Middas, 22nd Frostfall, 4E 201
to Loredas, 25th Frostfall, 4E 201
Our trip to the border was uneventful.
When Rigmor and Felix came into view, Lydia stopped and exclaimed, “I am not getting near those camels! I will stay here in front of the fire.”
I chuckled as I approached the waiting pair.
I smiled at my beloved as I stood before her. Rigmor smiled back but then looked worried.
- Rigmor: Why isn’t Lydia getting any closer?
- Wulf: The last time she got close to a camel, it spat and covered her in green snot.
- Inigo: And we all felt great sympathy. Nobody laughed.
- Rigmor: The truth, Inigo?
- Inigo: Okay, we all had tears running down our faces from laughing and had no sympathy whatsoever.
- Rigmor: Well, I have never met a camel before, and these two have been very friendly.
- Wulf: They are cantankerous with a foul temper.
- Rigmor: Oh, like somebody I know? Anyway, say hello to Felix while I warm myself in front of the fire.
The others headed for a small camp. I walked up to Felix, who saluted and said, “General Welkynd, I am Felix Decimus Varrus, the tenth of his name, retired sergeant of the 10th Legion.”
“At ease, Felix, for there is no need to salute me. I believe you served under General Decianus?”
Felix dropped the salute and said, “Yes, Sir. I served under General Decianus in Hammerfell and at The Battle of the Red Ring.”
“Please, Felix, call me Wulf.”
“Wulf it is then, Sir.”
“As you know, Ragnar was under the command of General Jonna. During The Battle of the Red Ring, they attacked the Imperial City from the South Road while General Decianus swept in from the west. I can only imagine the bloodshed that day.”
“The Dominion thought General Decianus was still in Hammerfell. He left many of his men, initially known as ‘The Invalids’. They convinced The Dominion forces that the general was still in command.”
“The Invalids were the Legionnaires who didn’t want to abandon Hammerfell. By making them invalids, Emperor Titus Mede II allowed them to rejoin the Imperial Army later on if they desired. Plus, their pensions would remain intact. He could just as easily have called them deserters.”
“General Decianus’ attack was a complete surprise to The Dominion, and therefore they were unprepared to be flanked by a large force. I think that surprise and ad-hoc reaction by The Dominion were major contributors to their defeat that day.”
“I agree. After that example, Felix, you understand the importance of keeping secrets to surprise the enemy.”
“Absolutely! The Battle of the Red Ring is one example. Rigmor told me how The New Order was not prepared for you, which is another. She also said you used surprise to destroy Ulfric’s rebels at Whiterun.”
“The New Order made sudden changes to plans, but the panic set in, and mistakes were made. We used teleportation to flank and ambush Ulfric’s main army at Whiterun. A much smaller force annihilated The Stormcloaks.”
“You and Rigmor plan to do the same with whoever this future adversary is.”
“Whoever or whatever the future adversary is. But yes, that is why Rigmor and I are living apart.”
“Rigmor said I should ask if something concerns or baffles me. She explained the word gobblygook and the term mumbo jumbo.”
“The best advice I can give is that occasionally you have to shrug your shoulders and accept things as they are. I certainly don’t have an explanation for everything and have often wasted time trying to apply logic and reasoning. Not accepting the seemingly illogical or impossible can put oneself in grave danger.”
“Can you give me a quick example?”
“Lord Sheogorath, who I rarely call by name as it attracts his attention, teleported me into the mind of Emperor Pelagius Septim III. Uncle Sheo asked me to repair Pelagius’ insanity, which I did.”
“You were in the mind of a dead emperor?”
“Yes, and I would still be there if I didn’t accept that as real.”
“Sir, if I may be forthright, whenever Rigmor speaks of you, her love for you is evident.”
“And The Dragonguard will tell you that I am the same when speaking about Rigmor. Has she mentioned our intertwined souls?”
“Yes. I didn’t understand the how of it, but I understand the beauty of it.”
“Even gods don’t have all the answers, Felix. They too have to accept some things are and not worry about the why.”
“Rigmor says the trip to Solstheim could take three days or more.”
“If the tides and winds are kind, two and a half days is possible. I was contemplating taking the ship by myself and teleporting the team there. However, I had sent a couple of Dragonguard to Solstheim on a scouting mission, and they said the authorities there are well aware of arrivals and departures. Strangers turning up who were not ship passengers would create too many questions.”
“I am used to cramped troop ships, so I am sure I can cope.”
“It won’t be luxury but better than a troop ship. The voyage will allow you to get to know The Dragonguard travelling with me.”
“Rigmor is beckoning me over. I think she wants to introduce me.”
“Well then, you have better hurry over and get introduced while I speak to the camel vendor.”
I approached the camel vendor and said, “Greetings, child of the Ra Gada. My name is Wulf.”
“Not many people know of that traditional greeting in Skyrim. I am Aluun, the best camel vendor in Skyrim.”
“That is a claim made by Sherilia. Do you know her?”
“I thought I did till she broke our engagement and ran off with my camels. I prefer this official gate into Cyrodiil. She favours selling to those taking the old trade route. Different clientele far apart, so she is no rival.”
‘Do you sell many camels?”
“Oh yes, this is quite a profitable business. Few first-time travellers to Hammerfell or the deserts of Elsweyr purchase a camel. Nearly all who make additional trips purchase a camel.”
“I will keep that in mind if I plan a trip to either place. It was a pleasure to meet you, Aluun.”
I gathered the team, and we moved out of view of Aluun.
I walked to Felix and said, “I am about to teleport us to our Safe House. You will be in the darkest, coldest place imaginable for no more than a second. I have prepared armour and weapons for you and Rigmor so that you fit in with The Dragonguard.”
“You are not hiding your identity in Solstheim?”
“I am The Dragonborn voluntarily in Solstheim to help. Even if the Dunmer don’t recognise the danger, they will respect who I am. You and Rigmor will wear masks when in Raven Rock. When Rigmor meets with the island’s leaders to discuss trade, they will not know she has been travelling with me unless we decide otherwise.”
