Sundas, 28th Hearthfire, 4E 201
I needed some light in the darkness. There was no break from the worry and killing. Day after day, I end up covered in blood and gore. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if I travelled by horse from place to place.
How can I suppress the Dovah in me if my mortal side is not given what it needs?
After my morning meal and spa, I exited my room, and Vayu practically pounced on me.
“Okay, Vayu, I know that look. I planned to head for High Hrothgar, but…?”
“A palace guard delivered this letter while you were in the spa. He doesn’t know what is in the letter but said Falk Firebeard is pacing back and forth while chewing his fingernails.”
Vayu handed me the letter, which had been sealed with wax by Elisif. It said,
Falk has informed me of disturbing news related to Wolfskull Cave’s events and the summoning and binding ritual you interrupted there.
You warned us that Potema’s spirit was free to roam and that she would seek a corporeal return.
Evidence suggests this has occurred or is occurring under the holiest of places in Solitude.
Her name instils fear in everybody who has read the histories of The Empire and this great city.
I humbly ask that you return to Solitude to help us once more.
Jarl Elisif of Haafingar.”
I handed the letter to Vayu, who read it and said, “It seems like your visit to The Greybeards is delayed. I am so sorry! I know how much you were looking forward to it.”
“I am surprised it took this long for Potema to show up. Her hidey-hole is underneath The Temple of The Divines, and so is the new orphanage. I don’t think undead megalomaniacs and orphans are a compatible combination.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more of Solitude underground than above it.”
“That is the case with many major cities. Anyway, I had better visit The Blue Palace before High Hrothgar.”
I found Inigo in the workshop.
He said, “My friend, you look miserable!”
“Yes, it has something to do with the company I keep.”
“Haha. Are we off to see the Greybeards? I wonder how many Khajiiti have been inside High Hrothgar?”
“First, we have to deal with one of the most feared people in Skyrim’s history, Queen Potema. Her Royal Undeadness is underneath Solitude’s temple.”
“Okay. Who is going with us?”
“Jordis, Kharjo and Celestine.”
“Will there be Draugr?”
“I don’t know. Quite possibly. Are you afraid of Draugr?”
“You have been very polite and not asked about the scars I carry. When I tell you how I got them, you will understand my fear of Draugr.”
“There might be lots of spiders.”
“Then why are we wasting time talking, my friend?”
I gathered the other three, and we made our way outside.
Inigo said, “Wait, I need to do something.” Then he farted.
He apologised, “Sorry, I didn’t want it sneaking out while in the palace!”
We quickly moved away from the toxic cloud.
Silah landed with a thump on top of Erikur’s house.
“Silah! The last person on Nirn I want whining to me is Thane Erikur!”
“Wulf, you are not implying I am a bit on the heavy side?”
“We both know your arse is the size of a mammoth. A fat, obese mammoth.”
“Maybe so, but that hasn’t prevented Nafaalilargus from chasing my tail endlessly.”
“Just beat him senseless, and he will leave you alone.”
“You have to have sense before it can be beaten out of you. I had forgotten how dense Nafaalilargus is.”
‘I’ll tell him to stop the harassment.”
“Good, because here he comes for another lack of finesse landing!”
The sound of bending metal accompanied Nafaalilargus’ landing. He had tried to perch on one of the museum’s metal railings. I went over to talk to him.
“Good morning, Nafaalilargus.”
“Wulf, why is this fence buckling? I have seen Silah land on similar without an issue.”
“You weigh considerably more than Silah. I should have told you not to appear over any cities until they know who you are. Silah and my friends have to tell a group of Solitude Guards that there is no need to stab or shoot you.”
“Okay, that would have been wise advice.”
“Queen Potema has returned undead, and we shall be under the city dealing with her. Therefore, you can fly free, and I will summon you if need be.”
“Will there be gold?”
“Probably. I tell you what, if you promise to stop asking Silah for a mating flight, I will give you whatever shiny gold trinkets we find.”
“Okay, but Silah doesn’t know what she will be missing!”
“I think she is well aware.”
Nafaalilargus lifted off, almost knocking me over with the downdraft. He hovered over Silah before she screeched at him.
As Nafaalilargus flew away, Silah looked down at me.
I asked, “Would he stand a chance of impressing you in a mating flight?”
“More chance than most. Nafaalilargus is magnificent but oh so thick in the head!”
“Please, Silah, don’t damage Erikur’s house.”
“Oh, I shouldn’t have eaten that wild boar! They always give me the trots.”
“Do not poop on Erikur’s house!”
“I can’t promise anything.”
“You are seconds away from the sea. Go and pollute that!”
We walked towards The Blue Palace, accompanied by Silah’s deep chuckles.
The palace seemed empty once more.
Falk was speaking to Erikur but dismissed him when he saw us approach.
I stood before Elisif and did a quick bow of the head.
- Wulf: Good morning, my Jarl.
- Elisif: Greetings, Thane Wulf. Can you see how anxious Falk is about Potema?
- Falk: We should all be anxious, your majesty.
- Wulf: Potema is nowhere near the most potent enemy I have faced or will face in the future. However, she is evil beyond measure. Her desire to one day be Empress is what motivated her in life, and I still believe it motivates her in death. She will seek revenge on those she thinks thwarted her if she cannot achieve that. Since they are long dead, their relatives will be her target.
- Falk: Styrr says she’s still in spirit form, or we would be dead already!
- Wulf: I am yet to meet Priest Styrr, but that is a gross exaggeration!
- Elisif: You don’t think there is much to fear about a flesh and blood Potema?
- Wulf: She did not use her necromancy powers until after her son was killed and she had lost The War of the Red Diamond. Her command of politics and the ability to recruit others to her banner caused the strife, not her Magicka. She was no different than Ulfric in that regard. She turned to the Dark Arts after retreating to Solitude. Her time in The Void will not have made her more formidable than she was. She is no match for the power of The Divines wielded by me. She is no Alduin. She is no Daedric Prince.
- Falk: What happened to Empress Kintyra II and her army does not support your words!
- Wulf: On which version of the story do you base that accusation? I can produce several histories of what happened to the Empress that differ significantly, and I am sure each author was convinced they wrote the truth. Empress Kintyra’s army was slaughtered by mortals using superior tactics and subterfuge. Potema inspired her troops to the extent they did the impossible and defeated an Argonian army in a swamp! But she and her army were eventually defeated by mortals wielding swords. Her son, Emperor Uriel Septim III, was burnt alive after being captured in battle. An enraged mob of civilians weary of his type of rule were not content to merely jail the man, and so they lynched him. It is a pity as he was a fine young man till the crown was placed on his head. Potema demonstrated no great supernatural powers on the battlefield, but her skills as a tactician were admirable. She only resorted to Daedra, Draugr and undead troops when defending Solitude. I deal in reality, Falk, not superstition and fireside gossip. Her ‘resurrection’ is common amongst powerful necromancers. She will most likely be a Lich like Mannimarco but with a tiny fraction of his power.
- Elisif: Falk, I, too, have read varying accounts of Empress Kintyra’s demise. Like many events in our history, the reality of what occurred is unknown but hopefully not unknowable.
- Falk: Then what danger do you think she poses, Thane Wulf?
