leave me to it if you ever want to see the rest of your payment.
- Gissur: Can I… I could help you because he’d talk to me and trusts me.
- Rulindil: You’d like to come downstairs with me, is that it, Gissur? Shall we loosen his bonds and put you in a cell together? You can ask him anything you like and see how he answers.
- Gissur: No, no. I’ll… I’ll wait outside.
- Rulindil: That would probably be best. Now get out!
I walked behind Gissur and cut his throat.
Rulindil was a mage and prepared lightning in one hand and a ward in another.
I stepped up and thrust my sword through his centre.
Rulindil had a set of keys on him but nothing else of use.
Gissur had nothing of use on him.
I searched the room and found nothing of interest.
However, one of Rulindil’s keys opened a locked bookshelf in the room next door. Inside I found a report on the dragon attacks and many Thalmor dossiers of well-known people.
The report said,
“First Emissary Elenwen,
We anticipate a breakthrough in our efforts to uncover the party or power behind the dragon resurrection phenomenon. An informant has identified a possible lead, whom we have brought back to the Embassy for a thorough interrogation. The subject is obstinate but, by all indications, is holding back the information we seek. I have authorised Intermediate Manual Uncoiling – I do not expect more will be necessary unless you feel time presses.
I know you prefer to be present for the final questioning; I will inform you immediately when the subject is fully receptive.
In the meantime, if you wish to audit our technique, your expertise is welcome, as always. I have placed the prisoner in the cell closest to your office stairs for your convenience.
–Rulindil, 3rd Em.”
Uncoiling is most unpleasant. The Thalmor make an incision just below your navel. Then they use a hook to snag your intestine and slowly pull it from your body. It is disembowelling in minutes instead of seconds. There was no timestamp on the note, and Gissur had thought that the prisoner, Etienne, had talked. I hope Etienne had done so before the uncoiling and was still alive.
The Thalmor had no idea who was behind the dragon restorations. Surely their mages would be abreast of what has been gleaned from Elder Scrolls? But then again, none of The Empire’s scholars had warned of Alduin’s return.
The first dossier I read was on Ulfric Stormcloak.
“Status: Asset (uncooperative), Dormant, Emissary Level Approval
Description: Jarl of Windhelm, leader of Stormcloak rebellion, Imperial Legion veteran
Background: Ulfric first came to our attention during the First War Against the Empire, when he was taken as a prisoner of war during the campaign for the White-Gold Tower. Under interrogation, we learned of his potential value (son of the Jarl of Windhelm), and he was assigned as an asset to the interrogator, who is now First Emissary Elenwen. He was made to believe the information obtained during his interrogation was crucial in capturing the Imperial City (the city had fallen before he had broken) and then allowed to escape. After the war, contact was established, and he has proven his worth as an asset. The so-called Markarth Incident was particularly valuable from the point of view of our strategic goals in Skyrim, although it resulted in Ulfric becoming generally uncooperative to direct contact.
Operational Notes: Direct contact remains a possibility (under extreme circumstances), but the asset should currently be considered dormant. As long as the civil war proceeds in its current indecisive fashion, we should remain hands-off. The incident at Helgen is an example where an exception had to be made. Ulfric’s death would have dramatically increased the chance of an Imperial victory and thus harmed our overall position in Skyrim. (NOTE: The coincidental intervention of the dragon at Helgen is still under scrutiny. The obvious conclusion is that whoever is behind the dragons is also interested in continuing the war, but we should not assume their goals align with ours.) However, a Stormcloak victory must also be avoided, so even indirect aid to the Stormcloaks must be carefully managed.”
I started to shake with anger, and my Dovah came forward. I felt like storming the embassy and slaughtering every single Thalmor. But there were innocents inside, which saved Elenwen from my wrath.
Elenwen tortured Ulfric. At what stage he gave into her ministrations is not stated, but he shows no physical scars. They convinced him that his information had led to the capture of The Imperial City. They let him escape, and he became their puppet.
The Markarth Incident, which ended with Ulfric slaughtering thousands of innocent men, women and children, was planned by him and The Thalmor. It enabled Ulfric to recruit his army of Stormcloaks and build resentment towards The Empire, and led to the civil war!
The Thalmor planned to rescue him from the headsman at Helgen. I wonder if they were behind the Stormcloak troops Celestine and I found in tunnels leading to Helgen’s interior?
