ULFRIC’S TURN

Loredas, 4th Frostfall, 4E 201

to Morndas, 6th Frostfall, 4E 201

Rigmor and I flew into each other’s arms. The subsequent kiss was in danger of escalating till Cerys did a loud, “AHEM!”

Slightly abashed, we stood apart once more and quickly readjusted our clothes.

  • Wulf: Ahh…hello, Cerys.
  • Cerys: Greetings, Wulf.
  • Wulf: I like your dress!
  • Cerys: Thank you. Rigmor took me to The Imperial City, where we spent two days shopping for clothes. I wanted to look like Rigmor’s handmaiden, not a College of Winterhold graduate.
  • Wulf: Rigmor, your hair has grown fast!
  • Rigmor: Unnaturally so, but I am not complaining.
  • Wulf: Here, Cerys, a present for you.

I handed Cerys a Master of Magicka ring. She placed it on her finger and gasped.

  • Wulf: It increases the effectiveness and duration of all spells. It also increases your Magicka reserves and more than doubles the speed of Magicka regeneration. I call it a Master of Magicka Ring and have gifted one to every mage in The Dragonguard.
  • Cerys: It is incredible, but I can’t accept such an expensive gift!
  • Wulf: I carved it from horker tusk, and it cost me nothing but time to place the dweomer.
  • Cerys: You made this?
  • Rigmor: I told you, Cerys, that the Arch-Mage made Wulf a Master Mage minutes after meeting him.
  • Cerys: Which makes you one of my employers, Master Wulf.
  • Wulf: I don’t use any of my titles, Cerys. I am Wulf.
  • Rigmor: Have you got the spell tome?
  • Wulf: Yes, hang on a second. It is in my journal case.

I opened my journal case and stuck my arm up to my elbow into it. After a few seconds of frantic searching, I found the tome and handed it to Cerys.

  • Wulf: Damn thing had fallen off the shelf. I will have to get rid of some of the case’s contents one day!
  • Cerys: Where did you get that wonderful journal case?
  • Wulf: It was a gift from the Psijic Order. They found it on a planet in another star system. They modified it to store things in a pocket plane of Aetherius.
  • Cerys: Of course! Silly of me to ask.
  • Rigmor: Cerys, ignore Wulf’s weirdness and see if you understand the spell.

Cerys opened the tome and started reading.

  • Cerys: The spell is wonderfully laid out, Wulf. Do you write spell tomes often?
  • Wulf: No, that is the first one. I remembered what I hate about other tomes, so the layout came naturally.
  • Rigmor: Wulf tends to be good at everything he tries. It can be rather annoying.

Cerys started to practice the somatic component of the spell while whispering the verbal component.

  • Rigmor: Wow… I can feel a tugging sensation in my head!
  • Wulf: Cerys, please practice the somatic and verbal components separately. Otherwise, Rigmor will feel like her brain is being pulled through her ear.
  • Cerys: Oh, of course. Sorry, Rigmor.
  • Wulf: When you are ready to try the spell, do it with Rigmor a few feet away so you can see her.
  • Cerys: Yes, that will help me store the mental image of Rigmor into my memory.
  • Wulf: Interestingly, teleportation spells vanished after The Warp in the West, yet all prisons on Nirn still have wards against their use.
  • Rigmor: Only you would find that interesting, my dear Dragonborn.
  • Cerys: Freathof would find that fascinating!
  • Wulf: The news of Alduin’s defeat is still hours away from Bruma, so please, be careful, Cerys. If your father gets curious about your uncanny knowledge of Skyrim events, so will Boethia.
  • Cerys: I understand, Wulf. What passes between Rigmor and me is sealed by the most sacred pact!
  • Rigmor: Sisterhood! That is what Cerys has become to me during my time here.
  • Wulf: I am so relieved Rigmor had your support during this challenging transition, Cerys.
  • Rigmor: Secrets work both ways, Wulf. Don’t they, Cerys?
  • Cerys: Rigmor! Don’t you dare!
  • Wulf: I am not one for gossip, Cerys. However, Rigmor, be very careful what you say around Silah.
  • Cerys: Who is Silah?
  • Rigmor: She is Wulf’s female dragon friend. He has recently made another dragon friend.
  • Wulf: His name is Nafaalilargus. He is the diamond-shaped dragon of The Imperial Emblem.
  • Rigmor: You might say Wulf was dying to meet Nafaalilargus.
  • Wulf: Twenty-Six times.
  • Cerys: Huh?
  • Rigmor: Gobblygook, Cerys. You know I don’t tackle that without a mead in my hand.
  • Cerys: Okay, I will just accept Wulf has dragon friends and not pursue the how.
  • Rigmor: Let’s get going, my Guardian.
  • Wulf: I promise to have Rigmor home by midnight.
  • Rigmor: No, you don’t!
  • Wulf: Well, how about in plenty of time for court tomorrow.

Cerys giggled as I teleported Rigmor and me to Breezehome.

Rigmor laughed and asked, “Do you usually teleport into the bedroom?”

“Oh, I didn’t notice. So, my dear Rigmor, what shall we do?”

Rigmor pretended to consider options.

She said, “Well, we could go to The Bannered Mare. They won’t recognise me, and you can shape change. I know you have a good selection of books downstairs, so perhaps we can sit quietly and read. Oh, do you have a pack of cards? We could play cards and gossip!”

I picked up Rigmor and gently tossed her onto the bed.

She giggled and said, “The buttons are down the left side and easy to undo. Please don’t rip this one-of-a-kind dress in your enthusiasm.”

I lay next to my beloved, and no more was said for hours.

The following day, after a spa and breaking our fast, it was time for Rigmor to return. We teleported into her bedroom and were reluctant to part once again, even for a short time.

We kissed goodbye, and I teleported to the Safe House.

To my surprise, Dae and Daenlyn were waiting for me. We sat at the dining table to talk.

