Loredas, 18th Frostfall, 4E 201
As soon as I stepped into Proudspire Manor, Olette came running from her bedroom.
She stood in front of me, unsure what my reaction might be.
- Wulf: Olette, you are the prettiest girl in all of Solitude!
- Olette: I don’t think so, Cap’n.
- Wulf: Nonsense, I will have to tell Meeko to chase away the suitors.
- Olette: A girl my age doesn’t have suitors.
- Celestine: You are wrong on that count, Olette!
- Wulf: Do you like your braided pigtail?
- Olette: Yeah! It took Celestine ages to do it!
- Celestine: That is because you are a fidget.
- Olette: Am not!
- Celestine: Am too!
- Lydia: I love Olette’s dress, Wulf. However, we had Radiant Raiment remove the bustle. I don’t think an eleven-year-old need be concerned with Cyrodiil’s trends.
- Olette: The bustle was silly! Why wear something that makes your arse look bigger than Silah’s?
- Wulf: I have placed our lutes where the bards are in case you stop being a chicken.
- Olette: I am not a chicken. I just don’t think I am good enough.
- Wujeeta: What did Viarmo say to you?
- Olette: He said that if I were older, he would be glad to have me train at The Bards College.
- Wujeeta: He also said you have exceptional natural talent. You are good enough to perform in front of people.
- Olette: But the queen will be there!
- Wulf: Jarl Elisif is not the High Queen yet, Olette. The Moot has to meet and vote for her. Then the coronation has to occur.
- Iona: We teleport there, Wulf. Every Dragonguard will be in position by the time you and Olette arrive.
- Jordis: The Penitus Oculatus will be the visible security. I guarantee none of the guests will be aware The Dragonguard are providing hidden security.
- Wulf: Good, because I want the guests to relax. Too many guards can make people nervous.
- Iona: Vulwulf Snow-Shod is a bitter man, Wulf.
- Wulf: I expect some unpleasant words will spew from his mouth. I promise to be diplomatic.
- Olette: He wouldn’t wreck Vittoria’s wedding by picking a fight, would he Cap’n?
- Wulf: I doubt it. However, I will have to choose my words carefully to avoid antagonising him.
- Wujeeta: Wulf, when are we moving to the new house?
- Wulf: Probably tomorrow. I will take a squad in the morning and remove any bandits along the route from Whiterun. That will allow the craftsman, timber and merchants to arrive safely.
- Olette: It will be fun redecorating the house!
- Wulf: I hope so, and it will surprise me when I return from Solstheim.
- Olette: If we have finished. You might come back to a big mess.
- Wujeeta: The craftsman will soon learn not to leave a mess.
- Olette: Otherwise, you will beat them with a broomstick!
- Wujeeta: While smiling. It always works better if you smile while whacking them.
- Wulf: Come, Olette, it’s time.
We exited Proudspire Manor, and Olette exclaimed, “Cap’n, this dress makes a swishing sound when I walk. How cool is that?”
“I think I left you alone with Rigmor for too long yesterday morning. You are starting to sound like her.”
“Yeah, that is cool as well!”
The wedding was being held just outside The Temple of The Divines. On arrival, I could see unpleasantness brewing. Vulwulf Snow-Shod, the groom’s father, argued with Alexia Vici, the bride’s mother. Kayd, a Redguard child, and Nura Snow-Shod, mother of the groom, looked worried.
I listened to see if I should intervene.
- Vulwulf: Typical Imperial rot. You speak of Skyrim like you know the land, know its people. You’re from Cyrodiil! You know nothing about us! Nothing!
- Alexia: Oh, I know enough. I know those trouble-making Stormcloaks refused to submit to Imperial authority. Such seditious behaviour. It was treason!”
- Vulwulf: And when the elves marched into your beloved Cyrodiil, and everyone took up arms against them, wasn’t that treason? Against the Dominion? Huh?
- Alexia: That was not the same thing at all! The Dominion were invaders. Conquerors. We had to fight them to preserve our way of life.
- Vulwulf: My point exactly.
What a load of bollocks! I had to say something, so we stepped into the conversation.
- Wulf: Vulwulf, please tell me, what would have happened if Emperor Titus Mede II had not agreed to The White-Gold Concordat?
- Vulwulf: We would have kept fighting and won!
- Wulf: No, you wouldn’t have won. The Empire was running out of resources and men. The Dominion were concerned about possible insurrections in Elsweyr and Valenwood and wanted to end The Great War swiftly. If Mede had not signed The White-Gold Concordat, The Dominion would have thrown all its resources into crushing what was left of The Legions. Your way of life would have been permanently extinguished. On the other hand, The Empire has not interfered with your way of life at all.