“Okay. What do I need to do?”
“Place your hand on my shoulder. Hold your breath, and don’t panic!”
Felix placed his hand on my shoulder, and I teleported him to the Safe House. Celestine teleported the others.
Felix asked, “Did we just travel the width of Skyrim?”
“Yes. If you make your way to the dining room, The Dragonguard will raid the pantry and provide a midday meal.”
I pointed to the dining room, and Felix eagerly made his way there.
I gathered Rigmor, and we walked to the workroom.
I pointed to a mannequin and said, “This armour is identical to that worn by the greatsword-wielding Dragonguard.”
“And does the mask do the same as yours?”
“It is called a mempo, and yes, it will make different people see a different you.”
“While in certain areas, I must wear the helmet and mempo?”
“You can wear the mempo separate, but that looks odd. A helmet with a facemask is not uncommon. Raven Rock is probably the only place where the mempo is needed as that is where the administrators are that you will deal with.”
“Okay, I might need help from Lydia and Celestine to adjust the armour. Felix might need some help as well.”
“Go on, ask.”
“What do you think of Felix?”
“I have not snooped and looked at his soul because I know he fought beside your father in Hammerfell. Ragnar’s soldiers were not paid mercenaries and risked their careers and lives to defend the people of Hammerfell. Therefore, Felix is a good person. I don’t know if his martial skills are comparable to the best of The Dragonguard, but they don’t have to be. I will watch him if we have to fight and provide advice if I think it is necessary.”
“Felix was not surprised when I told him you sought Casius’ opinion. He accepts that he won’t be told everything and hinted he has his secrets. He was shocked that Yngol was a Stormcloak.”
“Let’s have a meal, and then we shall get you and Felix ready for the trip.”
“It will be interesting to try the kai-katana.”
“I think you and Felix will like the weapons, especially their speed.”
We spent an hour having a meal and chatting, and then Rigmor was helped into her armour by Lydia and Celestine.
“So, my beloved Rigmor, what do you think?”
“This armour is so bendy and light! The kai-katana is also light and very quick. I can see the appeal, Wulf.”
“Once Felix has changed, we will be ready to go.”
Felix followed me into the workroom, where we gathered his armour.
He managed to change into it without assistance.
I asked him, “Do you like the armour and weapon?”
“The helmet looks silly, but I understand what it symbolises. The armour feels like clothes compared to the Bruma Knight gear. The sword is superbly balanced and fast.
The team gathered, and Felix placed his hand on my shoulder again. I teleported him to Windhelm’s bridge. Celestine teleported the others.
I then summoned Nafaalilargus, and we talked telepathically.
- Wulf: Nafaalilargus, let me introduce Felix Decimus Varrus. He is a retired Legionnaire and Rigmor’s bodyguard.
- Nafaalilargus: Greetings, Felix. I feel we have met before, which is impossible because I have been dead for a long time. Well, not technically dead, but not alive either.
- Felix: Why are there voices in my head?
- Nafaalilargus: You didn’t warn him, did you, Wulf?
- Rigmor: Relax, Felix. Telepathic talking is one of those things you will get used to.
- Felix: Gobblygook?
- Wulf: Many species use telepathy. It is minor gobblygook only because it is new to you.
- Felix: Nafaalilargus, you can’t see my face, so I am confused as to how you think you have met me before. I can assure you that we have never met. However, you were friends with a distant relative of mine. I will let you figure out who it may be.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Nafaalilargus: Meeko, I will figure it out, and there is something about Felix that is familiar, you rude mongrel!
- Felix: Your dog talked to Nafaalilargus?
- Rigmor: Meeko is not a dog. Don’t ask what he is because we don’t know.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko, we all agree it doesn’t matter what you are. The important thing is you are cute.
- Felix: Why can’t I hear Meeko’s voice?
- Wulf: Only a few people can. We don’t know why.
- Nafaalilargus: Am I to act as a scout?
- Wulf: Not in Solstheim because I don’t know what danger you would be in with Miraak and his mind-control magic. I would like you to fly ahead of our ship and help make the crossing safer. Return to Skyrim once Raven Rock comes into view.
- Nafaalilargus: Boring!
- Wulf: Do I have to order you, Legionnaire Nafaalilargus?
- Nafaalilargus: No, General, I will do as asked. Maybe I can find a juicy shark or two along the way. They are incredibly delicious if they have been munching on Horkers.
- Inigo: Your culinary habits are disturbing, my big scaly friend.
- Nafaalilargus: Countess Ragnarsdottier, Dragonguard armour suits you.
- Rigmor: It is incredibly comfortable, Nafaalilargus.
- Nafaalilargus: Wulf, Odahviing wishes to speak to you. You can summon him or meet him at the summit of Monahven.
- Rigmor: Monahven?
- Wulf: That is the Dov name for The Throat of the World.
- Rigmor: Why does Odahviing want to speak to Wulf?
- Nafaalilargus: Wulf told him he would not accept Odahviing’s assistance based on his Thu’um being more powerful. Odahviing wants to join The Dragonguard and work towards forgiveness from Bormahu.
- Wulf: Lord Akatosh created Dov. He would understand that some fall prey to their base instincts. But I will talk to Odahviing about this when I return from Solstheim.
- Felix: Why did Miraak go rogue?
- Wulf: I won’t know till I talk to him. I doubt Miraak did as Lord Akatosh expected. If Miraak were merely pursuing power, he would have been content with the elevated position Alduin gave him. Lord Akatosh would have been careful when choosing who to bless and bestow the powers of a Dragonborn.
- Celestine: Miraak may have become seduced by Hermaeus Mora’s promises. Ironically, Wulf is now that Dark Lord’s champion.
- Wulf: I am also the champion of Boethiah, Azura, Meridia. Hermaeus Mora and Uncle Sheo.
- Inigo: Please, my friend, can we hurry and catch the ship? Even without Ulfric alive, Windhelm is depressing.