When Alduin attacked, The Thalmor helped Ulfric escape the carnage. Instead of helping the people of Helgen, he ran like a coward.
All the death and misery caused by his war would never result in him becoming the High King. The Dominion was going to ensure that eventuality didn’t occur. Most likely, they would have assassinated Ulfric and maybe even leaked the information in this dossier.
I had to calm down. I was in the middle of enemy territory and needed to achieve my objective and leave.
I thought of the little girl and dog running through the wheatfield. That can only be achieved if I survive to make it so. My breathing returned to normal. I stopped shaking. My eyes were no longer yellow and those of a dragon.
The next dossier I read was on Delphine.
“Status: Active (Capture or Kill), High Priority, Emissary Level Approval
Description: Female, Breton, mid-50s
Background: Delphine was a high-priority target during the First War for operational and political reasons. She was directly involved in several of the most damaging operations carried out by The Blades within the Dominion. She had been identified and slated for the initial purge but, by bad luck, was recalled to Cyrodiil just before the outbreak of hostilities. During the war, she evaded three attempts on her life, in one case killing an entire assassination team. Since then, we have only indirect evidence of her movements, as she has proven extremely alert to our surveillance. She should be considered very dangerous, and no move against her should be made without overwhelming force and the most careful preparation.
Operational Notes: She is believed to be still working actively against us within Skyrim, although we have no location on her. She is assumed to be working alone, as no other Blades are known to be active in Skyrim. She has avoided contact with other fugitive Blades for her security (one of the reasons she has so far evaded elimination). Her continued existence is an insult to all of us. Any information on her whereabouts or activities should be immediately forwarded to the Third Emissary.”
The next dossier was on me!
“Status: Potential Asset, Medium Priority, Emissary Level Approval
Description: Wulf, Unknown race, early 20’s
Background: There are reports this individual possesses some means of meeting the dragons on even terms. He was last sighted in the village of Kynesgrove.
Operational Notes: Should the opportunity for further investigation present itself, this individual could prove beneficial in mitigating the threat posed by dragon attacks.”
I found myself smiling at the thought of a Thalmor agent trying to recruit me.
Another dossier was on Fultheim. He was a Blade operative like Delphine before the war and the strategist for The Blades during The Great War.
“Status: Active (Capture or Kill), High Priority, Emissary Level Approval
Description: Male, Nord, mid-60s
Background: Fultheim is a veteran member of The Blades. Most notably, during the First War, he had been given the position of Strategist, which led him to carry out many tasks, proving harmful to us.
Operational Notes: He is believed to be residing within Skyrim, although we have no location on him. He no longer seems to be directly involved in any Blade operations, yet it is vital he is captured or killed to tie up any loose ends.”
I don’t think Fultheim would know much about the history of The Blades and Ancient Tongues. However, he would be helpful to have on my team, and I hate the idea of Blades having to remain hidden. Therefore, I will put some effort into finding him.
The many other dossiers are not of interest now, but I will take them for future reference.
I found the door leading to the dungeons and interrogation area. I cast Shroudwalk once more and entered.
I was on a raised platform. Below were the cells and torture equipment.
I could hear groaning and whimpering from one of the cells.
There was a single guard.
I killed him with my bow.
The groaning was coming from who I assumed was Etienne. He seemed uninjured, but The Thalmor will often cast healing spells on their victims if they want to interrogate them further.
Whoever the prisoner is, he will have to wait until I have finished searching for information.
The dungeon was so similar to the one that held Rigmor that I had to suppress anger once more.
A set of leather armour, the type preferred by thieves, and a pair of excellent Daedric daggers and a dossier were in a chest.
The dossier was on a Blade scholar named Esbern.
“Status: Fugitive (Capture Only), Highest Priority, Emissary Level Approval
Description: Male, Nord, late 70s
Background: Esbern was one of The Blades lore masters before the First War Against the Empire. He was not a field agent but is believed to have been behind some of The Blades’ most damaging operations during the pre-war years, including the Falinesti Incident and the breach of the Blue River Prison. His file had remained dormant for many years, an inexcusable error on the part of my predecessor (who has been called to Alinor for punishment and re-education), in the erroneous belief that he was unlikely to pose a threat due to his advanced age and lack of field experience. A salutary reminder to all operational levels that no Blades agent should be considered low priority for any reason. All are to be found, and justice exacted upon them.