- Alexia: What have you got to say to that, huh?
- Wulf: Please, Lady Vici, let me talk to Vulwulf without interruption.
- Alexia: Hmph!
- Vulwulf: The elves would never have conquered Skyrim!
- Wulf: It is a fallacy to think Skyrim could have defended itself against The Dominion in the aftermath of The Great War. Recently, it took the combined armies of The Empire and Stormcloaks to stop The New Order. The Dominion will invade again, and without The Empire’s help, Skyrim would be conquered!
- Vulwulf: Why are we talking when I am not interested in what you have to say? You are a traitor, liar and blasphemer!
- Wulf: Priestess Nura, am I a blasphemer?
- Nura: No, you are, as you say, The Champion of the Divines. Talos never told a priest or priestess that he wanted us to fight for the right to worship him.
- Wulf: And can you still worship Talos?
- Nura: Yes, as you have said before, and as I tell others, as long as we hold Talos in our heart, he is worshipped.
- Wulf: Vulwulf, I do not lie, and Ulfric did not defend himself against my accusations. He was everything I said, and when I killed him, he was not wearing an Amulet of Talos. There was no sign of Talos worship within The Palace of the Kings. Ulfric cared nothing for Talos.
- Vulwulf: And I am supposed to believe you speak to Talos?
- Wulf: I don’t care what you believe. If I did, I would drag you to Aetherius and watch you whimper in the realm of the gods. As for being a traitor, I am loyal to The Divines and all the people of Nirn. I don’t favour one species over another. On the other hand, you are a traitor to The Empire whose soldiers have bled on countless battlefields. It is their deaths that brought the freedom which you use to spread hatred.
- Olette: Why are you so angry at your son’s wedding?
- Vulwulf: They say this marriage is the first step towards peace. Pfft! Who in Shor’s name wants peace?
- Wulf: Who wants peace? The Nine and Lord Shor want peace. I know this because I speak to our gods, including Lord Talos. They guide me in my actions.
- Olette: I want peace.
- Wulf: Vulwulf, look at the children running in the streets of Solitude and Riften. Most of them are orphans of wars here and elsewhere. If not an orphan, a child prays they never become one. Khajiiti, Orsimer, Nord, Foresworn, Imperial, Breton, Altmer and Bosmer play together. They are some of the people who want and deserve peace. I will continue to kill those who won’t grant them peace with Shor’s avatar beside me and the blessing of The Nine.
- Vulwulf: What about my Lilija? She wanted peace. Lilija joined the Stormcloaks many years ago when the first skirmishes broke out across Skyrim. I was so proud of her. She served as a Battle Maiden, using her healing arts to help those that fell on the battlefield. She never even lifted a blade in her life. It didn’t matter. The Imperial soldiers cut her down. They killed her like a dog and left her body to rot in the mud. And that’s why I swore not to rest easy until every single Imperial soldier joined her, and Ulfric sat upon the throne of Skyrim.
- Wulf: Do you have witnesses to what happened to Lilijia in battle?
- Vulwulf: Well, no.
- Wulf: Then you do not know how she died in the chaos of battle! How many parents, lovers, spouses, friends and siblings are mourning loved ones killed during the civil war? You are not unique in your grief, Vulwulf. However, you are a member of a small band of agitators. They are people who want to hold a grudge and perpetuate the hatred and violence that led to their loved one’s death. Blame Ulfric Stormcloak for Lilija’s death, not the brave Legionnaires who fought against his lust for power.
- Olette: Would Lilija want more violence?
- Nura: No, little one, Lilija would not want more violence. What is your name?
- Olette: I am Olette Welkynd, Wulf’s daughter. He adopted me yesterday. He knows more about war than anybody and has killed many people. I want peace so I don’t have to worry about him or my friends fighting and dying. Wulf wants peace so I can grow up without having to kill or see loved ones killed.
- Kayd: War is stupid. I play with the orphan children to try and make them happy. They laugh, but you can see the sadness in their eyes. Some are orphans of Stormcloaks, and others are orphans of Legion soldiers. They don’t squabble or hate each other.
- Wulf: Everybody needs to understand that the civil war is over. This marriage symbolises the unity that is needed going forward. The Empire do not rip down Talos shrines and statues or arrest worshippers. The real enemy, The Dominion, do those things. Only united will we defeat their inevitable declaration of war and invasion. Come, Olette, let’s talk to the bride and groom.