- Wulf: Yes, let’s get going.
We entered Windhelm, and I warned the team, “There are still Ulfric sympathisers in this city. Concentrate and leave any discussions till we are safe aboard the ship.”
I booked passage aboard Northern Maiden several days earlier. After discussing who I was and why we needed to go to Solstheim, Captain Gjalund Salt-Sage was eager to sail us to Raven Rock. He was also eager to return to his profitable cargo runs between Solstheim and Windhelm. Miraak’s goons had commandeered his ship for several unpaid passages, and Gjalund was unaware of the trips as they occurred. Memories slowly returned to him over the weeks, and he was angry.
We made our way to the ship, and I approached the captain.
“Captain Salt-Sage, We are ready to leave.”
“You have arrived just in time for a friendly tide. Please, make your way below the deck. You will find the cabins rudimentary but comfortable.”
“We will fix the problem in Solstheim.”
“I hope so. I like the people there and have a fine crew who need a regular wage.”
The ladies shared a cabin. Our cabin seemed crowded as both Felix and myself are not small in stature. Meeko stayed on deck and seemed to enjoy the trip. Inigo didn’t complain.
We arrived in Raven Rock just before midday on the 25th. Northern Maiden had made excellent time, thanks to favourable winds. Nafaalilargus roared his goodbye and flew back to Skyrim at tremendous speed.
As we glided into the dock, I had a look around. I first noticed a vertical green light emanating from The Earth Stone. I used Zoom-Vision and saw a Telvanni Wizard-Lord observing the ensorceled citizens building an arched dome around The Earth Stone. As far as I knew, only one Telvanni Wizard-Lord lived on Solstheim. His name is Master Neloth, and he is a member of The Telvanni Council and is only outranked by The Archmagister. He is also a member of Morrowind’s Ruling Council.
I pointed to a rock formation, and Rigmor exclaimed, “So that is why it is called Raven Rock!”
Northern Maiden slowly bumped into the dock, and crew members lashed it to mooring poles.
Several of my team, including Meeko, quickly disembarked.
I watched as a Solstheim official talked to Gjalund.
- Gjalund: Greetings, Second Councillor.
- Adril: I was starting to wonder what happened to you. You have docked and left several times without the required cargo being delivered.
- Gjalund: We, uh… had passengers who needed immediate transport. Before you even ask… yes, I have the supplies you requested. But…
- Adril: But what?
- Gjalund: This load cost me double what we had agreed on. Nothing I can do about it.
- Adril: Damn it, Gjalund. You know we don’t have much coin.
- Gjalund: The East Empire Company didn’t give me a choice. They’ve raised their prices again, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
- Adril: After all these years, they’re gouging us for every last drake we have. I’ll see what we can do. Let me talk to Lleril.
- Gjalund: All right, Adril. Don’t worry about rushing it. Just pay me when you can.
I looked at Rigmor, and she smiled. She saw an opening for trade negotiations but would have to undercut The East Empire Company. However, those negotiations would have to wait until Miraak was no longer dangerous.
I approached the Second Councillor.
“I don’t recognise you or your friends, so I’ll assume this is your first visit to Raven Rock, outlander. State your intentions.”
“State your name and rank, as is the protocol. Then I might provide an answer.”
“I am Second Councillor Adril Arano.”
“I am Wulf Welkynd, General of The Imperial Army, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Azura, Meridia, Sheogorath and Hermaeus Mora. I am also Thane of Riften, Solitude and Whiterun. My travelling companions are called The Dragonguard. It is a pleasure to meet you, Second Councillor.”
“I am intrigued as to why one of such esteem is visiting Solstheim. We do not have a dragon problem on this island.”
“We are here to save you all from Miraak. Do you know of him?”
“Miraak… I… I’m not sure that I do.”
“Have you noticed that many of your citizens, including members of The Redoran Guard, are constructing a dome around The Earth Stone?”
“That? It’s… Well, it’s a shrine for… something. I’m not sure what. Yes, I… I’m not sure what to say. Did we build that? I really don’t remember.”
“And that, Second Councillor, is why you need our help. No matter how you try, your mind will wander away from the subject of Miraak.”
“I am sure you think something is important. This is Morrowind, not Skyrim, and Raven Rock is the sovereign territory of House Redoran. While you’re here, you will be expected to abide by our laws.”
“I expect life on Solstheim has not been easy, but do not insult us by suggesting we are anything but honest people. Even if you ignore most of my titles, being Champion of two of the three Reclamations demands respect from a devout Ashlander.”
“My apologies. As Second Councillor, the security of Raven Rock is my primary concern.”
“We are here to help the people of Solstheim. Keep that in mind, and we shall get along just fine.”
“This isn’t exactly the city of Blacklight. We’re on the frontier out here, and we’ve had more than a fair share of troubles. After all we’ve been through together, I refuse to let Councillor Morvayn down.”
“I have the greatest respect for The Redoran Guard. However, do not let pride get in the way of practicality. Please, do not hesitate to ask for assistance if there is a danger to Councillor Morvayn. That would be the best way of ensuring his safety.”
“As you are undoubtedly aware, Raven Rock started as an Imperial settlement, but The Empire decided to abandon it just as my people were first setting foot here. They left the town a shambles… but when House Redoran took over, we turned it around, and it became ours. And even if it’s been a struggle to make this island liveable, we’re proud to call it home.”
“The people here owe their freedom to The Dragonguard and me. Alduin was going to enslave all of you! All we expect in return is civility.”
“You will find some resentment to anybody representing The Empire. I suggest you approach such from the point of understanding.”
“I know your history and why The Empire stinks to some. However, we are here to help as private citizens and not as representatives of The Empire.”
“I suggest you introduce yourselves to Councillor Morvayn.”
“We shall, and I promise I will keep you updated on our activities.”
I decided to investigate the temple first. I wanted to see if there were any visible signs of Tribunal worship or if it was entirely dedicated to The Reclamations.