Operational Notes: As we are still in the dark as to the cause and meaning of the return of the dragons, I have made capturing Esbern our top priority, as he is known to be one of the experts in the dragonlore within The Blades. Regrettably, we have yet to match their expertise on the subject of dragons, which was derived from their Akaviri origins and is still far superior to our own (which remains primarily theoretical). The archives of Cloud Ruler Temple, which is believed to have been the primary repository of the oldest Blades’ lore, were largely destroyed during the siege. Although great effort has been made to reconstruct what was lost, it now appears that most of the records related to the dragons were either removed or destroyed before our attack. Thus, Esbern remains our best opportunity to learn how and why the dragons have returned. It cannot be ruled out that The Blades themselves are somehow connected to the dragons’ return.
We have recently obtained reliable information that Esbern is still alive and hiding somewhere in Riften. Interrogation of a possible eyewitness is ongoing. We must proceed carefully to avoid Esbern being alerted to his danger. If he is indeed in Riften, he must not be allowed to flee.”
Esbern is who we need to find. There is a slim chance he will know how Alduin was Shouted from Nirn.
A Thalmor called out, “Listen up, spy! You’re trapped in here, and we have your accomplice.”
Malborn called out, “Never mind. I’m dead already!”
I was still invisible, so I climbed the stairs and killed the two Thalmor guards in seconds.
Malborn whined, “At first, you were Argonian and then a Khajiit. Now you are invisible!”
I dismissed the Shroudwalk spell.
“Very clever. How about the fact the Thalmor will be hunting me for the rest of my life! I hope it was worth it.”
“How about that fact I will be fighting Alduin the World-Eater, and the information I gather here may be vital to me winning. So shut the fuck up with that whiny little voice of yours!”
“I am not whiny!”
“You are the whiniest whiner that has ever whined!”
I went to Etienne’s cell with Malborn still whining under his breath following.
I unlocked the cell door and approached him.
I asked, “Is your name Etienne?”
“I told you, I don’t know anything about him.”
“I am not here to torture you, Etienne. I am going to free you.”
I undid the manacles then Etienne fell to the ground.
He crouched while the cramping in his muscles subsided.
I cast Grand Healing, but Etienne still slouched from exhaustion.
“Etienne, your weapons and armour are in the chest just around the corner. Get dressed, and we will wait for you at the trapdoor.”
Fifteen minutes later, Etienne joined Malborn and me at the trapdoor.
I told him, “Somebody called Gissur blabbed about you to the Thalmor. I cut his throat, so you don’t have to.”
“What information were they trying to get out of you?”
“They’re after some old guy named Esbern. Something to do with dragons. That is what I gathered from listening to them talk when they thought I was out. I’ve seen a guy in Riften who they seem to think is him. That was not much to go on. I don’t even know where he lives or his name. But they seemed pretty excited about it. That’s it. Now let’s get out of here.”
I said to Etienne and Malborn, “We could probably just walk out the front gate since I have killed every Thalmor outside of the embassy buildings and most of them inside. But let us see where this trapdoor leads to.”
Malborn asked, “What did you say? You have killed the dozens of guards outside?”
“So far, I have killed twenty-eight Thalmor since leaving the party. Do you think I was the right choice now? Or do you think they will blame you for all those deaths?”
Etienne asked, “Who are you?”
“I am Wulf, The Dragonborn, and I don’t like The Thalmor.”
Malborn gasped, and Etienne laughed as I unlocked the trapdoor.
The trapdoor led to a small cavern inhabited by a Troll.
Malborn yelled, “Kill it! Kill it!”
I replied, “There is no need. The troll won’t attack you while I am near. Besides, you were complaining about me destroying your chances with the ladies. Miss Troll might be interested in some nooky if you ask nicely.”
Etienne and I walked past the troll. Malborn grew some balls and eventually followed us.
The cavern emerged next to a road. Malborn started running as fast as he could.
I turned to Etienne.
He said, “You didn’t have to help me, so… thanks.”
“I did have to help you. I wouldn’t leave anybody in the hands of The Thalmor.”
Etienne ran in the same direction as Malborn.
I teleported to the Safe House.
I was exhausted, so I made my way to my bed, collapsed, and fell into untroubled sleep.
When I woke, I started assembling my squad for the day.
“Sorry, Inigo, but I need to take the new members with me today.”
“I understand. I promised to teach Olette some basics of dual weapon fighting. That will keep me amused for a few hours at least.”