- Wulf: How was her presence discovered?
- Falk: I am unsure. Styrr can tell you.
- Wulf: Her power lies not in her Magicka but in her blood. We are ruled by an Emperor with no heir after his daughter and wife were lost at sea. He lost one son in battle and another in a tournament. A corporeal Potema could make a legitimate claim for The Ruby Throne as the last of the Septim bloodline. That fact alone would garner her enough support, and armies, to make any opposition to that claim a catalyst for war. A devastating conflict such as Tamriel has not seen since she last fought for the crown would result. That is the danger she poses!
- Elisif: You are certain her politics, not the dark arts, are the threat?
- Wulf: That is my belief. But I am speculating on her strength. Potema will not be a King of the Worms, but she may still have an undead army at her disposal. The Solitude Guards would soon be overwhelmed if an undead army emerged from the basements and drains connected to the underground catacombs. If you have not informed General Tullius of this threat, I strongly suggest you do so.
- Elisif: You seem in no hurry to confront her.
- Wulf: She has been waiting for me, I am sure. I don’t think it was an accident that her place of resurrection had been discovered.
- Falk: Why do you say that?
- Wulf: Instinct combined with logic and gut feeling. She took a good look at us as she fled Wolfskull Cave. She may have recognised my powers and now wants me as an ally, dead or alive.
- Elisif: This could be a trap?
- Wulf: More than likely it is. However, even if she managed to defeat me and my allies, she could never make me undead. Lord Arkay protects my soul. The possibility of a war that kills many innocents concerns me. Therefore, by your leave, my Jarl, I will go now and speak to Priest Styrr. I am interested to see how he discerned it was Potema and not some other undead.
- Elisif: It would be redundant of me to ask that you be careful, would it not?
- Wulf: Concern shown by friends will never be superfluous, my Jarl.
We left the palace and headed for Solitude’s Hall of the Dead.
We were greeted by Priest Styrr, who looked as ancient as The Greybeards.
- Styrr: Thane Wulf, is it? Falk said that you might help with the danger we face.
- Wulf: Thane is one title. I am Wulf, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Styrr: Of course, you are discussed often with my colleagues in The Temple of The Divines.
- Wulf: Let us discuss Potema.
- Styrr: Ah, Potema. The former queen of Solitude and one of the most dangerous necromancers of recorded history. She was responsible for The Empire’s near-collapse almost five hundred years ago. I believe I have a book about her…
- Wulf: I have read extensive volumes on the Wolf Queen. Necromancy did not almost cause the collapse of The Empire, as some books suggest. Politics did! Necromancy let her retain power in Solitude for longer than sheer military power could do but was not used in The War of the Red Diamond.
- Styrr: Potema is still in spirit form. She will need help before she can return to the living.
- Wulf: She needs more than ordinary mortals. She wants either my soul or to make me an undead soldier, even her general maybe. Potema knows I used The Voice to stop her soul from being bound. She might not know precisely who or what I am, but she would have marked me as a person of interest.
- Styrr: Is it wise then that you confront her?
- Wulf: The Divines sent me to Nirn to do more than deal with Alduin. She is not without power, but I do not think she poses a threat to me.
- Styrr: Potema is a curious figure. She was unrepentantly evil and nasty but also astonishingly brilliant. She was quite a necromancer at her end. She was always so close to being Empress, but it was never hers despite her machinations. Ironically, if she were alive today, she’d be the only living member of the Septim bloodline. By all rights, she would now be Empress.
- Wulf: No, Styrr, Emperor Mede II is the rightful Emperor. As I explained to Jarl Elisif and Falk Firebeard, his Imperial Highness’ demise could be a catalyst for war. Potema would attract those who have issues with Titus Mede II plus those who revere the Septim bloodline. She could gather an army and wait until he dies or even hasten his demise. Then if she made a legitimate but unwanted claim for the throne, a long and bloody war might result. I doubt she has come back merely to wreak vengeance on people long dead.
- Styrr: Yes, you are right. Despite her Septim blood, she would be regarded as a usurper if she claimed the throne while our Emperor still lived.
- Wulf: She is not the only Septim alive, Priest Styrr. I know of a person closer in bloodline to Tiber Septim than Potema. He would be more legitimate than she if he claimed The Ruby Throne.
- Styrr: How can that be? He would have to be older than Potema. Is he undead as well?
- Wulf: Anybody who can prove their lineage to Tiber Septim and not his brother would have more rights to the crown than Potema. He is in his early twenties and can prove his lineage.
- Styrr: Does he desire the throne?
- Wulf: No, and that is why those that know of his secret keep it secret. But he would step up against Potema.
- Styrr: That is understandable.
- Wulf: What makes you think it is Potema we are dealing with and not some other undead?
- Styrr: A few days ago, one of her vampire servants burst through a wall into the Temple of the Divines. The vampire boasted of how its mistress, Potema, would make us all pay for her time in The Void and that she will now claim her place as Empress. Freir and Rorlund kept it busy while Silana ran to get help.
- Celestine: There is the bait.
- Wulf: And I will take the bait.
- Celestine: And like all the evil entities you have to deal with, Potema will think she has outsmarted you.
- Wulf: Her confidence and arrogance will be her undoing.
- Styrr: You seem to know how this will play out.
- Wulf: Those who I oppose never consider it possible that they may be wrong or are outclassed. That makes my victories easier to achieve. Overconfidence and arrogance are faults I also possess. They must be balanced with the need to act swiftly on occasions. I can’t afford to second guess myself.
- Styrr: Do you understand where to go?
- Wulf: I will use the ‘accidental’ entrance made by the vampire into the catacombs. I assume I need to bring back any remains so you may sanctify them?
- Styrr: Yes, we must prevent any future resurrection.
- Wulf: So as long as you perform Arkay’s sanctification on any part of her corpse, that will be enough?
- Styrr: Yes.
- Wulf: They must have had some part of her corpse to summon her.
- Styrr: There is no record of what happened to her remains after the Blue Palace siege. It was likely divided and then scattered by devotees so they could summon her at a later stage.
- Wulf: They were not friends of Potema in that cave. They tried to bind her and may have succeeded if we had not intervened.
- Styrr: I am sure she will sincerely thank you for that service.
- Jordis: Yes, by turning him into an undead Dragonborn!
- Kharjo: Has that ever been done?
- Wulf: There are undead Dov. My soul is no more resistant to necromancy than yours, except Lord Arkay has blessed mine while I live, so I cannot be made undead.
- Kharjo: This one has never encountered an undead Khajiit.
- Styrr: They must exist. The Divines made the forest spirits used by Azura to create the Khajiit. Therefore, Khajiit souls are at risk like any other mortal race.
- Wulf: How long have you tended this Hall of the Dead?
- Styrr: All my life. I practically grew up in the Hall. My mother and father were the priest and priestess of Arkay before me, you see. I believe I was put here to protect this place from the darkness that pervades Solitude.
- Wulf: And what darkness would that be?
- Styrr: This city has a long history of madness and murder. The Wolf Queen… Pelagius… The death of High King Torygg… And now, public executions. My books tell the stories. Have no doubt – as pretty as its streets are, as jovial as the bards may be… darkness is drawn to Solitude.