The number of guests was small compared to what it should be. Skyrim was slowly returning to normal after the civil war, and most of those invited could not travel to Solitude in time. Vittoria and Asgeir knew that would be the case, but they wanted the marriage to happen as soon as possible. The assassination plot against Mede and Vittoria was not common knowledge, so there was bound to be some grumbling about His Royal Majesty’s absence. However, travelling from The Imperial City takes weeks, so even if Mede wanted to attend, the betrothed did not want to wait that long. Vittoria knew the risk was increased because it was an open-air wedding. She did not want her first cousin, Emperor Titus Mede II, to share that risk.
Olette and I stood before the beaming couple. I envied their ability to wed. One day Rigmor and I will do the same, but how long must we wait? How long must we hide our love when it should be celebrated?
- Wulf: Lady Vici, Asgeir, I envy you this day.
- Olette: That’s because Wulf can’t find anybody who can hold their breath long enough to marry him.
- Wulf: I could have left you at home.
- Olette: I would have escaped and come here anyway.
- Vittoria: I am sure, Lady Welkynd, that your father has many admirers in Solitude.
- Olette: Yeah, Wulf scrubs up okay, I guess.
- Asgeir: Well, aren’t you a pretty thing? Should my new bride be worried? Hehehe.
- Olette: Pretty and very adept with my stabber, if you catch my drift.
- Wulf: Asgeir was joking.
- Olette: I know, Cap’n, so was I. I prefer using the swords you gave me.
- Vittoria: Lady Welkynd, I think you will do well when dealing with the nobles of Tamriel. Perhaps I should have learnt to use a sword?
- Asgeir: That would endear you to Father. He has never forgiven me for not being a warrior.
- Wulf: Your business partner is Maven Black-Briar. Dealing with her takes a lot of courage.
- Asgeir: Maven doesn’t seem as pleased with her elevation to Jarl as I thought she would be.
- Wulf: I hate to speak politics at your wedding, Asgeir, but Maven is not fit to be Jarl and knows that when I get the chance, I will build a case against her. You have earned your money through honest dealings, but Maven has not.
- Asgeir: I hear rumours, but if you find proof of shady dealings, I may reconsider my investment in Black-Briar Meadery.
- Olette: Lady Vici, they are talking about boring stuff.
- Vittoria: I know. We should be gossiping about some of the guests!
- Olette: I would like to thank you for allowing the beggars, children and orphans to enjoy a feast later.
- Asgeir: Many people in Riften, including me, are embarrassed about the state the orphanage was in and how Grelod was considered a joke when in reality, she was pure evil. Since then, we have been far more conscious of the plight of orphans. The money your father donated has made a vast improvement to Honourhall Orphanage. Spending some of my money to feed the unfortunate of Solitude is a tiny step in my redemption. I have also sent some cooks and food to Honourhall so they too can celebrate this special day. It is a day of reconciliation.
- Vittoria: I see Noster Eagle-Eye hasn’t waited for that feast. He should not be in rags. Divines bless him.
- Wulf: His lost eye does not stop him from making a living, Lady Vici. However, he is mentally scarred from war and being left for dead on the battlefield. Unfortunately, The Legion is slow in recognising such things as equally disabling as physical trauma. Therefore, his military pension is not as big as it should be. I might offer Noster a position on my new estate. No veteran should have to beg. He deserves some dignity and a chance to feel useful once more.
- Olette: Many beggars are not right in the head. None of them is lazy or wants to be on the streets.
- Asgeir: Your new estate is Silverpeak Lodge, isn’t it? Purchased at a bargain price, I believe.
- Wulf: Yes, Silverpeak Lodge is my new estate. The price was low as it wasn’t quite finished when Sir Fenaardlan Imbrine’s older brother died in a joust. Sir Imbrine accepted his brother’s titles and returned to High Rock to manage his family’s businesses and estates.
- Vittoria: Sir Imbrine initially settled in Skyrim to avoid the rather bloody politics of that province. Ironically, his brother was not killed by an assassin or in a battle. He was killed in that strange form of entertainment enjoyed by our Breton friends.
- Wulf: So now he, his six children and charming wife are in the thick of those politics.
- Olette: There is that word again.
- Vittoria: Politics?
- Olette: Boring!
- Vittoria: You are now a minor noble, Lady Welkynd. You may have to stay awake and learn about politics.
- Wulf: After all, I have to find you a suitable husband for political gain!
- Olette: I would soon be a widow, Cap’n. That is, if your choice lived long enough to say the vows.
- Vittoria: Haha. Yes, Lady Welkynd, you will do well!
- Asgeir: Lady Welkynd, you remind me of my sister, Lilija. She would never use a sword or a stabber, but her tongue was as sharp as yours.
- Olette: Do you blame Imperials for Lilija’s death?