  • Wulf: Is this a quick update?
  • Dae: No, Wulf. We got out while we could.
  • Daenlyn: I spent a day cutting down trees and bushes around Miraak’s Temple. Oh, the shame of it!
  • Wulf: Okay, slow down and tell me what is going on.
  • Dae: Miraak is using the All-Maker Stones of Solstheim to enthral people. The enthralled people are building wooden structures instead of sleeping. What these structures will eventually do is unknown, but an All-Maker Stone is at the centre of each one. The enthralled will do an eight-hour shift and return home without knowing what they did. The whole island seems to be suffering from mass amnesia concerning Miraak!
  • Wulf: The dweomer must be powerful to make Bosmer cut-down trees!
  • Daenlyn: While doing it, I had no qualms. I was rebuilding his temple, a more significant project than the others. Getting far enough away from those infernal All-Maker Stones enabled me to remember my unforgivable actions.
  • Wulf: Don’t feel guilt for being ensorceled! Were you affected, Dae?
  • Dae: No. I think many mages would be able to resist. This phenomenon only started a few days ago. I would like to have stayed longer and studied it. However, it took a lot of effort to resist the compulsion.
  • Wulf: And you are sure Miraak is behind this?
  • Daenlyn: He doesn’t mention his name, but the enthralled know who he is. All the enthralled hear this mantra, and many will verbalise it.
  • Here in his shrine
  • That they have forgotten
  • Here do we toil
  • That we might remember
  • By night we reclaim
  • What by day was stolen
  • Far from ourselves
  • He grows ever near to us
  • Our eyes once were blinded
  • Now through him do we see
  • Our hands once were idle
  • Now through them does he speak
  • And when the world shall listen
  • And when the world shall see
  • And when the world remembers
  • That world shall cease to be
  • Wulf: That last line is a worry!
  • Dae: Does Miraak intend to destroy Nirn or end the Kalpa?
  • Wulf: I have no idea. How long do you think it will take to complete the work underway?
  • Dae: The Temple will take the longest. A couple of months, I would guess.
  • Wulf: And the authorities are doing nothing about this crisis?
  • Daenlyn: As mentioned, it is like the entire island suffers from amnesia.
  • Wulf: Did you speak to any of the locals about this?
  • Daenlyn: The Skaal are investigating the phenomena. If they can understand it better, they think they can protect their people from the compulsion.
  • Wulf: Did you see any sign of Hermaeus Mora orchestrating this?
  • Daenlyn: I think Miraak is not under Hermaeus Mora’s control. He might be imprisoned in Apocrypha but is trying to find a way to Mundus.
  • Wulf: I thank both of you for travelling to Solstheim. The only way I will figure out what is happening is to visit and seek Miraak.
  • Daenlyn: You got rid of Alduin. What is next?
  • Wulf: We fight for The Empire and wipe out The Stormcloaks.
  • Daenlyn: I want to be part of that, Wulf. I want to be a Dragonguard.
  • Dae: He has exceptional skill with the bow and is an excellent dual blade wielder.
  • Wulf: Daenlyn, you need to speak to Vayu. As Grandmaster, he will decide your suitability as a Dragonguard.
  • Daenlyn: Okay.
  • Wulf: This morning, I am checking on an insane mage. If I have a chance, I will talk to you again about Solstheim. Later today, I will start my campaign against The Stormcloaks.
  • Dae: Understood.

My squad for the day was Bashita, Shouken, Seiko and Taku.

I teleported us to Winterhold’s stables.

As we made our way to the shoreline, I stopped and stared at a Dragon Mound.

  • Wulf: That Dragon Mound looks empty, but it isn’t. Its lid has been removed like Alduin has restored its occupant. But I get the same feeling as when I first spotted it. There is a Dovah somewhere there, waiting for something, and that something wasn’t Alduin.
  • Bashita: Is that mound in the Atlas of Dragons?
  • Wulf: No.
  • Shouken: What is the temple near it?
  • Wulf: I have no idea.
  • Seiko: Therefore, it is inevitable you will have to investigate.
  • Taku: Before he explodes from curiosity!
  • Wulf: Oh well, a mystery for another day.

We continued to the shoreline, and I announced, “We will swim and walk to Septimus’ outpost. The dweomer on your armour, and kimono, will keep you warm and dry, and you can’t drown! I don’t want to hear a single whine.”

Not far into our ‘walk’, Nafaalilargus flew overhead and whined, “Dov love to warm themselves on rocks under the blazing sun. We do not like flying in the air so cold that bits of us are in danger of breaking off.”

I replied, “Shout Dragonfire and suck it in. That should warm you!”

“Wulf, do you think I am an idiot?”

“No, I don’t think you are an idiot, Nafaalilargus. I know you are an idiot.”

A while later, Nafaalilargus swooped low and whined, “Guess what? I am still cold!”

Just as we reached Septimus’ outpost, Silah popped out of the ether.

She said, “Just a quick hello, Wulf. There are still time anomalies that need investigating further. Hopefully, I can start travelling with you soon.”

“I look forward to it, Silah.”

I entered the outpost and heard Septimus talking to himself per the last visit.

I approached Septimus and held out the lexicon.

I said, “As you can see, the lexicon is inscribed.”

Septimus took the lexicon and then immediately exclaimed, “Extraordinary. I see it now!”

Something was not quite right. I asked, “How are you reading the lexicon without the relevant machinery?”

Septimus ignored me and continued, “The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can loosen the hooks, but none remain to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they did not anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer. The elves still living provide the key. Bear you hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete.”

Septimus produced a contraption with multiple needles and storage vials from under his robe.

I took it and asked, “How come you already had this device constructed? It has a specific purpose only revealed via the lexicon I just handed to you. A lexicon from which you could not possibly extract information. Your use of scientific terms is incorrect and pure mumbo jumbo!”

Septimus ignored me and started his random wandering and muttering.

I felt a presence and looked up. Hermaeus Mora’s avatar, The Wretched Abyss, blocked the exit.

I could have just teleported out but decided to see what the Daedric Prince wanted.

I approached, and he said, “Come closer and bask in my presence.”

I replied, “I see nought but an avatar. There is no presence in which to bask, Hermaeus Mora.”