- Wulf: No disrespect intended but you are mistaken in thinking Solitude is something special in that regard. The mortals of this world carry evil. Where mortals congregate in large numbers, iniquity will be found. It is just as valid to say goodness is drawn to Solitude. Your service is invaluable to this city, and your colleagues in other cities feel the same about their service to their cities. Do not think I am trying to diminish your role or effort, but it is easy to become ignorant of the larger truths.
- Styrr: It is true that I only know the stories of Solitude. On the other hand, I suspect you have learned about the evil lurking elsewhere by encountering it.
- Wulf: I have also encountered a vastly superior number of good people on Nirn. A significant majority of mortals are not evil! We who deal with evil must remember that fact. There is another fact about Potema that makes the stories of her powers obvious exaggerations.
- Jordis: I think I know that fact from listening to you discuss her today. You have not suggested Potema co-operated with a Daedric Prince.
- Wulf: Precisely. There is no evidence of Potema making deals with a Dark Lord for knowledge and power. She is proof that great evil does not need a god to create it but merely mortal free will. You do not have to be aligned with a Daedric Prince to summon Daedra. I can do it and often do it when in combat. Many histories mention she had Draugr fighting on her behalf. That does indicate the tremendous skill she had in necromancy. I have not read of anybody else accomplishing that feat.
- Styrr: It is embarrassing that a much younger man shows more wisdom than I.
- Wulf: Please, Priest Styrr, never feel like that! We both do what The Divines require of us. When you are tasked with dealing with evil in all its forms, you learn quickly or die. You have learned what you need to protect the souls of Solitude. I have learned what I need to protect the souls of Nirn.
- Styrr: Here is the key you will need to enter the catacombs. May Arkay watch over you as you confront this particular evil.
- Wulf: The Nine are with me at all times. Of that, I have no doubt.
We exited Solitude’s Hall of the Dead and headed for the temple.
We passed somebody who said, “Wait, hear my plea! My Master, he is lost between worlds, and I cannot bring him back!”
I turned and realised it was the man with the black eyes that Rigmor and I had noticed weeks before.
He said, “You are the Dragonborn! You’ll help me! You help people, right? That’s what you do?”
I replied, “I might be able to help you but first, what is your name?”
“Dervenin. My name is Dervenin.”
“What do you need help with, Dervenin?”
“My master has abandoned me! He had abandoned his people. And nothing I say can change his mind. Now he even refuses to see me. He says I interrupt his vacation! It’s been so many years… Won’t you please help?”
“I don’t suppose you can just leave your master?”
“Oh, you just don’t understand. Without him, I am not free! Without him, I am doomed! His empire shall fall into chaos….”
Instinct told me Dervenin is a minion of a Daedric Prince. There were only a couple that would have such a minion as him.
“How do I find your master so I can ask him to return?”
“The last I saw him, he visited a friend in the Blue Palace. But no one as mundane as the Jarl. No, no… such people are below him. No, he went into the forbidden wing of the palace to speak to an old friend. Said it had been ages since they last had tea. Oh, and you’ll need Pelagius’ hip bone… it’s very important. No entering Pelagius’ Wing without that.”
“What do I tell him? Why is it so important he returns?”
“Without his guidance, our homeland is falling apart. North wages war against the south! The holy flame flickers and dies! We need his return.”
Now I knew who his master was. An ancient hero turned into a Daedric Prince. The new Sheogorath. The Daedric Prince of Madness.
“Mania and Dementia war and the Cold Flame of Agnon splutters?”
“Ahh, yes, you know of who I speak. But I cannot utter his name. He says it distracts him and woe to those who draw his ire.”
“And you are High Priest of Mania?”
“Yes, but Mania or Dementia, it matters not if the flame is extinguished.”
“You are asking me to do something very hazardous. Your master is unpredictable!”
“Oh, but… I’m sure he’ll repay you when he comes to his senses! His favour is a powerful, powerful thing. And so very worth any… inconveniences.”
“I am uncertain as to the consequences of one side or the other winning that war or the permanent extinguishing of that flame on the mortals of Nirn. For that reason, I will help you.”
Dervenin handed me a hipbone. Whether or not it came from my cousin Pelagius I could not say.
As Dervenin walked away, Inigo asked, “My friend, what was that all about?”
“The Skooma Cat has a portal in The Blue Palace. The portal is most likely to his realm within Oblivion called The Shivering Isles. While he enjoys himself, The Shivering Isles remain ungoverned and likely to fall into chaos. I will have to enter the portal and try and convince The Skooma Cat to end his holiday and return to governing his realm.”
“And how will that help the mortals of Nirn?”
“I don’t know what harm might befall some mortals on Nirn if Uncle Sheo doesn’t return to his duties. I doubt even The Divines could tell me. Plus, he has many mortals living within his realm. He is unpredictable but not malevolent. I must take the risk.”
“And the hip bone?”
“It is a key to the portal.”
“Of course! Skooma Cat is a good name for him.”
“Let’s concentrate on Potema for the moment.”
A Khajiit in a Thalmor outfit walked past us. It was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen.
Priestess Freir greeted us warmly when we entered Solitude’s Temple of the Divines.
- Freir: It is no surprise to see the Champion of The Divines in this hour of need. I do not doubt the palace or Styrr asked for your assistance.
- Wulf: They did.
- Freir: Then I assume the danger must be as great as Styrr indicated.
- Wulf: In a way. You must realise much of Potema’s reputation is exaggerated. Not how evil she was but what she could achieve with her necromancy.
- Freir: Silana advised the same thing. Priests and Priestesses can learn from their acolytes if they only listen.
- Jordis: Priestess, I am impressed you and your husband faced a vampire and managed to contain it till help arrived.
- Freir: When faced with such malevolence, you realise your faith in The Divines is a powerful weapon.
- Wulf: We will head for the catacombs now. The Divines bless you and all who come to worship in this holy place.
- Freir: Jordis, the shrine The Champion donated is awaiting your prayer. It has been some time since we have seen you’re here.
- Jordis: I shall try and make amends for my absence.
We headed down a short flight of stairs and through some storerooms.
We soon stood before the gate to the catacombs. I unlocked it with a key Styrr had given me. It opened with the squeal of hinges badly in need of oil.
We then entered the domain of Potema.
The part of Solitude we now travelled showed signs of being carefully evacuated. Furniture was neatly stacked, and only cobwebs and dust provided clues as to how long it had been since living mortals walked the halls.
There were also signs of the damage inflicted by war, particularly siege warfare. Furniture was toppled, and piles of rubble lay where masonry and plaster had fallen. The walls and foundations of mighty cities are tested via boulders flung indiscriminately by vast engines of war, and Solitude did not avoid that fate.
Soon we were faced with raised bars preventing further progress. As I approached them, I could feel Potema trying to converse in my head. She could not get past my barriers.
I said, “You will have to speak to me, Wulf Queen. Gods cannot enter my mind, so a second-rate Lich like yourself has no hope.”
Her disembodied boasts instantly confirmed my suspicions. Potema was sure of her power and had waited for me to arrive.
“You’ve arrived at last. The hero who prevented me from being bound returns to my fold.”
“Return to your fold? I cannot return to a place I have never been before!”