Azura and Boethia statues existed, but Mephala’s was under construction.
Three Ashlander shrines to The Reclamations looked like they were constantly in danger of being buried.
I asked Inigo, “What does the unfinished statue of Mephala and the amount of ash covering the shrines tell you?”
“That some people are so busy working for Miraak, they are neglecting other duties.”
“Yes, but it also suggests the worship of Miraak has taken over from The Reclamations. Dae said people became ensorceled after visiting the One-Maker Stones and touching them. An Ashlander might occasionally visit a One-Maker Stone, but actively touching them is rather sacrilegious. To ensorcel somebody, the dweomer must influence the victim to touch the One-Maker Stone. Daenlyn fell victim when he could no longer resist the compulsion and touched one. That opened his mind to the enslaving part of the dweomer. Mages are more resistant to the dweomer as they are logical and question why they should touch a One-Maker Stone.”
“When you told us about The One-Maker, you said the Nord’s who live on Solstheim, The Skaal, worshipped that god.”
“They regularly pray at the One-Maker Stones and, unlike the Dunmer, touch them. I imagine a large percentage, if not all of the Skaal, are ensorceled. Anyway, I have seen what I wanted. Let us head to the Councillor.”
We walked past a Temple Guard wearing a traditional but undeniably stupid mushroom helmet.
As we neared Morvayn Manor, an ash storm hit Raven Rock. They come and go quickly. This one made it seem more like midnight than midday.
A single guard stood outside Morvayn Manor.
“Excuse me, guardsman. Please inform Councillor Morvayn that Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn, requests an audience.”
“The Dragonborn who defeated Alduin?”
“Just a second.”
The guard dashed inside, and, a few seconds later, he returned, followed by a woman.
“Wulf Welkynd, I am Cindiri Arano, wife of Second Councillor Adril Arano. Although curious about the purpose of your visit, I need to find my husband on an urgent matter. Councillor Morvayn is keen to speak to you. Please enter.”
“Do we have to disarm?”
“Don’t be silly. If we can’t trust The Dragonborn, who can we trust?”
“Your husband was at the docks, checking on the latest shipment aboard Northern Maiden.”
“Thank you. That saves me hunting for Adril.”
As Cindiri left, we entered Morvayn Manor.
I walked over to Lleril, who said, “On behalf of House Redoran and as the Councillor of Raven Rock, I bid you welcome.”
“Thank you for your warm welcome, Councillor.”
“You are The Dragonborn. Therefore those with you must be The Dragonguard.”
“Yes, they are. More importantly, The Dragonguard are my close friends.”
“Whether you’re simply visiting or staying here, I think you’ll find our citizens will welcome you with open arms.”
“We are here to save your people from a danger you are unaware of.”
“Oh, and what danger would that be?”
“Do you know someone called Miraak?”
“Do I? What a strange thing. It sounds so familiar, yet I cannot place the name.”
“Can you tell me anything about him?”
“I’m not even sure… I can picture a temple here on Solstheim. It must have been a bad dream.”
“Miraak is enslaving the people of Solstheim, and some Raven Rock citizens are building a structure surrounding The Earth Stone. But you will forget I said anything about him after I leave.”
“If you rescue us, you will be well rewarded.”
“We need no reward, Councillor. I am on Nirn to protect all mortals. We shall speak to you again after we succeed.”
“Since the mine closed, Solstheim has little coin and not enough guards. The Redoran Guard are some of the best soldiers on Nirn, but reavers vastly outnumber them.”
“Reavers are just waterborne bandits and easily eliminated. We will gladly reduce their numbers for you.”
“We were talking about something. I feel it is important, but I can’t recall what it was.”
“That’s okay, Councillor, don’t concern yourself with it.”
Lleril looked worried and confused as we left Morvayn Manor.
Raven Rock was busy with a crowded market, dockworkers and other citizens.
I was surprised by the number of Khajiiti in the town. I was not surprised to see beggars.
We only saw one Orsimer, and he was a loan shark called Mogrul. We were first introduced when we overheard him threatening a farmer named Garyn Ienth.
- Garyn: Oh… Mogrul. Care for anything from my stand today?
- Mogrul: Ash yams? Disgusting. I’d rather eat cheese that’s been sitting in the sun for a week.
- Garyn: Look, I know why you’re here. I’ll get the coin, I promise.
- Mogrul: Garyn, if you want your beautiful wife to stay that way, you’d better.
I asked Garyn, “Is Mogrul threatening your wife over a debt?”
“Please, outlander, do not interfere. It will only make him angrier.”
I walked over to Mogrul.
He said, “I’ll give you this warning only once. Stay out of my way, and we’ll do just fine.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Slitter will live up to his name.”
“Mongrel, I’ll give you this warning only once. If you harm Garyn’s wife, I will kill you!”
“The names Mogrul and take your best shot, fetcher! But if you draw on me, the guards will put the bounty on your head, not mine.”
“Mongrel, I can kill you without lifting a finger or saying a word. It would seem like you suddenly dropped dead with blood pouring out of your ears and bulging eyes.”
I left the shocked Mogrul and confronted Slitter.
He growled, “Get away from me, outlander.”
“I’ll give you this warning only once. If you harm Garyn’s wife, I will kill you!”
We left the market and headed for The Earth Stone.
Master Neloth was heading in the opposite direction, so I intercepted him.
“Excuse me, are you Master Neloth of House Telvanni?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“I am Wulf Welkynd, The Dragonborn, and my friends are The Dragonguard.”
“If you expect me to be impressed with your title, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am pleased you carried out your duty and removed Alduin’s menace. Accomplishing a set task should be reward enough for anybody!”
“I expect nothing but courtesy, Master Neloth, or am I to take your surliness as standard behaviour for House Telvanni.”
“No, not at all. Now, why did you stop me?”
“I wanted to discuss what is happening at The Earth Stone.”
“It is obvious they are building something. And yet the builders don’t seem to have much to say about it. I’m very interested to find out what happens when they finish.”