- Asgeir: No, those who dug beneath the surface knew what Ulfric was, including Lilija. She went to war to help the injured, not to further Ulfric’s selfish ambitions. Mother realised too late what the civil war was about. The Dragonborn’s accusations and challenge convinced her of Ulfric’s ulterior motives. Father will come around, eventually.
- Wulf: Asgeir, your wedding will further the cause of peace and reconciliation. I think it is a beautiful way to honour Lilija and all who fell victim to a senseless war.
- Asgeir: Thank you, Wulf. That is what we hope to achieve.
- Wulf: Jarl Elisif and her entourage have arrived, and I see Priest Rorlund is anxious to start the ceremony. So come, Olette, let us find an excellent spot to watch the ceremony.
- Olette: Oh bollocks, I mean, bother, it looks like we will have to stand!
- Wulf: When you became a noble, did your legs fall off?
- Olette: Shall I kick you in the goolies and prove they are still attached?
- Vittoria: Well said, Lady Welkynd! You are already an expert at Skyrim politics.
- Asgeir: If you kick anybody in the nether region, start with Thane Erikur.
- Olette: Why?
- Vittoria: Politics.
- Olette: Yawn!
- Vittoria: I couldn’t agree more.
We moved away, and Rorlund asked for quiet as he moved in front of the bride and groom. A hush fell over the crowd as he turned towards the couple. They stepped down from the dais and stood for the ceremony.
Rorlund used the traditional vows of Skyrim, not one of the more complex forms preferred in Cyrodiil and High Rock. He changed some wording since we were not in a temple or before a Shrine of Mara.
“It was Mara that first gave birth to all of creation and pledged to watch over us as her children. It is from her love of us that we first learned to love one another. It is from this love that we learn that a life lived alone is no life at all. We gather here today, under The Nine’s loving gaze, to bear witness to the union of two souls in eternal companionship. May they journey forth together in this life and the next, in prosperity and poverty, and in joy and hardship.”
As per Skyrim tradition, the bride answers the vows first in a mixed-gender marriage. If those being married are of the same gender, they arrange the order before the ceremony.
“Do you, Vittoria Vici, agree to be bound together, in love, now and forever?”
In a solid and confident voice, Vittoria answered, “I do! Now and forever!”
“Do you, Asgeir Snow-Shod, agree to be bound together, in love, now and forever.”
Asgeir stared at his bride and said, “I do! Now and forever!”
Rorlund reached into his pocket and retrieved the wedding bands.
He announced, “Under the authority of Mara, The Divine of Love, I declare this couple to be wed. I present these rings to the two of you, blessed by Mara’s divine grace. May they protect each of you in your new life together.”
The wedding bands were given to Rorlund before the ceremony and blessed by a Priest or Priestess of Mara. Unlike other provinces, Skyrim wedding bands tend to be simple and elegant. It is considered bad taste to spend a fortune on a wedding band, no matter how wealthy you are. Often, the rings are family heirlooms taken from the finger of a deceased relative, and many were never intended to be used as a wedding band. This tradition is scoffed at by the nobles of Cyrodiil and High Rock.
If a couple is poor, the temple of the officiating priest or priestess will provide simple gold rings, sometimes with a gem inset, free of charge. The rings symbolise eternal love, the now and forever part of the vows. Most nobles of Cyrodiil and High Rock treat wedding bands as a chance to show wealth, not as a symbol of commitment. But that is to be expected when most noble marriages in those provinces have nothing to do with love and everything to do with status and politics.
Rorlund said, “Lady Snow-Shod wishes to speak to you from the balcony. Please be patient while the couple makes their way there.”
Many conversations were held in hushed tones as Vittoria and Asgeir made their way to the balcony. They would pass by several Dragonguard whose presence remained unknown to most guests. Vittoria asked them to guard the wedding, and Commander Maro was more than pleased to accept their assistance. The investigation into the assassination contract was still in its infancy, and it is unknown if other guilds, such as The Morag Tong, have been approached. Very few people know of the assassination plot. Fewer think that Amaund Motierre was the sole plotter. Elisif was told of the plot as she, too, is related to His Imperial Majesty and is of high noble rank. When I informed Jarl Elisif of The Dragonguard’s role at the wedding, she told me it would make her feel safer.
The conversations ceased as soon as the newly married couple stepped onto the balcony. The only noise was that of the city.
I used Zoom-Vision and could see the love in Asgeir’s eyes as Vittoria spoke.
“Honoured guests, I just wanted to take this time to thank you all for being here. Thank you for sharing this wonderfully happy day with my new husband and me.
Are you all enjoying yourselves? Please, eat, drink, and make merry on this happiest of days.