“I have much to thank you for, little one. When you die, I will raise you, and you can take your place by my side.”
“You have no idea who I am. But you will soon learn as I send you screaming back to The Void.”
“You’ll serve me soon enough.”
“Never, for I serve The Nine! You used to invoke their names in prayer and thanks and only turned against them when your ambitions were thwarted. You respected their power, and I will soon utilise but a minute part of it to defeat you.”
As the bars lowered, Kharjo said, “This one suspects you provoke to make the enemy mad in the hope mistakes are thus caused. This one could never have such courage.”
“To be convincing, I must believe in what I say. To believe in what I say, I must also believe I am more powerful than the foe. That belief in my superiority is why I do not fear my foes.”
As we travelled the catacombs, Potema’s guards proved to be nothing more than weak vampires, skeletons and Draugr. They barely slowed us down. However, Inigo did get in my way once, and I had to restrain my Unrelenting Force quickly. He learned and didn’t do it again.
After we disposed of dozens of weak enemies, I said to my friends, “I can sense that we are approaching Potema’s inner sanctum. The guards have been far weaker than I expected. I do not think even her elite guards will offer much of a challenge, but she may have many, and if close to her, she may supplement their power with her dark magic.”
We arrived at a small room with a lowered portcullis blocking one of its exits and piles of corpses within.
- Jordis: This is kind of obvious, is it not?
- Inigo: So, Great Oracle of Solitude, what do you think will happen?
- Jordis: We will enter the room. The door will close behind us, so we are trapped inside.
- Kharjo: Khajiit thinks that some of the dead will not be remaining so still.
- Jordis: After destroying all the reanimated, the exit portcullis may rise.
- Wulf: People wonder why I get bored with crawling through dungeons like this. It is predictability.
We entered the room and the door tried to close, but Celestine’s Atronach blocked it.
Celestine dismissed her Atronach. The door did not close.
Potema boasted, “Not much further. Come, little things. Serve me in death.”
Jordis replied with contempt, “We have barely paused as we destroyed your guards. You are a powerless husk!”
Several of the fresher corpses rose then were destroyed in seconds.
The portcullis lifted, and we continued for another short time till we arrived at the door to Potema’s refuge.
When I opened it, we saw Potema’s spirit floating above the centre of the room. Many sarcophagi suggested our fight would be with Draugr. The ones we had encountered so far were weak and did not use the Thu’um.
When we entered, Potema spoke nonsense once more.
“You’ve come far, mortals, but can you stand against my inner council? Let’s see!”
“Your inner circle? Don’t you mean more Draugr?”
Jordis was incensed. It was as if Potema’s boasts were a personal insult.
My four friends were a formidable team on the battlefield. They drew their weapons together, and then the battle began.
The Draugr were still of the weaker kind and could not use the Thu’um. To my surprise, Potema did! She hit me with a half-strength Unrelenting Force that barely made me move.
“Potema, do you now realise who I am? We have already destroyed your inner council!”
“Don’t applaud yourself too soon, worm!”
Potema resurrected the Draugr.
I have no idea how Potema got Draugr to serve her in the first place, and resurrecting them was another indication of her power. Necromancy relies on Magicka. We would simply have to destroy the Draugr over and over till her Magicka was drained.
We destroyed the Draugr once more. Potema resurrected them once more and, with desperation, yelled, “Rip the eyes from their heads!”
When her inner circle was once more destroyed and her Magicka depleted, Potema’s spirit fled to the remains that currently held her soul.
I signalled my friends to remain at a distance as I approached Potema cautiously.
I assume The Wulf Queen studied me closely, but it was hard to tell since she was headless and sitting on her skull.
She said, “When I first saw you in the cave, I was struck by your resemblance to my beautiful son. I sensed great power in you, and now I know you are Dragonborn. I now realise you are more than merely Dragonborn. The dead gain knowledge barred to the living. You must be pleased you have stopped a major obstacle to your ascension to The Ruby Throne.”
“I have no intention or desire to become Emperor. I am merely doing what The Divines have put me on Nirn to do. I am protecting the mortals of this world.”
“You don’t know who you are, do you? Your gods have not revealed all. Yet you wonder why I turned from them and relied on my dark powers. You are their puppet.”
“They do not command me, and I do as I choose. Now I choose to end your brief return to this realm.”
“I could tell you who you are. Let us bargain and not act in haste!”
“I know who I am and who my parents are. You lie and do not know.”
I swung my sword and sent Potema back to The Void.
The Wulf Queen’s spirit dissolved into a puddle of ectoplasm. Her skull lay sideways on the throne.
I retrieved the skull, and my friends approached.
- Wulf: I like this type of task.
- Jordis: Why is that?
- Wulf: It allows me to get ahead.
My pun was greeted with moans and shakes of heads. Then Inigo smiled
- Inigo: I prefer to call them jobs. This was the best kind!
- Wulf: Don’t do it, Inigo.
- Inigo: This was a head job!
Inigo’s pun was met with laughter. It must be in the delivery.
- Jordis: That was a good attempt at diversion, Wulf.
- Inigo: Yes, we want to know, was Potema correct? Could you claim The Ruby Throne?
- Wulf: Yes, and there wouldn’t be anybody with a more legitimate claim.
- Inigo: When you spoke to Priest Styrr, you said you know somebody directly related to Tiber Septim and aged in his early twenties. Is that you, my friend?
- Wulf: Yes, that is me. And that is one of the secrets about me that must be kept. Even if I did not want to be Emperor, people would try and force the role upon me.
- Celestine: Wulf has enough people trying to kill him. There would be far more if his bloodline were known.
- Wulf: Even though I love the ambience of this place, we had better take the skull to Priest Styrr, and then I will visit Skooma Cat.
- Kharjo: That one says these things as if they are normal.
- Celestine: They are for Wulf.
We made our way to an exit.
I teleported us inside the gates of Solitude. We then walked to Solitude’s Hall of the Dead.
Styrr had waited nervously for our return. As soon as we entered, he was upon us.
- Styrr: You have returned, and I am hoping you were successful.
- Jordis: We kicked her scrawny undead butt back to The Void!
- Wulf: What my colleague is trying to say is yes, we trounced her and her guards.
I handed Styrr Potema’s skull.
- Styrr: Excellent! These things do have a way of working out when people take action. I’ll sanctify the remains.
- Kharjo: Others could have done this if not for fear!
- Styrr: If Falk and our Jarl don’t make it clear, know that Solitude owes you a debt of gratitude.
- Wulf: As my Khajiit friend said, others could have accomplished the task. Now, you had better consecrate that skull before it decides to bite you.
Styrr quickly placed Potema’s skull on a table and then stared at it.
- Wulf: And the fear of Potema survives. The Nine bless you, Priest Styrr.
- Styrr: Your sense of humour is somewhat strange.
- Celestine: He was dropped on his head as an infant.
- Styrr: That would explain much. Arkay’s blessing to you all.
We made our way to The Blue Palace’s audience chamber, but nobody was there.
A guard told me they were in the parlour, entertaining an ambassador.
We entered the parlour, and the food smelt wonderful! Inigo’s eyes went wide when he saw an array of cupcakes.
I turned to Falk.