“When they finish, Miraak will emerge from Apocrypha and enslave everybody, including you.”
“Miraak…Miraak… that name sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it… Oh. Wait. I recall. But that makes very little sense. Miraak’s been dead for thousands of years.”
“Miraak is not dead but has been living in Apocrypha for thousands of years.”
“Are you sure?”
“Fascinating, isn’t it? Quite unexpected. Perhaps it has some relation to what’s going on here. I’m afraid I can’t give you any answers. But there are ruins of an ancient temple of Miraak’s toward the island’s centre. That is where I’d look for answers.”
“We intend to, but you will soon forget I mentioned Miraak.”
“Impossible. I never forget a thing.”
“It was nice meeting you, Master Neloth.”
“Yes, I bet it was.”
Neloth went on his way, and Rigmor exclaimed, “I never thought I would meet somebody more arrogant than a Justiciar!”
As we approached The Earth Stone, I advised, “Stand away from the monolith. I think if you get ensorceled, it will be permanent until we figure out how the dweomer works.”
Inigo asked, “Is that why you didn’t bring Daenlyn along?”
“Yes. If Daenlyn came to Solstheim, he would head for the nearest One-Maker Stone. Dae wasn’t keen on testing his willpower against the compulsion again, so he didn’t accompany us.”
As we got closer to The Earth Stone, some of the ensorceled muttered Miraak’s mantra aloud and in perfect synchronicity.
- 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.
I stepped into the shallow water surrounding The Earth Stone. The others stayed further away as I examined the structure being built.
- Wulf: Does anybody feel the compulsion to touch The Earth Stone?
- Rigmor: Yes. It is not as bad as a craving for a Sweetroll, but it is there.
- Celestine: I think the compulsion will increase in time, Rigmor. Dae is a Master Mage, and he found it difficult to resist.
- Inigo: It reminds me of the tugging sensation when Langley tries to summon me.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: That’s a worry.
- Felix: Ahh, did Meeko say he feels the compulsion?
- Wulf: Yes, which suggests the dweomer works on any sentient being.
- Lydia: Inigo feels it, so the being doesn’t have to be smart.
- Inigo: Phew, I thought Lydia would manage a whole day without insulting me. I was getting worried!
- Wulf: I need to understand the nature of the dweomer. Therefore, I am going to touch The Earth Stone.
- Rigmor: Is that wise, my dear Dragonborn?
- Wulf: The compulsion is blocked by my mind barrier. I believe that without the compulsion in my brain, the ensorcellment cannot work.
- Celestine: Do you think the dweomer is Daedric?
- Wulf: No, it is not Daedric. I think it is Mind Magic as practised by The Sea Sload. I think the dweomer on The Earth Stone spreads spell particles that infect people like a disease. That is what causes the compulsion. When they touch a One-Maker Stone, they are mind-trapped.
- Celestine: Oh, and a mindscape is where the ensorceled are when constructing Miraak’s structures.
- Wulf: Yes, the mindscape is constant and why victims forget what they have been doing and about Miraak.
- Celestine: But aren’t mindscapes usually formed from the mind-trapped person’s memories?
- Wulf: Yes, but Miraak has found a way to insert false memories. Remember, he has had access to the knowledge in Apocrypha for thousands of years.
- Rigmor: Can you simplify the gobblygook for the rest of us?
- Wulf: The One-Maker Stones produce spell particles that float through the air and are breathed in or absorbed through the skin. The spell particles create the compulsion to touch the One-Maker Stone. Touching a One-Maker Stone places you into a mindscape, a waking dream. In the mindscape, the ensorceled follow Miraak’s instructions. The mantra they repeat reinforces Miraak’s control.
- Rigmor: The mindscape makes people forget about Miraak and that they might have worked for hours at a One-Maker Stone?
- Wulf: Yes. Not all the ensorceled build Miraak’s structures, but all are compelled to forget him and ignore what is happening.
- Inigo: My friend, do you know Mind Magic?
- Wulf: I can do similar via other methods. However, I must have witnessed what I try to place in your mindscape. For instance, I witnessed the first time you tried Apple Cabbage Stew. I could place you in a mindscape where you experience that entertaining event again.
- Inigo: That would be evil!
- Wulf: The events within a mindscape are actual enough that your body reacts accordingly. If you die in a mindscape, it might prove fatal in the real world.
- Felix: If you know how the magic works, why touch The Earth Stone?
- Wulf: At the moment, my theory is speculation. Touching The Earth Stone may turn speculation into fact.
- Inigo: My friend, I will stand close and watch you. You may get ensorceled and not know it, but I will be able to tell if you are not normal.
- Rigmor: When is Wulf ever normal?
- Inigo: I will be able to tell when Wulf is even weirder!
- Lydia: Weird looking for weird make sense.
- Wulf: Okay, Inigo, let us go to the other side. People seem to want to pray on this side.
Under Inigo’s intense gaze, I reached out and touched The Earth Stone.
I could detect the use of Magicka and the existence of a dweomer, but that was all. I gained no more insight, so my theory will remain speculation for now.
I stopped touching The Earth Stone and faced Inigo. Meeko came over and stared at me.
Inigo asked, “My friend, who is Miraak?”
“He is an arsehole claiming to be a Dragonborn. He sent his goons to Skyrim to kill me, and I will make him regret that.”
Inigo laughed and said, “Yes, Meeko, I agree. Wulf is no weirder than before.”
I also laughed as we joined the others. Then I saw a Cliff Racer and decided to investigate.
- Rigmor: What are those ugly things?
- Wulf: Cliff Racers. They were once a dangerous pest in Vvardenfell until driven out by Saint Jub in the Third Era. Although they occasionally attack people, they are not as aggressive as those Saint Jub fought.
- Lydia: They use Cliff Racer plumes as decorations on garments and furniture.
- Wulf: There can be good money made from hunting them. Iona has been telling me about Mjoll the Lioness, a resident of Riften. Mjoll used to hunt Cliff Racers before moving to Skyrim. Iona thinks she would make a good Dragonguard.