“I am the guardian of the unseen and knower of the unknown. I have been watching you, mortal. Most impressive.”

“Lord Mora, your lies only make me regret wasting my time. You have not been watching me, for you do not have that ability.”

“Your continuing aid to Septimus renders him increasingly obsolete. He has served me well, but his time is nearing its end. Once that infernal lockbox is opened, he will have exhausted his usefulness to me. When that time comes, you shall take his place as my emissary. What say you?”

“I say you have no idea to whom you speak! If you did, you would realise the absurdity of that suggestion. I am aiding Septimus because what is in the Dwemer Lockbox may present a danger to the mortals of Nirn. I will not allow your puppet to keep it if that is the case. So no, Lord Mora, I will never be your emissary.”

“Be warned. Many have thought as you do. I have broken them all. You shall not evade me forever.”

“Miraak is evading you just fine, and he volunteered to be your emissary.”

Hermaeus Mora gurgled, which I assume was an expression of anger. His avatar faded, and I made my way outside.

I handed Bashita the extractor and asked her, “What do you make of this?”

Bashita studied it for a couple of minutes and then handed it back.

  • Bashita: It has multiple syringes for harvesting blood. You pull a lever, and the blood is mixed into a small vial. I see no other purpose for it.
  • Wulf: Septimus believes that Dwemer blood is needed to open the Dwemer Lockbox. His theory is that consuming the blood of existing Mer species will trick the apparatus into believing he is a Dwemer.
  • Bashita: Are you sure he doesn’t intend to inject it?
  • Wulf: Maybe he does, but I don’t think either method will trick a device looking for genetic markers of the Dwemer.
  • Bashita: No, but touching the device with the combined blood might work.
  • Shouken: Ahh, can you please explain this gobblygook?
  • Bashita: It is scientific gobblygook.
  • Wulf: Ehlnofey were the first mortals on Nirn. All Men and Mer are descended from them. Like all species, plants or animals, environmental and other factors influence changes in a species, so it starts to diversify. This diversification enables species to thrive in different environments. All large cats have a common ancestor, as do all fish. What differentiates Mer from Man is a few genetic markers out of billions. A few more genetic markers make a person Dunmer or Bosmer or Nord or Redguard, etcetera. What makes a person tall or short, blond or black haired, stocky or slim are other markers out of billions.
  • Bashita: By combining the blood of five Mer species, Septimus hopes the locking mechanism will find enough genetic markers associated with Dwemer.
  • Shouken: Ahh, I think I understand.
  • Wulf: I have blood samples from many species at the Safe House. I will combine the five Mer types into a sample that Septimus can consume. But I will also smear some on my fingers and the bottle. I believe we will be able to open the Dwemer Lockbox if the genetic markers are the key.
  • Shouken: You will touch the Dwemer Lockbox with your bloody fingers?
  • Wulf: Yes.
  • Seiko: Hermaeus Mora has been lying to Septimus.
  • Wulf: Indeed! Septimus thinks The Heart of Lorkhan is in the Dwemer Lockbox. It can’t be as the Nerevarine destroyed it. Hermaeus Mora has manipulated Septimus and waited till somebody could aid the insane mage open the Dwemer Lockbox. Septimus had already constructed that extractor tool before I returned with the lexicon.
  • Seiko: He would only have done that if Mora told him to.
  • Wulf: Exactly. The story about needing the lexicon was to trick me. I am supposed to assume Septimus read the information within the lexicon when I handed it to him.
  • Bashita: That is impossible!
  • Wulf: You and I know that. However, the majority of people would not know that.
  • Taku: You have always said that Dark Lords can’t directly influence us.
  • Wulf: They can’t possess us, but Septimus’ thirst for knowledge made him susceptible to Mora’s suggestions. Mora has asked him to murder, spread plague and other unsavoury things. I assume that every time Septimus completes a task, he gets a reward.
  • Bashita: Snippets of knowledge that make Septimus crave even more.
  • Wulf: Hermaeus Mora just tried to recruit me as his champion.
  • Bashita: He has no idea who you are, does he?
  • Wulf: No, and neither did Azura or Boethia. They have no way of knowing just by conversing with you.
  • Seiko: Could Mora harm Septimus?
  • Wulf: Yes, if Septimus has performed certain rituals and allowed his soul to be tainted.
  • Seiko: Is that similar to how you can harm a person through their soul?
  • Wulf: It is somewhat similar. Anyway, now I will teleport us to the Safe House. I will mix up some Mer blood samples, and then we shall return here.

As soon as we materialised in the Safe House, I headed for my collection of alchemical reagents. Upon the top shelf was my collection of blood samples.

I mixed a combination of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer and Orsimer blood into a large potion bottle and a smaller one. Not much blood was needed, but Mother always told me to use the standard size bottles as they are easier to find in an emergency.

I gathered the team, and we teleported back to Septimus’ outpost. I smeared some of the blood mixture on the outside of the bottle in case I don’t get the chance to touch the Dwemer Lockbox

I entered and approached Septimus.

I handed him the potion bottle and said, “Here, I have created the mixture for you.”

Septimus snatched the bottle and walked over to the Dwemer Lockbox.

He quickly drank the bottle’s contents, then exclaimed, “I can almost… hear them. I feel their life energy.”

He approached the machine, but nothing happened.

I said, “Try touching it.”

Septimus did so, and the Dwemer Lockbox slowly opened.

Septimus ran along a metal corridor to the centre of the machine.

Upon a pedestal was a large book. I could tell the leather covering was skin from various species of Man and Mer.

Septimus exclaimed, “What is this… it’s… it’s just a book?! I can see. The world beyond burns in my mind. It’s marvellous….”

Septimus disintegrated. Hermaeus Mora killed him as his usefulness had come to an end.

I studied the book without touching it. There was only one artefact related to Mora that matched, and that was a book called Oghma Infinium, which means infinite knowledge.

It was written by Xarxes, a Mer form of Arkay. I detected no Daedric dweomer, so I felt safe placing it into my journal case.