My husband, Asgeir, and I thank you for coming to our reception. We thank you for sharing our love for each other and making this the best wedding a woman could ask for.
May you all be as happy in your lives as I know I will be in mine. Thank you again for everything.”
Vittoria’s little speech was met with hoorahs and clapping from everybody except the bride and groom’s parents.
The guests started mingling as the couple left the balcony to return to their seats. Laughter and good-hearted chatter were rampant, the exception being the parents of the bride and groom. They sat alone and brooding, and I felt like yelling at them. Instead, I tried being diplomatic. But just in case, I sent Olette away to do some mingling by herself.
I approached Vulwulf and stated, “This must be a proud day for you, seeing your son marry his beloved Vittoria.”
“I still think my boy should have had a traditional Nord wedding. Outside, in the cool mountain air.”
“Most Nords in Skyrim get married in temples. All Nords in Cyrodiil marry in temples. In what era were Nord marriages performed outside? You seem to be grappling for things to whine about.”
“Yes, well, my boy always did have an eye out for the pretty ones. That Vittoria ain’t bad for an Imperial.”
“I think Asgeir looked beyond that shallow consideration when he fell in love with Vittoria. She is a wonderful and kind person who looks after her employees even when times are difficult. That includes her many Argonian employees in Winterhold suffering under Nord bigotry. Vittoria has not let her wealth change who she is. It is a wealth she has worked hard to accumulate. Being a first cousin to His Imperial Majesty did her no favours.”
“My boy just married a gods-forsaken Imperial. Skyrim is full of eager Nord women, and he beds down with the enemy!”
“Talos was not a Nord. I am The Dragonborn, and I am not a Nord. The Guardian General is not a Nord. When a Nord bends over, sunshine does not stream from their arse! You show disrespect to Asgeir and future grandchildren by continuing this mindless bigotry. Lilija would be ashamed of you! I suggest you think long and hard about what is important, Vulwulf Snow-Shod!”
I walked away from Vulwulf before succumbing to the temptation and beating some sense into him. I approached Alexia Vici, who had a smirk on her face. She had been listening in on our conversation.
I asked, “Lady Vici, are you pleased with the wedding?”
“What my daughter sees in that… barbarian, I’ll never know. The thought of paying a dowry to that, that… Stormcloak turns my stomach.”
“Asgeir is not a Stormcloak. Nords are not barbarians. They do not need your money, so I suggest you choke on the dowry but do so away from the married couple. Then they and you will be much happier.”
“Do you expect me to be ecstatic? I’ve just lost my daughter to a Nord beast, and my nephew Titus is too busy playing Emperor even to show up!”
“In the immediate aftermath of two major conflicts, you expect His Imperial Majesty to spend weeks travelling here for a wedding? Do you expect him to abandon his responsibilities to all the citizens of The Empire? Because his cousin is getting married? You whine and complain and are as bigoted as Vulwulf. Therefore, I offer you the same advice. I suggest you think long and hard about what is important, Lady Vici!”
I sighed in frustration and walked over to Nura Snow-Shod.
“Please tell me, Priestess Nura, that you are pleased with the wedding.”
“If my Asgeir is happy, then I’m happy.”
“That is good to hear.”
“My only concern is how thin Vittoria is. Vittoria may be pretty, but does she have the right hips for the job? I want grandchildren and lots of them!”
“You will be glad to know that Imperials have as many healthy births as Nords despite their lack of bestial, barbarian blood and full hips!”
‘Is your sarcasm another Divine Gift?”
“Sarcasm is an art form I have worked hard to grow and perfect. No Divine has gifted it to me.”
“I will have a good long talk with Vulwulf. It is about time he started living by the Ten Commands of The Nine Divines.”
“The priests and priestesses of The Nine will have an important role in maintaining the peace paid for in blood. Blessings of The Divines, Priestess Nura.”
I felt a bit more optimistic after speaking to Nura. Hopefully, the voices of reason and reconciliation will drown out the whiners like Vulwulf and Lady Vici.
I observed Olette and was pleased to see her comfortable amongst commoners and nobles. When I asked if she wanted me to adopt her, she explained it would give her a sense of belonging. We don’t know if the man who sired her is still alive, but he lost all parental rights when he left Olette and her mother penniless. She doesn’t yet know the identity of my parents, but I have no doubt the question will come. Jarl Elisif was delighted to sign the documents declaring Olette to be my daughter. If Rigmor and I marry, Olette becomes her daughter under Imperial law.
Vivienne Otis was not mingling, but that was due to shyness, not petulance. She smiled as I approached her.
I asked, “Did you enjoy the ceremony, Vivienne?”