- Rigmor: It looks like it has shark fins!
- Wulf: They are to help it change direction when using thermals to glide. Although they have feathery plumes, their wings are skin membranes like dragons and bats.
- Felix: Are many left after Saint Jub and The Red Mountain eruption?
- Wulf: There are far more here than I thought there would be. We would have to ask those who lived in Saint Jub’s time, such as Neloth. When he came to Solstheim, he brought some endangered species, including Silt Striders.
- Rigmor: What are Silt Striders?
- Wulf: Silt Striders are giant insects once used as transport in Morrowind. If we are lucky, we might see one.
- Felix: Is Neloth well respected?
- Wulf: He is regarded as insane and dangerous by most people in Solstheim. But they are biased since most of them are House Redoran, and he is House Telvanni. History shows he is ruthless in his pursuit of knowledge, but he has also shown great compassion on occasion. Many people in Solstheim owe him their lives, as he risked his life to protect them during The Red Year and bring them here.
- Celestine: Neloth is regarded as one of the greatest ever Enchanters. He is also a keen collector of Daedric artefacts and regularly corresponds with Auryen.
- Rigmor: Felix, Auryen is Wulf’s partner in Dragonborn Gallery, their museum in Solitude.
- Wulf: The Dunmer are a complex people. They are all dedicated to the survival and furtherment of Morrowind. However, their politics seems like an eternal civil war.
- Felix: Many parts of Morrowind are more habitable than Solstheim. Why does a high-ranking member of House Telvanni live here?
- Wulf: Many nobles of his rank are assassinated. The Morag Tong is a legal assassin guild in Morrowind. It is safer for Neloth to be here, out of sight and out of mind, if you will. He still has a say in Telvanni and Morrowind politics via a proxy who speaks with his authority. I assume a few of his proxies have been eliminated over the centuries.
- Rigmor: Thank The Divines that Cyrodiil politics has not become that ruthless.
- Felix: Emperor Titus Mede II has kept the nobles in check. You have good councillors to help protect you against politics. However, Countess, I felt you needed my protection as peace in Cyrodiil could vanish quickly. If Wulf and The Dragonguard had not stopped The Dark Brotherhood, The Empire could have been plunged into civil war.
- Wulf: His Imperial Majesty needs to name an Heir Apparent. There isn’t even a clear Heir Presumptive, and several nobles may argue they have the greater claim to The Ruby Throne.
- Lydia: Even naming an Heir Presumptive could cause some nobles to revolt. As well as being personal tragedies to His Imperial Majesty, the death of his two sons and daughter are a tragedy for The Empire. Blood inheritance of The Ruby Throne is rarely contested.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Meeko, it was a natural progression from Cliff Racers to Cyrodiil Politics. Perhaps you should have listened more carefully.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Meeko! If I hear such language from you again, I will wag my finger at you and tell you off!
- Wulf: Besides, what you just suggested, Meeko, is anatomically impossible.
Meeko stared at Rigmor and grinned. We were jovial as we walked through the centre of Raven Rock.
We used the most convenient exit for travelling to Miraak’s Temple.
As we left Raven Rock, I said, “Trouble!” Meeko growled.
Rigmor asked, “What is it?”
“Some creatures are attacking a Redoran Guard and Master Neloth.”
“What kind of creatures?”
“Bipeds of a species I have never seen before.”
I Blinked close to Neloth. He seemed to be able to defend himself, so I ran towards the Redoran Guard. One of his comrades lay dead.
A white streak, Meeko, ran past and leapt at the nearest creature. It looked like it was made of ash!
When I got closer, the creatures looked like the ash and embers of fire had been moulded into humanoid form.
The creatures were not very powerful, and Meeko and I quickly disposed of them.
Meeko coughed and then said, “Woof!”
“I am not surprised they taste like ash.”
“They must taste bad if you prefer to chomp on Draugr.”
I walked over to Neloth.
“Are you okay, Master Neloth?”
“A few creatures are no match for a Telvanni Wizard!”
“Do you know what they are?”
“No, but they have recently started appearing in great numbers. I suppose you hero types will have to eliminate them.”
“Well, I am glad you are okay. I had better talk to the Redoran Guard.”
“That is Captain Veloth. He is a very efficient Dunmer, even if he is of that inferior House.”
As I walked over to Captain Veloth, he said, “Thanks… I wasn’t sure I’d make it off this farm alive. I wish I could have said the same for my man here.”
“We are glad to help. Master Neloth said you are Captain Veloth. I am General Wulf Welkynd, and my friends are The Dragonguard.”
“The Dragonborn? I was unaware you were to visit Solstheim, but I am glad you and The Dragonguard are here.”
“What are those creatures?”
“Some of the Redoran Guard call them ‘Ash Spawn.’ Me? I don’t care what they’re called… all I know is they are a danger to Raven Rock, and they need to be stopped.”
“You are a fair distance from The Bulwark.”
“I was going to search this old farm for clues that might lead me to wherever they’re coming from. I know it isn’t the best place to start, but we know they’ve been coming from this direction.”
“The best place to start is the corpses of your enemies. Let’s have a look at the ash piles.”
In the second ash pile I searched, there was a letter I read to the others.
“Raven Rock Stronghold,
My calls for the unconditional surrender of your forces and an immediate cessation of all hostilities have been ignored numerous times. I, therefore, have no choice but to assume your purpose on Solstheim is hostile and to treat Raven Rock Stronghold as an enemy of The Empire. I warn you that any attempt to breach Fort Frostmoth will be met with an equal level of aggression. I will do everything in my power to wipe you and your forces off the face of Tamriel. There will be no further communications between us.
— General Falx Carius. Garrison Commander, Fort Frostmoth”
- Wulf: Well, that’s interesting. A long-dead Imperial General has declared war on Raven Rock!
- Rigmor: What do you mean by long dead?