“Kharjo, you are coming on a trip with me. We will visit Riverwood and then Riften. We will be searching The Ratway for a hidden Blade scholar.”
“Perhaps I shall get a chance to use my new sword. It is far superior to any I have used before in terms of speed and sharpness.”
“And the armour?”
“I can bend almost as much as wearing clothing. This one is most impressed.”
Celestine joined us. She knew Esbern and thought there was a slim chance he would know the secret of Shouting Alduin out of the world.
We went to Proudspire and collected Iona.
And I also asked Jordis to accompany us.
We teleported to Riverwood.
Then we made our way to Sleeping Giant Inn.
Delphine was in her secret room.
Unsurprisingly, her hidden door in a wardrobe received several derogatory remarks.
- Delphine: Did you learn anything useful?
- Wulf: The Thalmor are ignorant about dragons and even suspect The Blades are behind their reappearance?
- Delphine: Really? That seems hard to believe. Are you sure about that?
- Wulf: No, because I am so stupid, it is incredible that I remember to breathe.
- Delphine: I’m sorry. Is there anything else?
- Wulf: They are looking for three Blades. You are one of them.
- Celestine: Esbern is another. I knew him from his visits to The College of Winterhold and The Imperial Library.
- Delphine: Esbern is alive? That crazy old man. I thought the Thalmor must have got him years ago. It figures the Thalmor would be on his trail, though, if they are trying to find out what’s going on with the dragons.
- Wulf: Hopefully, Esbern will know about the Shout used against Alduin.
- Delphine: If he is in Riften, he is probably hiding somewhere in The Ratway. That is where I would go.
- Wulf: That is where we are headed.
- Delphine: You might want to speak to Brynjolf.
- Wulf: No, I do not trust him. We will head for The Ratway and play it by ear.
- Delphine: When you find Esbern, you may find it challenging to get him to trust you. Just ask him where he was on the 30th of Frostfall. He’ll know what I mean.
- Wulf: That date suggests he was either at the Falinesti Incident or the breach of the Blue River Prison. By the way, good job surviving three assassination attempts.
- Delphine: What else do you now know from my dossier?
- Wulf: Your brassier size and favourite colour of underwear. I love reading Thalmor dossiers! It even lists who took your virginity and your most depraved sexual encounter.
Delphine turned red, which was quite amusing.
- Celestine: The dossier has nothing like that in it, Delphine. They are pretty dull to read.
- Delphine: You said three dossiers mentioned Blades.
- Wulf: Yes. The third is a person that you probably know because all the Blades turned Dragonguard know him.
- Celestine: The Thalmor are hunting Strategist Fultheim.
- Delphine: He accompanied me on several missions before the war and directed all my missions during the war. I doubt he would know anything about dragons or how Alduin was defeated.
- Wulf: I agree, but, when possible, I shall go looking for him. He would be of benefit to us.
- Celestine: Plus, Wulf can’t stand the thought of a Blade hiding and unable to enjoy the freedom they fought to preserve.
- Delphine: What am I going to hear about your trip to the embassy?
- Wulf: Some unknown assailant killed nearly thirty Thalmor, and Malborn is being sought for questioning. They might even suspect the killer to be an escaped prisoner known to be a member of The Thieves Guild in Riften.
- Delphine: Oh, so Malborn is thought to be part of some plan?
- Wulf: They know he is. The Thalmor were holding him hostage, and I had to rescue him.
- Delphine: And you released a prisoner?
- Wulf: A snitch had told The Thalmor that the thief knew the whereabouts of Esbern. They tortured the thief, but he didn’t know Esbern’s precise location. I saved him from a planned uncoiling. I killed the snitch and the torturer. Many of those I killed were Thalmor Wizards brought to Skyrim to investigate the dragons.
- Celestine: The Thalmor didn’t even know it was Alduin restoring the dragons.
- Wulf: Delphine, you and Farengar were some of the only people to recognise my prophecy had come to pass. The Thalmor have been proven to be as stupid as rocks.
- Delphine: Who else did they have dossiers on?
- Wulf: They had dossiers on many well-known people, and now I have them. You will learn what they have to say about Ulfric very soon as I am going to make it public. He should lose most of his army without bloodshed.
- Delphine: Will people believe you?