“Yes, it was much more to the point than the tedious ones in High Rock. It was nice to see a marriage based on love, not politics.”
“I think there will be a surge in marriages. Soldiers who were hesitant before they went to war will want to celebrate life now that they have survived.”
“I love weddings. I haven’t found my special someone yet, but hope remains. Vittoria is, well, getting up in years….”
“You have to talk to people to find your partner, Vivienne. However, the pickings at this wedding are, due to circumstance, a bit thin. Circulate and chat. Who knows, somebody here might lead you to that special someone.”
“I shall try, but my shyness is a terrible thing.”
I walked over to Olette, who had been chatting to Thane Bryling and Noster Eagle-Eye.
- Wulf: Olette, I am about to sing a couple of songs. Will you also perform?
- Olette: Okay. I mean, what is the worst that could happen?
- Wulf: People might collapse with blood dripping from their ears.
- Olette: Thanks for the confidence boost, Cap’n.
- Wulf: Thane Bryling, now the war is over, perhaps you and Falk can finally stop hiding.
- Bryling: I don’t know what you are talking about!
- Wulf: I have noticed how you look at each other. The rumours in court are rife, and it is apparent to me they are true.
- Bryling: Shhh! If Erikur hears of it, he will demand Falk be removed from his position!
- Wulf: Erikur will do no such thing. To do so would invite a close look into his business activities, and he doesn’t want that. Besides, who would the soon-to-be High Queen Elisif the Fair remove from her court if the choice was Falk or Erikur?
- Olette: Nobody has asked for my opinion, but here it is. I am kinda following this with all the hints. I am also very good at gathering information, as Wulf knows. Therefore, I think you, Thane Bryling, and Falk Firebeard are lovers. Falk has been indispensable to Jarl Elisif after High King Torygg was murdered. Erikur, on the other hand, is probably a crook not fit for a High Queen’s court. Would Jarl Elisif remove people whose crime is falling in love or a shady Thane that nobody likes? Everybody knows Erikur tries to get into the knickers of any young female, married or not. He flaunts his wealth and does nothing to help the needy. As a landlord, he is universally despised by his tenants. You should hear some of the things his sister, Gisli, says about him!
- Wulf: You must admire how children can cut through the crap and speak the plain truth!
- Bryling: That was a remarkably cohesive argument, Lady Welkynd.
- Olette: Thank you.
- Bryling: Falk would insist on resigning due to stubborn Nord pride and sense of decency. We have been discrete as Elisif has depended on Falk, and he is afraid of what influence Erikur would have without him to counter his greed.
- Wulf: What would be his reaction if Elisif told Falk that it is wrong to abandon her when she needs him the most?
- Bryling: Falk would stay, as duty would overcome the pride and propriety arguments.
- Wulf: Due to the civil war, Dragon War and New Order invasion, many people have lost the opportunity to marry their beloved. Nobody can predict when tragedy may occur. Love should not be squandered and if Falk is the one for you, seize the opportunity before another crisis hits.
- Olette: Well done, Cap’n. Let us motivate people by depressing them first.
- Bryling: Your father’s advice is good. Sometimes the truth is harsh, Lady Welkynd.
- Olette: Oh, I am well aware of that.
- Wulf: Okay, Olette, time to dazzle the public with our exceptional talent.
- Olette: You first, and then I will look so much better in contrast.
- Bryling: I can see who is in charge in the Welkynd household!
- Wulf: Wujeeta.
- Olette: Yes, Wujeeta is in charge.
- Bryling: Wujeeta?
- Wulf: Wujeeta is our Argonian housekeeper.
- Olette: But I am second in charge!
Thane Bryling laughed as we approached the bards. Jarl Elisif stood close to them, listening to the music and observing the crowd. We stopped to say hello to her.
- Wulf: Enjoying the wedding, my Jarl?
- Elisif: Oh yes, they are always worth attending when love is the motivator, not politics.
- Olette: Do you know about Falk and Thane Bryling?
- Wulf: Olette!
- Olette: What? It is a problem that needs solving, and all this talk of love makes that obvious.
- Elisif: Yes, Olette, I know of their affection for each other. However, I will wait for them to approach me with the issue. We must convince Thane Erikur that I have been ignorant of the situation. Otherwise, he will accuse me of favouritism.
- Olette: And would being the High Queen change the politics?
- Wulf: I thought politics was boring?
- Olette: Solving a puzzle is not boring, and this is a puzzle.
- Elisif: Yes, Olette, becoming High Queen would change the politics. Every noble has to keep the next rung below them happy and amicable. Jarls have to keep their thanes happy. The High King or Queen has to keep the jarls happy. The Emperor has to keep the kings and queens of the provinces happy as well as The Elder Council members.