- Veloth: General Carius was the Imperial garrison commander at Fort Frostmoth, but he died nearly two hundred years ago when the Red Mountain eruption levelled the place. There’s no way he could still be alive.
- Celestine: He might be undead or, Divines preserve us, resurrected.
- Wulf: Resurrection is possible moments after death and before the soul has reached The Void or an afterlife. I would never do it because I could not be sure where the soul was when I cast a resurrection spell. Tearing a soul from The Void or afterlife could have unforeseen circumstances apart from being morally corrupt. If somebody resurrected General Carius after two hundred years, they need my sword in their stomach.
- Felix: Could General Carius have been thrown forward in time or somehow preserved?
- Wulf: Fort Frostmoth was, as Captain Veloth said, obliterated by Red Mountain’s eruption. It is well-documented as General Carius was a famous soldier and regarded as the founder of Raven Rock. I don’t know if being covered in Red Mountain’s ash may have something to do with his return.
- Rigmor: Why was he famous?
- Wulf: General Carius’ heroic deeds in Solstheim attracted the attention of Lord Hircine. The Daedric Lord then chose him as prey for The Wild Hunt. He survived Lord Hircine’s Wild Hunt thanks to The Nerevarine showing mercy. After sparing General Carius, The Nerevarine defeated Hircine’s avatar in solo combat, thus ending The Wild Hunt. The Nerevarine had spared General Carius because, unlike others chosen as prey in The Wild Hunt, he was not of evil disposition.
- Felix: I think General Carius found Solstheim different than he remembers. If he still thinks it is 4E 05, he might regard the mostly Dunmer population of Raven Rock with suspicion. When Red Mountain erupted, Raven Rock was a town of Nords and Imperials with a small population of Dunmer.
- Wulf: Captain Veloth, how often have Ash Spawn attacked Raven Rock?
- Veloth: We’ve had two other assaults on The Bulwark at different spots on the wall. It sounds crazy, but it’s almost like they’re becoming more organised and probing it for weaknesses.
- Wulf: It is not crazy at all if under the command of General Carius, who thinks Ash Spawn are Legionnaires, and they, in turn, obey his orders. Some of the Ash Spawn killed earlier may have carried correspondence.
- Veloth: Nobody is sure what the Ash Spawn are. Superstitious folk say they’re the risen forms of those that died long ago. Perhaps they are right? Perhaps they are undead Legionnaires?
- Wulf: Well, this is all reasonable speculation, but…
- Rigmor: But we will need to visit Fort Frostmoth and have a talk with General Carius.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko, we will have full canteens of water. You can wash the ash out of your mouth if need be.
- Veloth: Before I head back to Raven Rock and prepare for further attacks, may I ask a question?
- Wulf: Ask away.
- Veloth: What are The Dragonborn and Dragonguard doing in Solstheim?
- Inigo: We are saving the people of Solstheim from Miraak.
- Veloth: Miraak? I might know someone of that name. Or maybe not. I can’t remember…
- Wulf: Captain Veloth, Fort Frostmoth is in the general direction of Miraak’s Temple, so we might as well investigate it on the way. We shall report our findings to you when we next visit Raven Rock.
- Veloth: On behalf of Raven Rock, I thank you for your assistance.
Not far into our trip, I saw reavers near a beached ship.
- Wulf: Reavers infest that ship up ahead.
- Felix: I can barely make out a few people. How do you know they are reavers?
- Rigmor: I told you that Wulf has the blood and soul of a Dragon.
- Felix: Gobblygook.
- Rigmor: Yes, and it gets gobblygookier.
- Wulf: Gobblygookier?
- Rigmor: Shush! I am explaining something to Felix.
- Wulf: Right away, milady.
- Rigmor: Wulf’s gobblygookness is increased by having dragon eyesight.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: I can’t comment, Meeko, because the nasty Countess told me to shush.
- Rigmor: And if he doesn’t obey, I might have to spank him.
- Wulf: Oh, goody. It has been a while since we last played Angry Schoolmistress and Naughty Schoolboy.
- Rigmor: In your dreams, Dragonbum.
- Felix: Ahh, dragon eyesight?
- Rigmor: Wulf can make things looks closer. It is like looking through a spyglass. He calls that Zoom-Vision because that name is as weird as he is. He can also see the body heat of living things. He calls that Heat-Vision, and it allows him to see enemies through walls and when it is dark.
- Celestine: The gobblygookest things of all are his Ningheim powers.
- Inigo: My friend, aren’t you going to protest about gobblygookest?
- Wulf: No, because that is an actual word. Unlike some words recently used by my beloved that I am not allowed to comment upon.
- Celestine: Because Wulf is Ningheim, he can read souls. He can tell if somebody is, for the lack of better terms, good or evil and to what degree. He can tell if somebody has a chance of redemption.
- Felix: I am getting over gobblygooked.
- Wulf: I can tell they are reavers by the burnt bodies impaled on stakes in front of the ship.
- Rigmor: Councillor Morvayn said that Solstheim has a reaver problem, and Wulf won’t ignore them.
- Wulf: Think of it as more training in your katana and kai-katana.
- Felix: Excuse me, reaver-type person. Do you mind if I try slicing you in two with my new sword?
- Lydia: That’s the spirit!
- Wulf: Please remember, Felix, do not get in front of me until we are engaged in close-quarter fighting.
- Inigo: I made that mistake once, and flying through the air was fun. The smashing against the wall, not so much.
The reavers were staring intently at the water. With the dweomer on our armours, it was easy to sneak up on them.
I stood behind a reaver and asked, “Excuse me, is this Winterhold? I think I might have made a wrong turn somewhere.”
The startled reavers turned and drew their weapons.
Unrelenting Force killed them just as Rigmor fumbled when drawing her kai-katana.
Rigmor heard me laughing and called me many uncomplimentary names as I charged forward.
I ended up killing all the reavers. Nobody else bloodied their weapons.