- Wulf: What I say about Ulfric will be supported by senior priests and priestesses of The Nine. Even if Stormcloaks refuse to believe The Dragonborn, it will be hard to refute the leaders of the religion they claim to be protecting.
- Delphine: I am looking forward to seeing Esbern and Strategist Fultheim again.
We teleported to Honeyside.
Then we walked to The Ratway.
On the door to The Ratway was a note which I read to the group.
“Warning: Stay out of The Ratway!
It has come to our attention that some misguided citizens have been venturing into The Ratway late at night. Others have spread rumours of their disappearance, stirring up talk of ghosts and phantoms haunting the sewers.
We would remind you that The Ratway is not a safe place for commoners and any talk of ghosts is nothing more than tavern gossip. We will investigate the matter shortly, but in the meantime, take heed and do not enter The Ratway!
The Riften Guard.”
We entered anyway!
- Kharjo: Do they think Riften people are stupid. What is there to investigate if the ghosts are nothing but tavern gossip?
- Iona: I can assure you, Kharjo, the people of Riften are far from stupid.
- Jordis: Either the guards have investigated and found evidence of ghosts or are yet to investigate.
- Kharjo: Yes, they have not proven there are no ghosts.
- Wulf: Wandering spirits come in many forms. Unfortunately, we cannot spend time investigating any ghosts we encounter. If we find them and clues to who they are, we shall investigate further after Alduin is defeated.
- Celestine: Iona, what can we expect in The Ratway?
- Iona: Much of it has been cleared by The Thieves Guild. The parts that haven’t could be home to miscreants of all types.
- Wulf: If Esbern has made The Ratway his home, it is probably due to those miscreants presenting a formidable barrier to stickybeaks.
- Kharjo: Stickybeaks?
- Wulf: Nosey-parkers.
- Kharjo: This one thought he had mastery of Tamrielic!
- Celestine: Wulf comes from Roscrea. They sort of speak Tamrielic.
- Wulf: There is nothing wrong with my colloquialisms!
- Kharjo: Khajiit hopes not if Rigmor wishes to have children by you!
- Wulf: Let us go and find Esbern before I start questioning my sanity.
- Celestine: It is okay, Wulf. We will continue questioning it for you.
We were only a few feet into The Ratway when we heard residents committing murder.
- Hewnon: I dunno, Drahff. They’d skin us alive if they knew we were doing this.
- Drahff: Hewnon, why are you always acting like a big baby? I’ve gotten us this far.
- Hewnon: This far? You said we’d have a house as big as the Black-Briars’ by now. We’re livin’ in a sewer!
- Drahff: You worry about bashing people’s heads in. I’ll worry about the Guild. Okay?
- Hewnon: Okay, okay.
- Drahff: Now, friend, empty your pockets or end up as Skeever food.
- Victim: Leave me be. I am just looking for The Ragged Flagon.
- Drahff: Brynjolf’s been sending idiots like you down here for years looking for their hideout. The funny thing is his stupid Thieves Guild never counted on me and my partner blocking the way. Now, empty your pockets, or I’ll pick the gold off your corpse.
- Victim: Fuck you!
- Drahff: Suit yourself. Kill him, Hewnon!
There was a brief sound of conflict, then a scream. The victim staggered into view before dropping dead.
Drahff came into view to presumable search the corpse. He saw us and approached.
He said, “Hey, you, stop right there! Empty your pockets or end up as Skeever food.”
He wasn’t expecting the peals of laughter that met his demand.
After a few seconds, I said, “Look at us. We are five heavily armed professional killers who have killed thousands of nobodies like you and Hewnon. So, please forgive our hilarity at your idiotic demand.”
“Ah, there is no need to get hasty. I… I was just testing you. You can go on ahead. Let them go, Hewnon. All clear.”
“Sorry, but you just murdered somebody, and I can’t let you live to murder others.”
Drahff stepped back and tried to draw his bow. Hewnon came running with a mace in his hand.
I chopped off Drahff’s head and blocked Hewnon’s mace with my shield. Hewnon staggered, and I cut him across the throat.
We stepped over the bodies and continued onwards.
We came to a gap with a raised drawbridge on the other side.
Down below, a lunatic was killing Skeevers by punching them. He was surrounded by an aura emanating from a glove he wore.
He saw us and started issuing threats. I asked the group, “What do we do about him?”
Jordis replied, “Well, we are in a hurry, so we do this.”
She shot the madman dead.