I was not surprised to find Hermaeus Mora blocking my exit once more.

“Come, my champion.”

“Does Miraak know he had been replaced? It could be awkward when I meet him!”

“Now you have my Oghma Infinium. It contains the knowledge of the ages as revealed to Xarxes, my loyal servant. For hundreds of years, it’s been shut away from the world. Septimus was a useful tool for unleashing it. Now it is in your hands. Let us work wonders together….”

“Xarxes was not your servant but that of Auri-El. I have no intention of ever opening it and, as I said earlier, will never be your emissary.”

“Who do you think brought Septimus here? Who do you think protected you on your journey to open the box and release my knowledge on this world? Your free will is an illusion. Whether you acknowledge me or not is your own business. But I will be in your mind.”

“Where is the book at the moment, Lord Mora?”

There was nothing but silence from the Dark Lord.

“You can’t sense it because it is in Aetherius, just as you could not possibly have protected me when I fought Alduin in Sovngarde. I am Wulf, The Dragonborn, and you speak nothing but lies. It seems to me that Miraak’s free will is no illusion. Neither is mine!”

I teleported outside.

  • Wulf: Touching the Dwemer Lockbox with the mixed blood was the right thing to do, and it opened. Inside was not Lorkhan’s Heart but a book called Oghma Infinium.
  • Bashita: The book written by Xarxes?
  • Wulf: Yes. I don’t know what knowledge it imparts but reading it makes it vanish, like most spell tomes. I think if it were opened in Aetherius, it would not vanish.
  • Seiko: Was Septimus disappointed?
  • Wulf: Briefly, till Mora disintegrated him via his soul.
  • Seiko: He sounds like a bastard!
  • Wulf: Mora manipulates mortal greed to obtain knowledge. He will pursue any knowledge, no matter how useless or obscure.
  • Bashita: Even Lydia’s Apple Cabbage Stew recipe?
  • Wulf: Even that.
  • Taku: Let me guess, you talked with Mora and pissed him off.
  • Wulf: Oh, that wasn’t my fault! You see, according to Mora, free will is an illusion!
  • Taku: He said that to you? He has no idea who you are, does he?
  • Wulf: He does now because I told him. He said he had been protecting me so I could help Septimus.
  • Bashita: That is a good trick since he doesn’t have that ability in Mundus and can’t even see into Aetherius and Sovngarde.
  • Wulf: I want to inform Septimus’ friend what happened to him. Therefore, it is time to visit The College of Winterhold.

I teleported us into the college’s courtyard.

We entered the college, and I warned The Dragonguard.

  • Wulf: Before visiting The Arcanaeum, there are rules you will follow. This is not a request but an order.
  • Taku: You hardly ever issue an order, so you must be worried we might cause a problem.
  • Wulf: There is excellent cooperation between this college and my museum. I want to keep it that way.
  • Bashita: I wonder if Urag will remember me?
  • Wulf: Do not disrespect any mage. Do not touch any books. Do not eat anything. Do not speak loudly. If you need to fart, hold it in or hurry outside of The Arcanaeum.
  • Taku: What about a silent but deadly?
  • Wulf: No farting!
  • Taku: A burp?
  • Wulf: No noisy bodily emissions of any kind!
  • Taku: What if my heart starts to fail and I collapse in pain.
  • Wulf: Die quietly.
  • Bashita: If you don’t, Master Urag will kill you!
  • Taku: That makes no sense!
  • Bashita: He will heal you before you die and then kill you.
  • Taku: Oh. That makes sense.

We entered The Arcanaeum, and it was hard to tell how many mages were there. It was silent!

Urag saw us approaching and came from behind his desk.

  • Urag: Can I help you, Master Wulf?
  • Wulf: I have some tragic news concerning Master Mage Septimus Signus. He is deceased, killed by the Daedric Prince, Hermaeus Mora. His ashes are in his research outpost if you desire to collect them and provide a burial.
  • Urag: I shall organise the retrieval and burial of Septimus’ remains even if his soul is lost. What was he researching?
  • Wulf: He was researching a Dwemer Lockbox. As per usual, Mora snared Septimus’ soul with the lure of knowledge. Septimus thought the lockbox contained Lorkhan’s Heart. It did not. To cut a long story short, I helped unlock the thing and then Mora killed Septimus. He was no longer of any use to the Dark Lord.
  • Urag: What was Septimus thinking? Nobody in their right mind gives their soul to a being as unpredictable as Hermaeus Mora.
  • Wulf: You know he was unstable. Mora took advantage of that.
  • Urag: What was in there?
  • Wulf: The Oghma Infinium.
  • Urag: Repeat that, Master Wulf. I think I misheard you.
  • Bashita: Master Urag, we are now in possession of the Oghma Infinium.
  • Urag: I hope you didn’t read it, Master Wulf.
  • Wulf: I am well aware of its vanishing act, Master Urag. However, I think if we open it within Aetherius, it will not disappear. But I can’t be sure, so if you and other mages wish to study it and see if I am correct, I will entrust you with it.
  • Urag: I will place it into our shared Autherius vault immediately. However, most mages only last in there for an hour at the most due to nausea.
  • Wulf: However, the same mages can spend forever in our Oblivion vault.
  • Bashita: We don’t want Hermaeus Mora taking it away out of spite. He and Master Wulf don’t get along.

I retrieved the Oghma Infinium from my journal case. When I handed it to Urag, he held it like it was made of thin porcelain. Most artefacts are indestructible, but to the ancient Orsimer mage, it is a book, and Urag has spent centuries maintaining The Arcanaeum.