- Wulf: Falk, you can relax. We have taken care of Potema and her undead guards and delivered her remains to Styrr so he can consecrate them. Potema cannot again return to Nirn via mortals summoning her. Since she had no Dark Lord as a co-conspirator, I would say she will be in The Void for eternity.
- Jordis: She was weak, and so were her guards. As Thane Wulf predicted, she wanted to recruit him and was too confident of her powers.
- Falk: You’ve done a great thing. Potema would have been a blight on the land.
- Wulf: Another war over the Ruby Throne would have been the end of The Empire. That threat was real, and I am relieved we removed that danger.
- Falk: Without you, this would have been a disaster. I should have paid more heed to Varnius’ warning.
- Wulf: I find it odd you dismissed Varnius’ concerns as superstition yet believed the exaggerated stories of Potema. As I told you that day, I have found truth in what the everyday citizens claim to have seen and experienced, no matter how unlikely.
- Falk: I won’t make that mistake again, I assure you!
- Wulf: Falk, I need the key to the Pelagius Wing.
- Falk: That wing has been sealed for hundreds of years for a good reason. They say the ghost of Pelagius the Mad still haunts it. Ghost or not, there are reminders of his dark rule that are best left buried away.
- Wulf: There is a portal to Oblivion there. I need to enter it and shut it down.
- Falk: WHAT?
- Inigo: Wulf said there is a portal to Oblivion there. He needs to enter it and shut it down.
- Falk: Oh, well then, ahh…wait a minute.
Falk had a large keyring with dozens of keys on it. He found the ones needed and handed them to me.
- Wulf: Thanks, Falk. Having keys is much better than blowing the doors in with The Voice.
- Falk: You wouldn’t!
- Celestine: Yes, he would.
- Falk: A portal to Oblivion?
- Wulf: To The Shivering Isles, I do believe.
- Falk: That is the realm of…
- Wulf: Uncle Sheo.
- Falk: Why do you call him that?
- Wulf: If you use his name, you may bring attention to yourself. It is best to avoid Uncle Sheo knowing you exist.
- Falk: But you will just wander into his realm and say hello.
- Wulf: Well, it might not be The Shivering Isles since he is on holiday.
- Celestine: Wulf, you have no idea where the portal will take you.
- Wulf: I know it will take me somewhere!
We walked to the Pelagius Wing.
A notice explained why the Pelagius Wing is not used and how anybody entering would be prosecuted.
I unlocked the two doors then we entered.
There was a lot of silverware on shelves and strewed around the place.
I enthused, “Inigo, there are cobwebs! Perhaps giant spiders are waiting to get squished?”
Celestine said, “He can’t reply. His mouth is full of a cupcake. Since we left the parlour, that is the third one he has managed to shovel into his mouth.”
We were walking down a corridor when I stopped and turned to my friends.
- Wulf: The portal is a few feet in front of me.
- Inigo: Nice cupcakes!
- Wulf: I am about to step into a portal into the unknown.
- Inigo: What has that got to do with how delicious the cupcakes are?
- Wulf: I want you all to stay here. If I haven’t returned in three hours, make your way to the Safe House and wait for me there.
- Jordis: Wulf, how dangerous is this?
- Wulf: I have no idea. But it has to be done.
- Inigo: Could you summon me to Oblivion?
- Wulf: It depends on what realm and barriers the Daedric Prince has put up. But I won’t summon you. The hip bone makes me a guest. We are dealing with the God of Madness, and it is best not to risk irritating him with an uninvited guest.
- Inigo: Okay. I shall be generous and share my remaining cupcakes as we wait.
- Kharjo: How many did the blue one steal?
- Inigo: I, ah, borrowed quite a few.
- Jordis: Ahh, where have you been keeping them?
- Inigo: Various places around my body. Do you want one?
- Jordis: No, and you probably ruined my enjoyment of cupcakes for all eternity.
Sheogorath was another example of a mortal made into a god. The Thalmor can’t continue to fool the majority with their claim about Tiber Septim not being raised to godhood. Slowly people will realise their real reason for objecting to his worship. They want to eliminate him from history. Only then can they bring down the other Divines and destroy linear time. They will lose their chance of doing it slowly and resort to war to eliminate Talos worship.
I turned and stepped forward a few paces, felt the brief cold of the ether, and then found myself within a pocket plane of Oblivion.
My armour and weapons were gone. I wore an expensive outfit not tailored for my size in their place.
I walked over to a dining table and listened to a conversation between Sheogorath and Emperor Pelagius Septim III, often referred to as Pelagius the Mad. Three children, servants by their attire, were also present.
- Sheogorath: Here, have another Chaurus egg.
- Pelagius: Oh, I couldn’t. They go right through me. Besides, I have so many things to do… So many undesirables with which to contend. Naysayers. Buffoons. Detractors. Why my headsman hasn’t slept in three days!
- Sheogorath: You are far too hard on yourself, my dear, sweet, homicidally insane Pelagius. What would the people do without you? Dance? Sing? Smile? Grow old? You are the best Septim that’s ever ruled. Except for that Martin fellow, he turned into a dragon god, and that’s hardly sporting… You know, I was there for that whole sordid affair. Marvellous time! Butterflies, blood, a Fox, a severed head… Oh, and cheese to die for!
- Pelagius: Yes, yes, as you’ve said countless times before…
- Sheogorath: Hafrumph! Well then, if you’re going to be like that… Perhaps it’s best I take my leave. A good day to your, sir. I said good day!
- Pelagius: Yes, yes, go. Leave me to my ceaseless responsibilities and burdens…
Sheogorath turned to me as I approached.
“Excuse me, Lord, but I have been asked to deliver a message to you.”
“Ooh, ooh, what kind of message? A song? A summons? Wait, I know! A death threat wrote on the back of an Argonian concubine! Those are my favourites. Well? Spit it out, mortal. I haven’t got an eternity!”
“Oh, very witty! And in what position do you have to be to read that death threat?”
“Yes, I like that little joke and read the Lusty Argonian Maid to answer that question. But seriously, what is the message?”
“You are requested to end your vacation. From what I could gather, Mania and Dementia are at war, and the Cold Flame of Agnon is almost extinguished.”
“So, who asked you to do this?”
“No, wait! Don’t tell me! I want to guess! Was it Molag? No, no… Little Tim, the toymaker’s son? The ghost of King Lysandus? Or was it…Yes! Stanley, that talking grapefruit from Passwall.”
I shook my head.
“Wrong on all accounts, aren’t I?”
“I am afraid so but oh so very close.”
“Ha! No matter! Honestly, I don’t want to know. Why ruin the surprise? But more to the point. Do you – tiny, puny, expendable mortal – actually think you can convince me to leave? Because that’s… crazy. You do realise who you’re dealing with here?”
“Lord Sheogorath, your people need you to return.”
“Yaaawwwnn… Oh, pardon me. Were you saying something? I do apologise. It’s just that I find myself suddenly and irrevocably… Bored!”
“I have been called many things, but boring is not one of them!”
“I mean, really. Here you stand, before Sheogorath himself, and all you deem fit to do is… deliver a message? How sad.”
“Would it make it less boring if I juggled while delivering the message? I want to give your people a reply, so are you leaving or not?”
“Now that’s the real question, isn’t it? Because honestly, how much time off could a Demented Daedra really need?”