Curious about the miasma I saw, I jumped down and inspected the corpse. I found a glove with a very strong Dweomer to increase unarmed damage. I placed it in my journal case suspecting it to be a well-known artefact.
The madman had killed a lot of Skeever, including a Brood Mother of enormous size.
I disabled a simple trap on a door before proceeding.
Kyne marked a Skeever in the next room.
- Jordis: Why is that Skeever glowing?
- Wulf: Lady Kynareth wants me to kill it. If I do so quick enough, she will increase my power in The Voice.
- Iona: That is weird!
- Wulf: It is just a game she has decided to play with me. There is no deep meaning behind it.
- Celestine: Wulf, did you notice the jars?
- Wulf: Yes.
I Shouted Fire Breath.
It travelled across the room and killed the Skeever. It also knocked several jars onto the ground, which shattered, spreading burning oil across the floor.
We waited for the oil to finish burning, then continued.
We came upon the spirit of a woman standing and staring at a body.
The spirit turned and stepped through a grating within the wall when we approached.
Close inspection of the grating revealed it could pivot on a hinge, allowing access to the tunnel behind it. I sensed a portal not far down the tunnel.
I moved the corpse the spirit had been standing over to get a better view.
The corpse was that of an elderly Imperial. He appeared to be a mage by his attire, maybe a necromancer.
I searched the body and found a journal. I read the relevant section to the group.
“7th of Morning Star, 4E 171
My son, I do not have long for this world, but before the winter night embraces me, I would confess a great regret that has burdened my heart for many years.
Long ago, my brethren and I were commissioned to hunt down and ensnare a dark and powerful renegade captain. He was a man who, once a proud soldier, had become corrupted by a powerful artefact and turned to great darkness of deed. We fulfilled our commission, but not without significant cost, for I alone managed to survive the encounter.
But, in the many years that have followed this venture, I have often wondered if our deed in ensnaring him was equally evil. We have bound him to an eternity of misery with our combined enchantments, for we bound him to the guardianship of the thing that drove him insane, the artefact. It is a powerful weapon that now, despite his yearning for it, he cannot yield while he lives.
It is a cruel fate for a once-great man, for he was just that until grief and anger laid him bare to such utter corruption and malice. That story is a sad tale indeed.
But now, these many years on, my heart sees the truth, and I would undo that which was done and free him from his misery. But alas, it is too late for me to take on such a quest. Therefore, I pray that you, my son, will do this task in my stead.
I beg you to seek him out as a father’s last wish and set him free.
Your father, Sellonus.”
I turned to the group.
- Wulf: What do you think of Sellonus’ corpse, Celestine?
- Celestine: It has been preserved but is not mummified.
- Wulf: Yes, it should be nothing but bones after thirty years.
- Celestine: We probably won’t know how Sellonus was preserved unless we rescue the entrapped soldier.
- Iona: The reports of spirits are recent. Even a couple of days ago, I had not heard of such.
- Kharjo: Yes, and why has nobody found and searched this body in thirty years?
- Wulf: Because, Kharjo, I don’t think the body was here until now.
- Kharjo: This is gobblygook, yes?
- Wulf: Yes, it is, and my intuition.
- Celestine: Wulf’s intuition is rarely wrong. Don’t ask why. We don’t know.
- Jordis: Okay, Wulf, tell us what your intuition suggests.
- Wulf: The spirit was waiting for somebody with the right skills or powers to release the soldier. It was hard to see, but she was wearing a dark headscarf. I would say it was dark enough to be black.
- Celestine: That is a traditional sign of mourning in some parts of Cyrodiil.
- Jordis: She may have some connection to the entrapped soldier. Perhaps she is his widow or lover or even mother.
- Wulf: Yes, and like many spirits, she may not move onto her afterlife until a task is complete.
- Celestine: Wulf recently encountered a mother and daughter whose souls did not enter their afterlife until he returned the daughter’s pendant to the mother.
- Kharjo: The spirit thinks we can help, allowing us to find the body. Then she showed us where we needed to go to help the soldier. That is why the body is fresh.
- Wulf: See, gobblygook can be logical sometimes. Sellonus’ body has been held in stasis somewhere, another plane such as Aetherius or Oblivion. It appeared in Mundus, the mortal plane, after the spirit decided we could free the soldier.
- Iona: But you are not going to spend the time to pursue this.