  • Wulf: An Elder Scroll is also stored in our shared Oblivion vault. Mages are free to study that until I can deliver it to the Moth Priests in Cyrodiil.
  • Urag: When will that be?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, Master Urag.
  • Urag: Master Mage Bashita, where is the first edition of Kagouti Mating Habits that you borrowed at 2:43 PM on the 22nd of Frostfall, 4E 175?
  • Bashita: Ahh, I left it behind when I fled to Akavir. The Thalmor probably have it.
  • Urag: You owe this establishment a replacement.
  • Taku: Bashita, why were you reading that?
  • Seiko: It is a good guide on how female dominance can work.
  • Bashita: Seiko is correct. I was writing an essay on how The Empire could learn a thing or two from observing the female dominance prevalent in nature.
  • Wulf: Master Urag, we shall endeavour to find you a copy, as close to a first edition as possible, of Kagouti Mating Habits.
  • Urag: And I shall wave the thousands of septims in fines accumulated by Master Bashita.
  • Bashita: I was fleeing for my life, Master Urag!
  • Urag: And that was more important than one of my books?
  • Bashita: No, of course not. How silly of me.

We left Urag to stare at Oghma Infinium as if it was a work of art, not an old book covered in the skins of mortals.

We teleported to the inside of Solitude. I wanted to visit Castle Dour and offer our aid to General Tullius.

A Dovah spiralled down from on high and said, “At last, you return to your nest, Dovahkiin. I am Inhuskein. Let us fight so I can become overlord!”

I replied, “You are a fool who will soon die, Inhuskein.”

Inhuskein landed on Castle Dour’s courtyard wall and attacked Legionnaires with weak Dragonfire.

I hit him with Dragonrend.

A few seconds later, he landed awkwardly in the middle of the courtyard. He was already peppered with arrows.

A Legionnaire was doing well facing Inhuskein’s giant maw. Taku yelled, “Move aside for The Dragonborn. Attack from the flank, soldier!”

The Legionnaire was more than happy to vacate the position, and I slashed Inhuskein with several rapid strokes.

Bashita hit Inhuskein with Inferno, which is not as hot as Dragonfire but still damaged the Dovah.

Taku fought beside me. Shouken and Seiko eagerly hacked into Inhuskein’s flanks.

I leapt onto Inhuskein’s head.

After finally gaining the balance and leverage needed, I plunged my sword into the Dovah’s brain, and he died.

I absorbed the soul.

A Legionnaire came running over to me saying, “Dragonborn, the captain is badly hurt!”

I rushed over to Captain Aldis, groaning in pain on the ground.

I cast Grand Healing on him, and he slowly got to his feet.

“Thank you, Dragonborn. That was the first, and hopefully the last time I have been stomped on by a dragon.”

“Yes, that is a bad habit, Captain Aldis. I would quit doing that if I was you.”

“I know the drill, Dragonborn. I will be exhausted for a few days, but I can still shout like a sergeant while supervising the training.”

“Your men did exceptionally well, Captain. In mere seconds the dragon was hit with dozens of arrows!”

“I thought after you defeated Alduin, the dragons would no longer be a problem.”

“There will be a few who wish to challenge me. It is foolish of them, but that won’t stop them.”

“We will soon clear away the skeleton as we have had a bit of practice. We store the bones in a warehouse on the docks. Armourers are offering a lot of money for the bones, but we did not think you would appreciate them being turned into armour and weapons.”

“No, I wouldn’t. I will ask my dragon friends to dispose of them. I believe they have a place where they take them high up an inaccessible mountain.”

The courtyard soon filled with the usual gawkers. We quickly made our way into Castle Dour.

I asked a Legionnaire, “Is General Tullius in residence?”

“Yes, Dragonborn. He is upstairs in the map room discussing the war with Legate Rikke.”

We climbed the stairs and opened the door to the map room.

Tullius and Rikke were in a heated discussion concerning Whiterun.

  • Rikke: I’m telling you, Ulfric’s planning an attack on Whiterun.
  • Tullius: He’d be insane to try. He doesn’t have the men.
  • Rikke: That’s not what my scouts report, Sir. Every day more join his cause. Riften, Dawnstar, and Winterhold support him.
  • Tullius: It’s not a cause. It’s a rebellion.
  • Rikke: Call it whatever you like, General. The man’s going to try to take Whiterun.
  • Tullius: Jarl Balgruuf…
  • Rikke: Balgruuf refuses the Legion’s right to garrison troops in his city. On the other hand, he also refuses to acknowledge Ulfric’s claim.
  • Tullius: Well, if he wants to stand outside the protection of The Empire, fine. Let Ulfric pillage his city.
  • Rikke: General.
  • Tullius: You people and your damn Jarls!
  • Rikke: Sir? You can’t force a Nord to accept help that he hasn’t asked for.
  • Tullius: If Ulfric’s making a move for Whiterun, then we need to be there to stop him. Draft another letter with the usual platitudes, but share some of your intelligence regarding Ulfric’s plans this time. Embellish if you have to. We’ll let it seem like it’s his idea.
  • Rikke: Yes, Sir.
  • Tullius: You Nords and your bloody sense of honour.
  • Rikke: Sir.

I walked up to General Tullius.