“Time? Time is an artificial construct. An arbitrary system based on the idea that events occur in a linear direction at all times.”
“That’s very good. I will have to remember that!”
“You were told that once. By yourself. When you were another you.”
“Keep this up, and you may become my favourite Septim!”
“Nothing… just the random thoughts of the Daedric Prince of Madness.”
“Are you returning or not?”
“Here is what I am going to do. I’m going to leave. That’s right. I’m done. Holiday… complete. Time to return to the humdrum day-to-day. On one condition. You have to find your way out first. Good luck with that.”
“That might be easier if I knew where I was!”
“Care to take a look around? This is not, I dare say, the Solitude botanical gardens. Have you any idea where you are? Where you truly are?”
“A pocket plane of Oblivion connected to The Shivering Isles?”
“Yes and no. Welcome to the deceptively verdant mind of Emperor Pelagius III. That’s right! You’re in the head of a dead, homicidally insane monarch!”
“Wow! That is major gobblygook!”
“Gobblygook? Great word! Did I tell myself that word once when I was another me?”
“I don’t know. It is Ayleid in origin.”
“And you are not disturbed about being inside somebody else’s mind?”
“No. You are a god within your realm of Oblivion. You would already know I have compartmentalised my mind. That is why you speak to me, orally and not in my mind. I accept you may be able to project us into another person’s mind, even if they are dead. As I said, you are a god. I am a bit disturbed about the clothes I’m wearing. They are nice but not my size.”
“For some reason, the clothes did not materialise in the correct size. It doesn’t matter.”
“It does if I want to bend over or have children in the future.”
“You are thinking, can I still rely on my swords and spells and sneaking and all that nonsense? Sure, sure. Or you could use… The Wabbajack! Huh? Huh? Didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“You didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“Don’t get too amusing, or I may have to keep you here!”
“Then I shall be as boring as cheddar!”
“No, anything that boring deserved to be banished to The Void.”
“Yes, pretty boring but tolerable.”
“Then this gouda is off to escape from the mind of Pelagius the Mad.”
I walked a few feet away and then realised something was missing.
I called over, “Excuse me, Lord Sheogorath.”
“Do you mind? I’m busy doing the fish stick. It’s a very delicate state of mind!”
“I seem to be missing the Wabbajack. Whatever that is.”
‘Oh, here it is. Sorry!”
A weird-looking staff appeared in my hand.
Three paths lead from the clearing. I chose the one to the left of Sheogorath.
The Mad God’s voice boomed, “You’ve headed down the path of dreams. Unfortunately for you, Pelagius suffered night terrors from a young age. All you need to do is find something to wake our poor Pelagius up. You’ll find his terrors easy to repel… but persistent.”
A young Pelagius was fast asleep on a bed. I could detect a dweomer on the Wabbajack, but it changed every second. What each change entailed, I could not fathom. The only thing I need to use to get back home is the Wabbajack and my logic. Logic is the enemy of insanity.
I aimed the Wabbajack at the sleeping Pelagius and zapped him with it.
A wolf appeared.
I zapped the wolf then it turned into a goat.
I zapped Pelagius again then a bandit appeared.
I zapped him then he turned into a young, pre insanity and puberty, Pelagius.
I zapped Pelagius then a Hagraven appeared.
I zapped her then she turned into a young woman.
I zapped Pelagius then a Fire Atronach appeared. It turned into a large campfire when I zapped it!
I zapped Pelagius then a Dragon Priest appeared.
I zapped it, and it turned into a large chest.
Pelagius finally woke up and got out of bed.
I said to the air, “Lord Sheogorath, from this point forward, Pelagius will sleep peacefully.”
“Ah! Good, good! That means no more barking at all hours and chewing up my slippers. You used the hemlock, then? Damned good idea! I… Um… We’re not talking about Barbas, are we? Clavicus Vile’s… dog? Ooooh… awkward. Oh! That’s right! Pelagius! Yes, yes, now I recall. Well done, well done. That’s something to crow about! With Pelagius up and about, you’re moving right along. We’ll both be home in no time.”
I returned to the clearing and then took the path behind Sheogorath.
His voice boomed, “Oh, good choice. Well, good for me. I find everyone being out to get you so terribly entertaining. You might find it… less so. You see, Pelagius’ mother was… well… let us say ‘unique.’ Although I suppose she was fairly average for a Septim. That woman wielded fear like a cleaver. Or did she wield a cleaver and make people afraid? I never get that part right… Oh, but she taught her son well. Pelagius learned at a very early age that danger could come from anywhere. At any time. Delivered… by anyone.”
I arrived at a small arena. Pelagius was standing and observing a fight between two Storm Atronach. Behind him and flanking either side were two guests. They weren’t guards, or they would be standing.
This was obvious. The Storm Atronachs are entertainment, and Pelagius was absorbed in the fight, therefore a prime candidate for assassination.
I zapped the guest on the right, turning him into a wolf. So did the other guest. They then attacked Pelagius.
Pelagius and the wolves vanished.
Sheogorath said, “Oho! I thought you’d never figure it out.”
“This tiny, puny, expendable mortal figured it out in seconds.”
“Yes, you did! So much like Martin! You will not turn into a dragon god, will you?”
“No, I don’t think my Lords have that planned for me.”
“I don’t think the plans they had for the Hero of Kvatch included this, do you?”
“I do not know. Worrying about the machinations of the gods is enough to make somebody crazy!”
“Just remember I am a part of you, little mortal. You know me. I am a shadow in your subconscious, a blemish on your fragile little psyche. You just don’t know it.”
“I had my brief play with insanity. I know it well enough!”
“Yes, yes, back to the task. With the threat gone, Pelagius is under the delusion that he is safe, which means you’ve helped him out… sort of. And we’re that much closer to home.”
As I returned to the clearing, Sheogorath said, “I hope you are having a good time. Actually, I hope I’m having a good time. I could care less about you.”
“That means you care somewhat. The saying is, ‘I couldn’t care less about you.’”
“Did I mention skipping ropes made from your entrails?”
“Lord Sheogorath, you like mortals. Free mortals are far more interesting than enslaved ones. Therefore, you want me to stop Alduin and my entrails are safe where they are.”
“Ah, my little mortal. I’m a man of many personalities, but tell you what? They’re all very fond of you.”
“My cousin will suffer no more night terrors or paranoia.”
“As, so now my dear Pelagius can hate himself for being legitimately afraid of things that actually threaten his existence.”
“But only during the day!”
“So true. Honestly, I can’t keep up. But by all means, don’t stop now.”
I headed up the path in front of Sheogorath.
As I walked, Sheogorath said, “Ah, now this is a sad path. Pelagius hated and feared many things. Assassins, wild dogs, the undead, pumpernickel… But the deepest, keenest hatred was for himself. The attacks he makes on himself can be seen here fully. They are always carried out on the weakest part of his fragile self.”
I entered a small clearing, and Sheogorath explained, “The self-loathing enhances Pelagius’ anger! Ah, but his confidence will shrink with every hit. You must bring the two into balance.”
A large Legionnaire representing Sheogorath’s anger was striking him with his fists.
Another easy one. Every time I zapped Pelagius, his self-loathing diminished, and he grew in size and confidence.