- Olette: Would Falk’s position in your court change?
- Elisif: Indeed, a valued councillor is of more importance to a High King or Queen than a Thane. If the Moot votes me to be High Queen, I will remain Jarl of Haafingar. However, my decisions would have to be seen as fair and not biased toward this Hold. Since Thane Erikur’s investments are centred around Haafingar, his advice would be biased.
- Olette: So, if you were to tell one of them to, ahh, get lost, it would be Erikur?
- Elisif: I would never tell a trusted colleague to get lost just because they fell in love. Only shallow people like Thane Erikur would find fault with Falk and Thane Bryling.
- Olette: Does Erikur believe you are a young woman who can’t think for yourself? Therefore, he would think Falk would give advice favouring Thane Bryling, and you would not be wise enough to realise.
- Elisif: Oh, my, you are good at this boring politics, young lady!
- Wulf: Erikur doesn’t realise that Jarl Elisif was not just High King Torygg’s beloved wife but also his chief advisor.
- Olette: But that advice was given in private so that High King Torygg seemed to be the person with the ideas.
- Elisif: Lady Welkynd, how has somebody of your young age grasped such intricacies?
- Olette: When living on the streets of Riften, I sold information to earn a few septims. Knowing the political and other alliances in the city was important. I found people’s motivations easy to discern once I understood the games they play. That enabled me to select the correct targets to snoop on and to who to sell the information.
- Elisif: It was a skill honed by need.
- Olette: Yes. My motivation was to feed Mother and pay for her Skooma. Some children joined The Thieves Guild and learned different skills, while others sold their bodies and learnt no skills. Some children tried to make a living as snitches and had their throats cut for the effort. I had to be good for more than just my survival.
- Elisif: Did you ever find time to be a little girl?
- Olette: I never had the time nor the money, Jarl Elisif. But I am still a child and can relate to their needs and wants. Wulf has let me be a child inside these walls, which is possible because I don’t have to earn a living. We will house orphans at the new estate, so I can continue to be a child.
- Wulf: And when you are a child, Olette, you no longer have to sound like an adult.
- Olette: I ain’t lost me street talk, Cap’n. But that don’t change what’s in me noggin!
- Elisif: I heard a rumour you will be singing for us, Lady Welkynd.
- Olette: Oh, I see. Wulf told you so you could put pressure on me to perform.
- Elisif: Haha. Well, if I ask you to sing, will that pressure you?
- Olette: No need, Jarl Elisif. I will happily sing for you, and maybe some of the guests might stop nattering long enough to listen as well.
- Elisif: I look forward to it.
Olette continued chatting with Elisif as I approached the bards. Lodi was busy playing his flute, so I spoke to Pantea Ateia.
“Are you enjoying the wedding, Bard Pantea?”
“I am, thank you, Thane Welkynd. I do so enjoy singing at weddings. It’s just one of the many duties we at the Bards College are called upon to perform.”
“Olette and I appreciate being asked to do a small set of songs.”
“After I heard you in The Winking Skeever, I have been keen to hear more and wonder if you have more provincial songs not often heard in Skyrim. As for Olette, she is a natural talent we are keen to nurture.”
“I think you will enjoy Six Ribbons. It is usually performed with a male main vocal and a female aiding the chorus. However, Olette’s voice is not quite in the range required. Still, I will improvise and see how it goes.”
Lodi finished his song and then nodded, giving me the stage.
I started with Six Ribbons, a folk song from Roscrea.
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- If I were a merchant, I’d bring you six diamonds
- With six blood red roses for my love to wear
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- If I were a nobleman, I’d bring you six carriages
- And six snow-white horses to take you anywhere
- If I were The Emperor, I’d build you six palaces
- With six hundred servants for comforting fare
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- So be not afraid, my love, you’re never alone, my love
- While you wear my ribbons to tie back your hair
- I was a simple man, a poor common farmer
- I gave you six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- Too-ra-lee, too-ra-lie, all I could share
- Were only six ribbons to tie back your hair
That song, as I expected, received a healthy round of applause. It has always been one of my favourites.
I next sang ‘A Neired Stole My Husband’.
- A nereid stole my husband
- My husband a nereid stole
- Beware the maids of the Seastrand
- Lest you be the next that we console.
- We strolled blithely along the shore
- Gathering shells and turning stones
- When came the voice I now deplore
- A voice, a song, such soaring tones!
- At once, my husband quickly sped
- ‘Wait!’ I cried, ‘’Tis a nereid!’
- But faster still, he pressed ahead
- Her sweet call could not be gainsaid.