  • Tullius: Are my men now giving free rein to anyone who wanders into the castle? Do you have some reason to be here, citizen?
  • Rikke: Sir, you speak to Wulf Welkynd, Thane of Solitude, Champion of Solitude, Champion of The Divines and Gua….
  • Wulf: Please, Legate Rikke. For reasons too complex to discuss, I am not to be addressed with that title. General will suffice.
  • Rikke: Yes, Sir.
  • Tullius: I beg your pardon, General. We have never met, so forgive my ignorance.
  • Wulf: There is no need to apologise, General Tullius.
  • Tullius: From the reports I have received, you have declared yourself to be on The Empire’s side in this Civil War.
  • Wulf: The claims I made about Ulfric are valid, and I have the evidence. It is my duty as Champion of The Divines to protect the mortals of Nirn from evil megalomaniacs. I have disposed of our visitors from The Dominion and Alduin. Now it is Ulfric’s turn.
  • Tullius: What will it take to convince Jarl Balgruuf to end his neutrality?
  • Wulf: I warned Jarl Balgruuf that as soon as Alduin and his dragons were dispensed with, Ulfric would march on Whiterun. I will give him my word that Ulfric has made that move. Any correspondence from yourself that outlines your intelligence reports will also help convince him.
  • Rikke: What else will you do to convince him?
  • Wulf: I saved his city from a dragon and those other people, and I am his Thane. I will have my dragon allies scout and inform us of Stormcloak troop movements. It is not like Ulfric can instantly appear at the gates of Whiterun. Jarl Balgruuf will side with The Empire, and we will have plenty of time to garrison your troops and prepare a defence.
  • Tullius: What role do you intend to play, Dragonborn?
  • Wulf: This is your war to conduct, General Tullius. However, I do have some ideas for reducing the length of the war and minimising casualties.
  • Tullius: I am listening.
  • Wulf: I want to reduce the number of deaths on both sides. That is why I told those truths when flying over Windhelm. The more Stormcloaks that abandon his cause, the better for many reasons.
  • Tullius: Outline those reasons.
  • Wulf: The Dominion has been aiding Ulfric. They do not want him to win, but they want the civil war to reduce the number of troops facing them in the next Great War. Correspondence liberated from their embassy mentions The First Great War, which clearly states their intention to have another. Therefore, reducing casualties is paramount.
  • Rikke: Most of the Stormcloaks were Legionnaires. Some are veterans that would be worth many regular troops each if we faced The Dominion once more.
  • Tullius: There has been much speculation on who killed dozens at their embassy.
  • Wulf: It was me, General Tullius. I have been eliminating Thalmor wherever I can. However, they are not the problem confronting us at the moment. Oh, and so you know, it was First Emissary Elenwen in charge of Ulfric’s torture during The Great War.
  • Tullius: No wonder he hates her!
  • Wulf: The second reason I want to minimise troop losses is my duty as Champion of The Divines. I endeavour to save as many mortal lives as possible and believe most of the Stormcloaks will abandon Ulfric if given enough incentive. Ulfric has not defended himself against my accusations except to call me a liar and puppet of The Dominion. That is not good enough, and Stormcloaks will demand answers. Many will realise I speak the truth and go home as I suggested.
  • Rikke: How can any Divine worshipping Nord side with Ulfric against you? For Talos’ sake, you just saved everybody from Alduin! A Dragonborn is an ultimate warrior and hero to the Nords of Skyrim.
  • Wulf: Ulfric is slick of the tongue. He has used the usual methods of recruitment. He has appealed to the racist elements. He has promised a better future free of Imperial shackles. He has made himself the good guy and the Imperials as evil enslavers. Not all who wield a sword have the advantage of schooling or even literacy. They have presented falsehoods as facts, and the average citizen cannot prove them wrong, so they believe them.
  • Tullius: How do you propose we lessen the casualties and make more Stormcloaks go home?
  • Wulf: When they face me on the battlefield, the avatar of Shor will fight by my side. So not only do they face The Dragonborn, they will face the wrath of the god of their afterlife. Add that dragons will fight on my side, and the numbers who face us will be significantly diminished. Those things will make most of the Stormcloaks abandon Ulfric.
  • Tullius: Couldn’t you attack Ulfric’s forces before they reach Whiterun?
  • Wulf: As with The New Order, let an army face us outside the walls of Whiterun and know defeat before they reach them. Let the victory be Whiterun’s, not mine. Let it crush the morale of The Stormcloaks so that even more abandon Ulfric.
  • Rikke: How else can we make more Stormcloaks abandon him?

I stood before the map.

  • Wulf: Look at all the forts occupied by bandits and Forsworn! I have no hesitation slaughtering them and handing the forts to The Legion. The defence of Whiterun will happen according to Ulfric’s schedule. However, we can start taking over the forts and make the movement of Stormcloak troops far more hazardous. The more forts we take and garrison, the more tenuous Ulfric’s position becomes. If we do as I suggest, I think we will find skeleton garrisons defending the holds currently under Stormcloak control.
  • Tullius: Would you need Legion support to take over these forts?
  • Wulf: We could accomplish that task quickly without risking a single Legionnaire. However, it may be good to have combined forces on occasion for appearances’ sake. There must be troops ready to garrison them as we clear them.
  • Tullius: Legate Rikke, is there a particular fort that hinders our war effort?
  • Rikke: Most of them on the map, Sir. However, one close by, Fort Hraggstad, is a good start. The bandits there have been harassing our dispatchers and patrols.
  • Wulf: I have had a run-in with the bandits there. I did not have time to wipe them out then. It will be a pleasure to wipe them out now on behalf of The Empire.
  • Tullius: And you don’t need my soldiers to assist with this one?
  • Wulf: During The New Order invasion, the people you see with me thwarted many of their plans. They were once Blades, and now they are Dragonguard. They are experienced at fighting by my side and efficiently eliminating forces many times our number. We fought many battles in Akavir and have never lost. I will return in a couple of hours and report success.
  • Tullius: You know, I believe you will.

It was a fair walk to Fort Hraggstad, so encounters with suicidal bandits were inevitable. We didn’t expect the first to be within minutes of exiting Solitude’s front gates.

We quickly eliminated that idiot and continued.

Nafaalilargus was acting as scout.

We had passed Meridia’s temple and were close to an intersection when Nafaalilargus yelled, “Thalmor are fighting necromancers, and it seems some bandits from Meridia’s temple have joined in the melee. This will be fun!”

A Thalmor ran past me and was quickly dispatched by Taku. I doubt even Rigmor’s hatred for Thalmor approaches Taku’s in intensity.

Another Thalmor soldier came close, and I let Taku take care of her.

I ran towards a Justiciar.

And then I lopped her head off.

I like it when enemies fight each other. They cluster in tight groups, so Unrelenting Force kills many at once.

Nafaalilargus landed and roasted a few Necromancers and their undead minions.

It wasn’t long before we continued our stroll to Fort Hraggstad.

The last time I passed the fort, bandits waited in ambush and attacked. That was a signal for other bandits to sally forth from the fort. The same scenario repeated itself. Bandits attacked from one side of the road.

Bandits from the fort came running and attacked on the opposite side.

Too late for the bandits, they realised the best place to be was behind fort walls.

The slaughter was relentless. Thu’um, spell, arrow and sword were combined to kill without pause.