Every time I zapped the Legionnaire, Pelagius’ anger decreased, and the soldier shrunk in size.
If the Legionnaire struck Pelagius, his self-loathing would grow, and he, along with his confidence, would shrink.
Two ghostly apparitions appeared, but they did nothing when striking Pelagius. They were just there to get in the way of my aim.
I had to zap the Legionnaire enough times to make him small and zap Pelagius enough times to make him big.
I quickly accomplished the task and said, “No more self-loathing for Pelagius!”
“Ah, wonderful, wonderful! Why waste all that hatred on yourself when it can so easily be directed at others! Pelagius is finally ready to love himself… and continue hating everyone else.”
I walked back to the clearing and said to the god, “Lord Sheogorath, I believe I have fixed Pelagius’ mind.”
“Hmmm… ‘Fixed’ is such a subjective term. I think ‘treated’ is far more appropriate, don’t you? Like one does to a rash or an arrow in the face.”
“Of course. Not everybody believes madness to be a curse. For some, it is the greatest of blessings. Bitter mercy perhaps, but mercy non the less.”
“That sounds like something I would say.”
“Oh, another thing I told myself when I was somebody else! Did I write all this down somewhere?”
“In journals, on latrine walls and pristine beaches, using the entrails of your enemies to form the runes. But only after Jygallag gave you your task. You wrote nothing down before then.”
“Well, in journals anyway.”
“But entrails on the beach! Genius! Are you sure you don’t want to work for me?”
“If I don’t save Nirn and Mundus, you will have no mortals to entertain you. I am needed back there.”
“Ah, but no matter. The heartless mortal that you are, you’ve actually succeeded and survived. I am forced to honour my end of the bargain. So, congratulations! You’re free to go!”
I waited to get sent back to Nirn. Nothing happened, and after a few seconds, Sheogorath said, “I… have been known to change my mind. So, go! Really.”
I reminded him, “You have to wiggle your fingers or whatever you do to send me back.”
Sheogorath lamented, “Pelagius Septim the Third, once the Mad Emperor of Tamriel, now so boringly sane. I always knew he had it in him!”
“My supper will be getting cold, and my cheese will spoil!”
“Spoiled cheese! No, we can’t allow that. Well, I suppose it’s back to the Shivering Isles. The trouble Haskill can get into while I’m gone simply boggles the mind… Let’s make sure I do not forget anything. Clothes? Check. Beard? Check! Luggage? Luggage! Now, where did I leave my luggage?”
Sheogorath summoned Dervenin, who said excitedly, “Master! You’ve taken me back! Does this mean we’re going home? Oh, happy times! I can’t wait to…”
Sheogorath interrupted, “Yes, yes, that’s quite enough celebration. Let’s send you ahead, shall we?”
Sheogorath smiled at me, which is not a pleasant experience, then said, “And as for you, my little mortal minion… Feel free to keep the Wabbajack. As a symbol of my… Oh, just take the damn thing.”
I bowed, which seemed to please the insane immortal.
“You take care of yourself, now. And if you ever find yourself up in New Sheoth, do look me up. We can share a strawberry torte. Ta ta!”
I was teleported back to the Pelagius Wing of The Blue Palace. I couldn’t sense a portal nearby.
I turned and walked over to Inigo.
- Wulf: That wasn’t bad. I have been gone just over three hours.
- Jordis: Inigo ate another seven cupcakes.
- Inigo: I feel ill.
- Celestine: We will not heal you, Inigo. Gluttony deserves punishment.
- Inigo: Can’t you just spank me for being naughty.
- Celestine: Ahh, no, I don’t think so.
- Inigo: Ugghh!
- Jordis: What happened? Where did you go?
- Wulf: It was the weirdest gobblygook ever! I will have to explain over a few meads.
- Celestine: Quite a few meads, I assume.
- Wulf: If I said I was inside the mind of a dead emperor, would that be enough for now?
- Jordis: You had better make that a few barrels of mead.
- Inigo: Ughhh!
- Wulf: We have no time for pity, my blue glutton! We will see Falk and Elisif, then head for High Hrothgar.
We made our way to Elisif, who looked shocked to see us.
She said, “Wulf, I thought you would be after the thieves?”
“Ahh, what thieves, my Jarl?”
“The ones who stole everything from your museum and killed the guards. Falk has taken some Legionnaires to search for them.”
We rushed to the museum, and it was a mess.
Avram was sitting in the centre of the Hall of Heroes.
- Wulf: Before we get started, why are the fallen still here?
- Avram: Auryen and I spent a couple of hours preparing the bodies for collection. It has not been pleasant, but Auryen insisted we do it ourselves. There are only a few more to do.
- Wulf: Okay, explain what happened.
- Avram: I am afraid that I am partly to blame. I haven’t been exactly forthcoming with you about my past, and sadly, it has caught up with me.
- Wulf: Not forthcoming to Auryen, you mean. He told me he thought you had a hidden background, but he trusted you enough, and I trusted his judgement.
- Avram: Yes, and I am yet to tell him this. Before coming to Skyrim, I was part of a group of brigands in Hammerfell. We operated in western Bangkorai.
Kharjo became agitated. His hand tightly gripped his sword as he stared at Avram. Jordis noticed and put her hand on Kharjo’s shoulder. Avram looked at Kharjo for a couple of seconds, and then his remaining eye widened with fear.
- Wulf: Kharjo, take your hand off your sword. Avram, continue.
- Avram: One day, we were doing a job. We were posing as guards to a caravan destined for High Rock. We planned to rob it when we reached the Wastes.
- Kharjo: It was a trap. We fell on them and put an end to their banditry! Unfortunately, some escaped.
- Avram: It was you, wasn’t it? You took my eye!
- Kharjo: Khajiit needed to help stop the bandits preying on caravans and travellers using Bangkorai Pass. This one had lost friends to these murderers!
- Wulf: Do you recognise Avram?
- Kharjo: Yes, he was at Khajiit’s mercy after this one took his eye. A coward attacked from behind, but somebody yelled a warning. Khajiit turned in time to dodge a sword stroke, but while this one fought, this renrij escaped!
- Jordis: Renrij?
- Wulf: It is Ta’agra for scum.
- Avram: They would have taken me to Evermore and strung me up if I was lucky. Even worse, they may have sent me to one of their mines, and I would never know freedom again. So yes, I ran. Only a few of us escaped and fled into the hills of the Dragontail Mountains.
- Wulf: That is very inhospitable territory.
- Avram: We went our separate ways. Bleeding and alone, I still, to this day, don’t know how I survived up there. I swore to Tu’whacca that I would turn my life around and live a just and moral life if spared. I was found just outside of Heldorn Mount by a missionary. He took me in and nursed me back to health.
- Wulf: What kind of missionary?
- Avram: He was a Priest of Arkay.
- Wulf: Many believe Tu’whacca and Arkay are the same. Perhaps it is no fluke that a Priest of Arkay found you?
- Avram: I left it all behind and came here to start again. But it seems that those from my past have followed me here.
- Wulf: Did you recognise some of the robbers?
- Avram: Yes, two of them and they recognised me. I think that is why I was spared.
- Kharjo: Or you organised this whole thing with them!