- Wulf: No, not now. I will ask Auryen to research Sellonus and see if he can find out what guild he belonged to and the artefact behind this tragedy. That way, I can tackle the problem with a greater chance of success.
I spoke aloud, “Lady, I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I will return soon and release the soldier from his prison. This oath I swear on The Divines.”
A whisper came from beyond the grate, “You are Blades and will not leave my husband behind. I have chosen well. We wait and hope.”
I said to the group, “Well, one of us is a Blade. But she is right, and we will not leave her husband behind.”
We eventually came to a large room next to the raised drawbridge.
I pulled a lever and lowered the drawbridge.
I laughed and said, “Celestine, you left your pet Atronach behind. He is too big to fit through the archway.”
Celestine giggled and said, “I forgot I had summoned him.”
She unsummoned the Atronach, and we continued.
Two other corridors led from the large room. One had no door.
The other had a door from which the sounds of a tavern could be heard.
I announced, “I think we have found The Ragged Flagon.”
We entered a round chamber with a large circular pool in the middle. At the far end were the bar and patrons.
An Imperial stood with his arms crossed on a small bridge crossing a canal.
- Dirge: Stay outta trouble, or there’s gonna be trouble!
- Wulf: Sorry, I didn’t get your name.
- Dirge: It is Dirge.
- Celestine: Why do they call you Dirge?
- Dirge: They call me Dirge, ‘cause I’m the last thing you hear before they put you in the ground. Why? Do you think it’s funny or something?
- Wulf: We think it’s almost as stupid as that veiled threat. Do you have a problem with our sense of humour?
- Dirge: Ah, no, not at all. I am sorry if I sounded so mean. My brother always said I have a big mouth.
- Wulf: I know where I have seen that face! Are you related to Maul?
- Dirge: Yeah, he is my older brother. That jerk now works for Maven Black-Briar. He left me down here watching this garbage heap. I guess he’s better at all that talking stuff anyway. I’d just mess everything up.
- Wulf: Did he tell you how his big mouth almost killed him a few weeks back?
- Dirge: Yep. He claims he bad mouthed The Dragonborn.
- Celestine: It seems that dangerous habit runs in the family.
- Dirge: Wait…oh…are you…
- Wulf: Am I The Dragonborn?
- Dirge: Yeah.
- Wulf: Yes, Dirge, I am The Dragonborn.
- Dirge: My apologies again. Tell Vekel I owe you lot a round of drinks.
- Wulf: No need. But you might be able to help us locate somebody.
- Dirge: Okay.
- Celestine: We are looking for an old guy hiding out in Riften. We think he may be in The Ratway.
- Dirge: Yeah, I think I know who you mean. He’s paid good money for nobody to know he’s down here, but I guess I can tell you.
- Celestine: That would be helpful, Dirge.
- Dirge: Well, he lives somewhere in The Ratway Warrens. He must be crazy or desperate to live down there. Maybe both.
- Celestine: He is being hunted by The Thalmor. That is why he is hiding down there.
- Wulf: I rescued Etienne from The Thalmor a few hours ago.
- Dirge: Oh, ahh, I don’t know any Etienne.
- Wulf: Thanks for confirming he is a member of The Thieves Guild.
- Dirge: Oh shit. Brynjolf will not be pleased!
- Celestine: You hadn’t confirmed he was a member. But now you have!
- Dirge: I told you Maul was better at all this talking stuff.
- Wulf: The point I am trying to make is The Thalmor are not to be messed with. They tortured Etienne for hours to find Esbern’s location.
- Celestine: So, have The Thalmor asked you where Esbern is?
- Dirge: I dunno who The Thalmor are. Some shady types did come through here but received no help from us.
- Wulf: We these shady types tall Mer, elves if you want, with pointy chins and arrogant?
- Dirge: Yeah, that’s them.
- Wulf: Thank you, Dirge. We are about to clear the warren of vermin.
- Dirge: That would take years with the number of rats and Skeever there!
- Celestine: He was talking about The Thalmor.
- Dirge: Oh! Well, the entrance to the warrens is at the back.
We found the entrance where Dirge said it would be.
We entered The Ratway Warrens and immediately saw a Thalmor soldier and mage.
I put an arrow in the soldier. He screamed as he died.
A second Thalmor came running over to see what was happening. Another arrow ended his life.
We moved silently and surprised the Thalmor Wizard who died from a single arrow.
Lady Kynareth marked a large Skeever.