Nafaalilargus added to the bandit’s woes by roasting those on top of towers.

In minutes, every outside bandit was dead.

We then crashed through the door to Fort Hraggstad’s prison.

We eliminated all enemies in the prison block.

We then made our way to the main entrance of the fort.

There were only a handful of bandits left.

We killed the bandit leader last. He didn’t even put up a fight.

We then teleported inside Castle Dour and headed for the map room. Once there, we listened in on another heated discussion between Tullius and Rikke.

  • Tullius: Tell me again why I’m wasting men chasing after a fairy tale.
  • Rikke: It won’t be a fairy tale if Ulfric gets his hand on that crown. It’ll be a problem.
  • Tullius: Don’t you Nords put any stock in your own traditions? I thought the Moot chose the king. We’re backing Elisif. When the Moot meets, they’ll do the sensible thing.
  • Rikke: Not everyone’s agreed to the Moot. You’ve been here long enough to know that Nords aren’t always sensible. We follow our hearts.
  • Tullius: So what? Ulfric gets this crown, and then suddenly he’s High King?
  • Rikke: No, it’s not as simple as that, but the Jagged Crown would be a potent symbol for his cause to rally around. But if we found it first…
  • Tullius: And we gave it to Elisif?
  • Rikke: In the absence of the Moot, it would further legitimise her claim.
  • Tullius: Perhaps… I’m entrusting you with what resources I can spare. But I’m warning you, if this turns out to be a waste of time and men…
  • Rikke: It won’t be a waste.
  • Tullius: Make sure you ask The Dragonborn if he will assist.
  • Rikke: The Stonefist is no fool. He’s found the Crown. But we’ll get to it first.

I walked up to Rikke.

  • Wulf: Fort Hraggstad is all yours. We would have been quicker, but some Thalmor got in the way.
  • Rikke: Already? I thought your promise to return in a few hours was an idle boast.
  • Seiko: Wulf does not idly boast. What he does do is kill quickly and efficiently. We just try to keep up.
  • Rikke: Ah, okay, I will send a garrison soon.

I walked over to General Tullius.

  • Wulf: With all due respect, General Tullius, you must understand the Nord mentality. The Jagged Crown is symbolic and, therefore, of importance. I personally despise the Jagged Crown as it is made from the bones and teeth of my brothers.
  • Tullius: Brothers?
  • Wulf: Dragons, General Tullius. We share a celestial father in Lord Akatosh. That is not Nord nonsense but the lore of The Nine. Therefore, I regard male Dov as brothers and female Dov as sisters.
  • Tullius: Female dragons?
  • Rikke: One of them has defended Solitude against other dragons. Her name is Silah, and the citizens of Solitude adore her. They are not so fond of the big red one, though.
  • Wulf: His name is Nafaalilargus, and he is a Legionnaire. He is the dragon on the shields and flags of The Empire and was a close friend of Tiber Septim.
  • Tullius: I need to get out of this castle more often!
  • Wulf: The Jagged Crown was last worn by High King Borgas in 1E 369. He was killed, and the Jagged Crown lost when The Wild Hunt killed many on both sides as Borgas fought The Alessian Order. If there is a chance that Galmar Stone-Fist has located it, we should endeavour to recover it before he does.
  • Rikke: It is reportedly in Korvanjund.
  • Wulf: That makes sense since it supposedly contains the burial crypt of High King Borgas. Have your troops ever fought Draugr, Legate Rikke?
  • Rikke: No, and neither have I.
  • Wulf: There is a good chance Draugr will be encountered in Korvanjund. They tend to guard important corpses, whether asked to or not.
  • Tullius: Do you want to tackle Korvanjund by yourself, Dragonborn?
  • Wulf: No. It would be advantageous if The Stormcloaks knew The Legion beat Ulfric to the Jagged Crown. It will be more incentive for Stormcloaks to abandon him. Since powerful Draugr could decimate even the most disciplined Legionnaires, we shall come along.
  • Shouken: Might I also suggest that fighting beside The Dragonborn tends to create stories that will soon permeate your ranks and increase morale.
  • Tullius: Like a particular General who vanished soon after kicking The New Order in the nuts!
  • Wulf: Yes, just like The Guardian General. I often wonder what happened to him?
  • Tullius: Hopefully, you can explain why he had to vanish one day.
  • Wulf: It is part of a long-term strategy of The Divines.
  • Tullius: How long?
  • Wulf: Even they don’t know, General Tullius.
  • Tullius: So, one day, in the future, The Guardian General will return?
  • Wulf: Yes, and he hopes his armour still fits him when that happens!
  • Tullius: And what enemy will force his return?
  • Wulf: I have no idea. I know it will be trouble in Cyrodiil that makes him don his armour again.
  • Tullius: Terrific. I was going to stay in Skyrim after I retire anyway.
  • Wulf: Hopefully, it will be before you retire, General Tullius. I am not allowed to enter Cyrodiil till the problem occurs. Since that is a request by The Divines, I won’t ignore it.
  • Rikke: We will be heading for Korvanjund almost immediately.
  • Wulf: We will meet you there just after dawn.

I wanted to tell Jarl Elisif of my encounter with High King Torygg in Sovngarde.

I told Bashita, “Please inform Sakiya, Ishen, Omoi and Kogo that we will be leaving for Korvanjund at 6:00 AM.” I then dismissed The Dragonguard and headed for The Blue Palace.

A Palace Guard escorted me to Elisif’s quarters. She permitted me to enter.

Elisif greeted me with a smile.

She said, “Wulf, you continue to serve the people of Skyrim. Your defeat of Alduin will enter the history books and become a legend for bards to make coin retelling repeatedly.”

“I didn’t do it alone, my Jarl. I hope historians and bards remember that!”

“Your face tells me something is bothering you.”

“I am afraid of upsetting you once more, my Jarl.”

“You are never cruel, Wulf. It is up to me how I handle the truths spoken.”

Elisif’s smile was gone.

“It has to do with High King Torygg. Can we sit, please?”