- Avram: No!
- Wulf: How did they get in? I saw no damage to the front door.
- Avram: They came in with the carpenters, tilers and labourers throughout the day and spread across the entire museum.
- Jordis: Were they all Redguards?
- Avram: What difference does that make?
- Jordis: Even a cosmopolitan city like Solitude has a limited number of Redguard visitors or citizens. Didn’t you find it strange to have an influx of Redguard inside the museum?
- Avram: I did not think anything of it. Some Redguards had been working on and off for several days.
- Wulf: They would have noted where each item was as part of the planning and altered which ones worked over that period.
- Avram: At the end of the day, the workers left. As the last of them left, they suddenly barred the front door. Before I could fully draw my sword, somebody hit me on the head from behind. Everything started spinning, and I heard a yell and a sudden groan from Auryen in the office. After the robbery, he told me someone shot him with a dart that put him to sleep. They bound my arms and legs and gagged me, but I did not lose consciousness.
- Wulf: You hired the guards. It seems they were quickly overwhelmed.
- Avram: I was lying in the main hall and caught glimpses of the robbers from time to time. They were dual-wielding Alik’r, and their scimitars must have been hidden amongst the crates of materials. The guards would have stood no chance against them. The fighting I heard was brief.
- Celestine: How long did the robbery take?
- Avram: I don’t know exactly. I was coming in and out of consciousness. Therefore, I had no perspective of time. Latoria found me and healed me.
- Wulf: Over a thousand exhibits were on display for the opening next week. Many wagons would be needed to transport it all. There is no way they could ride through the gates of Solitude with such a haul!
- Avram: Latoria said it was fortunate the Explorers Society were at a dig site. The robbers used the pulleys and cranes set up for construction. They lowered the goods to boats waiting in the water below the balcony. By doing it after sunset and by wearing the outfits of labourers, their actions would not have seemed suspicious to observers.
- Inigo: Why were the archaeologists lucky?
- Wulf: The balcony is outside their quarters. They would have been killed along with the guards if they were home.
- Inigo: Why did they leave you alive?
- Avram: I don’t know. Most likely, they hoped I would be blamed for the robbery.
- Wulf: No, that makes no sense! Because they let you live, we know the robbers were Redguards and that some of them were part of your old bandit gang.
- Inigo: If they had killed Avram, we would not know who to start hunting.
- Wulf: They would not leave Avram alive to frame him. There must be another reason.
- Inigo: Try again. Avram. Why did they let you live?
- Avram: I honestly don’t know.
- Wulf: It will not go well for you if I find you have lied to me.
- Avram: I do not know why they let me or Auryen live!
- Jordis: I think I know why they let Auryen live. They knew he was a friend of The Dragonborn.
- Inigo: They hope that the desire to recover the stolen goods will quickly wane.
- Jordis: If they killed Auryen, they thought The Dragonborn would never cease hunting them down.
- Celestine: They have miscalculated. As soon as they killed a guard, they wrote their death sentences.
- Wulf: All of them will die by our swords or the headsman’s axe!
- Avram: You will give them a chance to surrender?
- Wulf: Of course. But I will ask for their deaths at trial and volunteer to wield the axe that removes their heads from their bodies.
- Avram: Auryen told me you disliked killing.
- Wulf: I detest it. But they have wronged me with the theft and killed the guards. I can’t allow others to think either is a thing they can survive. I want all to understand the anger of a Dovah allows no mercy.
- Celestine: Wulf kills as quickly as possible and will let any witnesses know who is doing it. Not for glory but to instil fear in those who are thinking about risking his wrath. That way, he will have to kill less often in the long term. That way, he provides better protection for those whom he loves.
- Avram: Oh…
- Wulf: Avram, did you kill others when a bandit?
- Avram: Yes.
- Wulf: I can’t pass judgement on those crimes. However, you will accompany us to recover the museum exhibits.
- Avram: You are most forgiving. I’ll do everything I can to help recover them.
- Wulf: It is up to your gods to judge you for previous sins. Not me. I will judge you on your conduct while with us.
- Celestine: Wulf will kill you if he thinks you are in league with the murderers.
- Avram: I am not, I assure you!
- Wulf: The murderers will want to smuggle the hoard across the mountains into Hammerfell. They could use several smuggler routes.
- Avram: My old gang did jobs all over Tamriel. When doing them in Skyrim, we had several favourite holdouts. I suggest we try one near Whiterun. It is a collapsed cave that was the beginning of a path that led under the great mountain. It is remote enough to lay low if needed and for stashing loot there before gathering it up and departing for Hammerfell.
- Wulf: Windcaller’s Pass?
- Avram: That is its name.
- Wulf: There are bandit holdouts scattered all over that area. We shall teleport to Whiterun stables and walk from there.
- Avram: Teleport?
- Wulf: Don’t worry, you will learn what that is soon.
- Avram: The Dragonguard were here just before you arrived. They will be outside looking at the pulleys and so on.
- Wulf: Kharjo, you are to find the Dragonguard and help them.
- Kharjo: Does Dragonborn not trust this one?
- Wulf: I trust you, Kharjo. But we are guessing the murderers may be at Windcaller Pass. I want your expertise dealing with these bandits available to the Dragonguard’s investigation.
- Inigo: Kharjo, it is the logical thing to do. If Wulf doesn’t trust you, he will tell you without hesitation.
- Kharjo: Khajiit apologises. He will do this thing straight away.
- Wulf: Avram, where is Auryen?
- Avram: At his desk.
Kharjo left to find the Dragonguard, and we headed to Auryen.
We found Auryen, and to my surprise, he carried a sword.
- Wulf: Auryen, are you okay?
- Auryen: I am fine, just a bit shaken. I’m more worried about the state of the museum.
- Wulf: Shelves and cabinets can be rebuilt much easier than broken bodies.
- Auryen: The guards! All of them were dead except Avram. You kept saying we needed better protection.
- Jordis: Even Empire Legionnaires would find Alik’r warriors difficult.
- Wulf: I will ask for Legionnaires to rotate on three eight hour shifts. We shall train them to assist patrons, and they will provide a better deterrent.
- Auryen: I think Jarl Elisif will agree with you.
- Wulf: Now, we have to determine the level of Avram’s part in this.
- Auryen: What do you mean?
- Avram: I used to be a member of a notorious and ruthless bandit gang based in Hammerfell that operated all over Tamriel.
- Wulf: Avran knew some of the murderers and was left alive. I am taking him with us to retrieve the stolen items. Hopefully, I will have a clearer idea of his guilt or innocence by the end.
- Auryen: If you find he was involved?
- Wulf: He dies. Either at my hands or execution.
- Auryen: You should have told me, Avram.
- Avram: I am sorry. I was ashamed of my past and hoped that was all behind me.
- Auryen: I would still have given you the position.
- Wulf: The museum will be rebuilt, Auryen. If you need funds, just ask.
- Auryen: I only have a couple of bodies left to prepare for collection. I had better get to it before Jarl Elisif arrives to inspect the damage.
I said to Avram, “Place your hand on my shoulder, and in a second or two, we will be in Whiterun.”
And so, our hunt for thieves and murderers began. Our visit to The Greybeards was delayed even more.