- Too late, alas, alas, too late
- I found him swaying, deep in thrall
- My worst fear sent to me by fate
- He followed the nereid’s call.
- And she, beautiful, cruel, and vain
- Swam to her sisters, calling this back,
- ‘Your husband was no prize to gain;
- He’s yours once more, Lady Crookback!’
- A nereid stole my husband
- Returning him without delay
- Poor me, near free from his demands
- Stuck instead with him since that day!
Laughter followed then Vittoria called out, “They wouldn’t return Asgeir!” which added to the merriment.
My last song was ‘Frelytte and Pular’.
- Sweet Frelytte the Fair
- Hair the colour of hay,
- Like spun gold and honey
- Bright sun at midday.
- She loved a boy named Pular
- And he loved her, too.
- As fiercely as ice entombs lakes,
- As surely as spring melts through.
- Her mouth as red as snowberries,
- His hands calloused and true.
- He left to hunt an ice wraith, saying
- ‘I’ll become worthy of you.’
- After four nights of waiting,
- Frelytte rode into the snow.
- The mountains howled with darkness,
- The moon sank ever so low.
- But soon her horse grew tired,
- The cold did lull her to sleep.
- She curled up beneath a tree,
- Until the storm buried her deep.
- Pular returned triumphantly,
- He’d killed the wraith as he foretold.
- He stopped at the base of a tree,
- Where he saw a tuft of gold.
- He brushed away the snow, found her
- Pale as cream and cold as death.
- But The Divines smiled on their love,
- And when he kissed her, she drew breath.
- ‘I’ve slain the beast,’ Pular proudly cried,
- And Frelytte wept tears of joy.
- Hand in hand, they ran home to marry,
- Theirs was a love that winter could not destroy.
To generous applause, I stood aside, and Olette nervously took my place. Lodi stood behind Olette with his flute as he would accompany Olette’s lute.
Olette was uncomfortable singing love songs, so she sang two songs about Alduin.
The first was ‘The Tale of the Tongues’.
- Alduin’s wings, they did darken the sky. His roar fury’s fire and his scales sharpened scythes.
- Men ran, and they cowered, and they fought, and they died. They burned, and they bled as they issued their cries.
- We need saviours to free us from Alduin’s rage. Heroes on the field of this new war to wage.
- And if Alduin wins, man is gone from this world. Lost in the shadow of the black wings unfurled.
- But then came the Tongues on that terrible day. Steadfast as winter, they entered the fray.
- And all heard the music of Alduin’s doom. The sweet song of Skyrim, sky-shattering Thu’um.
- And so, the Tongues freed us from Alduin’s rage. Gave the gift of The Voice ushered in a new age.
- If Alduin is eternal, then eternity is done. For his story is over, and the dragons are gone.
I watched and listened and was not so proud as I was in awe. There was stunned silence from the guests, which turned into cheers and clapping. Olette beamed, and her nerves vanished.
Olette updated ‘Song of the Dragonborn’ to past tense and sang it beautifully.
- Dragonborn, Dragonborn,
- By his honour is sworn,
- To keep evil forever at bay!
- And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph’s shout,
- Dragonborn, for your blessing, we pray!
- Hearken now, Sons of Snow, to an age long ago,
- And the tale, boldly told, of the one!
- Who was kin to both Dov and the mortal races of Nirn,
- With a power to rival the Sun!
- And the Voice, he did wield, on that glorious field
- When great Tamriel shuddered with war!
- Mighty Thu’um, like a blade, cut through enemies all,
- As the Dragonborn issued his roar!
- And the Scrolls had foretold of black wings in the cold
- That when brothers wage war come unfurled!
- Alduin, Bane of Kings, ancient shadow unbound,
- With a hunger to swallow the world!
- But that day did arise, when the dark dragon’s lies,
- Were silenced forever and now!
- Fair Skyrim is free from foul Alduin’s maw,
- The Dragonborn is the saviour of all!
As cheers and clapping broke out, Olette flew into my arms, and we risked crushing her lute. We walked hand in hand and stood in front of the bride and groom. We bowed, and I said, “We thank you both for allowing us that privilege. May The Divines bless you, and may your love be eternal.”
We spent another few hours mingling with the guests, and then the married couple left, signalling the end of proceedings.
Food tables were laid out, and the city’s children, orphans and poor were allowed their wedding feast. I left Olette to enjoy their company, which she will miss when we move to Silverpeak Lodge.
The day was one of celebration and how life should be. I will do what is necessary to ensure such days are often repeated. There is still killing to be done before I leave for Solstheim, but I shall carry today’s memory with me as I do so. It will make such violence easier to justify to the small part of me still feeling guilt over the killing of many.