“Yes, of course.”

We sat down. And I tried to explain what happened in plain Tamrielic, without gobblygook or mumbo jumbo.

I said, “As you know, Alduin was consuming the souls of the dead in Sovngarde. Not the ones already in The Hall of Valour, but new arrivals trying to reach the hall.”

“I can’t imagine how the families of the recently slain would react to not knowing if their loved ones were in their afterlife or gone forever. But High King Torygg was slain well before Alduin appeared in Helgen. Therefore, I had convinced myself his soul was not in danger.”

“Alduin created a fog in Sovngarde. The newly arrived souls would get confused and walk around for some time before giving up and staying in one place. It would have been terrifying not seeing Alduin but hearing him flying around and occasionally landing. When he landed, he consumed a soul. The souls we encountered had given up hope and waited for their doom. They lamented their fate to us.”

“Oh, the poor people! They arrived in what should be paradise and were thrust into a nightmare!”

“All the people lamented their fate but High King Torygg. He was murdered months ago, yet survived in that fog for all that time.”

“Oh!”

“The last omen of The Dragonborn Prophecy is ‘When the Snow Tower lies sundered, kingless, bleeding.’  When your husband was murdered, Alduin returned and immediately harvested souls in Sovngarde. Only when he had consumed enough Life Force did Alduin attack Helgen.”

“My poor Torygg endured that horror from the moment he died until now.”

“Yes, but I spoke to him, and he did not seem to have given up hope. I can tell you the exact words we spoke if you wish.”

“Please, Wulf. I would like that.”

“I bowed to him then said, ‘High King Torygg, it is an honour to meet you.’

He replied, ‘When Ulfric Stormcloak, with savage Shout, sent me here, my sole regret was fair Elisif, left forlorn and weeping.’

I told him, ‘I will avenge you. Jarl Elisif, soon to be High Queen Elisif, will find some solace in that.’

I saw the nobility in Torygg when he said, ‘I faced Ulfric fearlessly – my fate inescapable, yet my honour is unstained – can Ulfric say the same?’

I replied, ‘No, he cannot! His infamy will haunt his eternal soul. I hope self-loathing accompanies it.’”

Elisif smiled and said, “That language is archaic, but Torygg’s personality was on display. He would never complain about his problems but would talk endlessly about how to solve those facing his citizens and me. He was a man of honour, Wulf. Where most Nords wanted to earn their honour in battle, Torygg believed that greater honour can be found in honesty and serving the citizens of Skyrim.”

“He is what nobility is supposed to be, my Jarl. His smile was wide when I defeated Alduin, and he found his way to The Hall of Honour. He has reached his afterlife, and I thought you needed to know that.”

“I assumed he had but was never certain. Now I know for sure, and I thank you for this gift.”

“I wish people would stop thanking me for doing what is right!”

“Haha. What are you to do now that Alduin is gone?”

“Today, I offered my services to General Tullius. Ulfric will now lament how his men abandon him and his death marches towards him. He can’t stop us and will die without honour.”

“And what of Rigmor. May you two finally be allowed to be together?”

“Yes, my Jarl. We need to find excuses for her to be away from Bruma for extended periods.”

“Well, your museum opening is postponed until the civil war is over. I am sure if I invite Rigmor for the opening, she will have to stay at least a week.”

“That would be a marvellous thing, my Jarl. Now I shall take my leave. We have more fighting tomorrow, and hopefully, I can bring you a gift.”

“And what might that be?”

“The Jagged Crown. Even if uncomfortable and ugly, wearing it at court would send a clear message to Ulfric and The Stormcloaks. Jarl Elisif is the rightful High Queen of Skyrim.”

“Yes, that would make Ulfric have sleepless nights.”

I stood and bowed to Elisif and walked to the Safe House smiling. I had lightened Elisif’s heart, an unexpected but welcome outcome.

I needed to sleep but spent time giving Meeko a decent pat.

I crawled into bed and contacted Rigmor. We spent half an hour talking but were both exhausted. For some reason, neither of us had much sleep the night before. Rigmor had struggled all day as the monotony of her court threatened to plunge her into sleep. She fell asleep midsentence, and I soon followed.

The Dragonguard squad and I tiptoed as we prepared for the day. There was no need to awaken the entire household.

I teleported us to Whiterun stables.

We had hardly started our journey before encountering a horse thief. Unfortunately for him, he had tried to steal a trained warhorse.

The warhorse chased the thief and was determined to trample him into the dirt.

Kyne’s Peace makes most animals my ally. Some sheep saw what was happening and ran over to headbutt the thief.

We would have tackled and arrested the thief but drew his weapon.

That was a mistake on his part. I killed him.

The warhorse gave me a look of approval, and the sheep returned to their paddock.

The horse’s owner, a professional guard hired by travelling merchants, thanked us profusely before hugging his horse. The Dragonguard with me might be hardened warriors, but I saw glints of tears at this simple reunion of two souls.

There was a surprising number of travellers since dawn was yet to break.

A Khajiit bandit had been hiding in long grass, waiting for a suitable target to pass by. Unfortunately for him, a cow and peacock decided he was a danger to their friend, The Dragonborn.

I helped the animals by thrusting my sword through the bandit’s middle. Then his accomplices across the river attacked us.

Unrelenting Force took care of many bandits.

Nafaalilargus took care of many more.

I Blinked across the river. The last two bandits fell to my sword.

I Blinked back, and we continued on our journey.

After some time, I turned to The Dragonguard.

I explained, “We shall cut across the grasslands and save some time. Those bandits have put us behind schedule.”

Kogo asked, “Isn’t that risking attacks from wild beasts?”

“No, Kogo. Kyne’s Peace is in effect.”

“Oh, yeah. Let’s go then.”

We hadn’t gone much further when another dragon decided to lose his soul. From high above came the challenge, “Dovahkiin, I am Junrathstrun. Let us see whose Thu’um prevails.” I didn’t bother replying.

Junrathstrun was a very toothy Storm Dragon.

He landed and knocked several of my friends over.