I decided it was safer to remain quiet about the sword fumble while we searched the ship. Rigmor might not stab me in the back if I am careful.
In a chest, I found a limited edition, signed and expensively bound Lusty Argonian Maid Folio. I held it up and showed the team.
- Wulf: Wow! This book is super rare!
- Rigmor: How many copies were printed?
- Wulf: A few thousand.
- Rigmor: Then why do you think it is super rare?
- Wulf: The pages are not stuck together on this copy!
- Rigmor: Eww!
- Felix: You walked blindly into that jest, Countess.
- Rigmor: I apologise for my mind not being as filthy as the perverted weirdo.
- Lydia: I remember the copies of Lusty Argonian Maid in the barrack library. Double eww!
- Wulf: The author, Crassius Curio, became immensely wealthy, but he hardly wrote an original word. He travelled all over Tamriel and listened to many different bard songs about Lifts-Her-Tail. He then compiled them into books.
- Lydia: Rigmor, have you told Felix about Plays-With-Beavers?
- Rigmor: No, but we have to be careful. We don’t want Felix dribbling and mumbling after a gobblygook overload.
- Lydia: Felix, do you know about Wulf’s shape-shifting?
- Felix: Huh?
- Rigmor: Wulf can make himself look like any of the bipedal species. Plays-With-Beavers was the name he used when he attended a party as an Argonian.
- Lydia: It was not just any party. It was one held at the Thalmor Embassy.
- Felix: Perchance was it the party where dozens of Thalmor had unfortunate accidents?
- Lydia: Yes, and it broke my heart when I heard about that. Poor Thalmor, they are such friendly people.
- Wulf: I know many spells that most of The Dragonguard haven’t seen me cast. I have found using my Thu’um to be sufficient alongside simple Destruction spells.
- Inigo: My friend, how powerful is Miraak?
- Wulf: Miraak was a Dragon Priest, and they were all expert Destruction mages. I don’t know how powerful his Thu’um is. However, he has had access to Apocrypha for thousands of years. Who knows what he may have learned in that time?
- Celestine: Are we checking the cargo hold?
- Wulf: Yes, but it is underwater.
- Felix: I have never breathed underwater before.
- Wulf: Some people have difficulty trusting the dweomer. They hold their breath like drowning until need forces them to breathe in. You will see us trusting the dweomer, so logically, you should trust it.
There were a few corpses in the hold but nothing of use. Felix did very well and had no trouble breathing in water. Water never reaches the lungs as the dweomer turns it into gases within the oesophagus.
We emerged in the waning sunlight. I told the group, “We shall investigate Fort Frostmoth, and after that, we will teleport to the Safe House. We shall have a meal, baths, and spend the night in comfortable beds.”
Rigmor asked, “When do I get to visit Silverpeak Lodge?”
“When it is finished. It is a mess as the artisans and labourers work hard to complete it. Olette is learning many different skills as she charms lessons from them.”
We found a couple of recently stripped skeletons next to a partially buried chest.
I warned the group, “Something has chewed the flesh from those unfortunate people not long ago. Keep alert.”
When we got close to the skeletons, two Ash Hoppers emerged.
- Felix: What are they?
- Wulf: Ash Hoppers. They hide under the ash and ambush prey that gets too close.
- Felix: Why is one a transparent green colour?
- Rigmor: It is a game Lady Kynareth plays with Wulf. If Wulf kills the green creatures quick enough, he gets a reward next time he prays at Lady Kynareth’s shrine in High Hrothgar.
- Wulf: I find the game distasteful when Kyne’s Peace is in effect. The creature is not posing a threat to us, so I will let it be.
- Celestine: If any of you fight Ash Hoppers, beware of their bite. They will infect you with a disease called Droops that makes you feel weak. You would not be able to carry as much or swing your weapons as hard. Droops can be cured by praying at a Shrine of The Nine or drinking a Cure Disease potion. Any Restoration Mage can also cure it.
- Felix: Okay, sometimes I must accept things without worrying about how or why. One of The Nine plays games with Wulf. Accept it, Felix. Ahh…that is better.
- Inigo: Good, Felix, but you will still find yourself waking in the middle of the night asking how and why.
There was nothing of great value in the chest, and we continued towards Fort Frostmoth.
A bit further on, Meeko barked and whined.
I replied, “You think there is a corpse near the Burnt Spriggan and boat? Well, I trust your nose, so we shall investigate.”
The Burnt Spriggan had not killed the deceased nearby. A sword thrust to the stomach was the cause of death. Next to the corpse was a small casket containing a wedding band and Amulet of Mara.
- Rigmor: Who do you think he is?
- Wulf: I don’t know, but I think he is from Skyrim.
- Lydia: I agree. I think he planned to propose to somebody using the traditional Skyrim method of wearing an Amulet of Mara.
- Felix: How does that work?
- Lydia: The suitor wears an Amulet of Mara, so it is visible and speaks to the person they wish to marry. When the potential spouse sees the Amulet of Mara, they will ask if the wearer is interested in them. Marriage can then be agreed to or rejected. If the potential spouse is unsure, the couple may decide to start or continue a relationship and see how it progresses.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Meeko says he can follow the deceased’s scent if we want to investigate.
- Inigo: I think we should, my friend. Perhaps the murderer is nearby.
- Rigmor: What is different about a Burnt Spriggan compared to the Spriggan in Skyrim?
- Wulf: Their exposure to the ashes of Red Mountain changed them. They are resistant to fire, whilst other Spriggan are very combustible.
- Celestine: They attack with a powerful version of the Flames spell but are not poisonous like those in Skyrim. They are also far more aggressive. The Spriggan in Skyrim will only pursue you for a short distance. Burnt Spriggan will chase you to the ends of Nirn.
- Wulf: Their corpses contain Burnt Spriggan Wood. It is a very valuable reagent with beneficial properties.
- Meeko: Woof?
- Wulf: Yes, Meeko. We will follow you.
Meeko led us to a damaged hut.
While inspecting the hut, two Ash Spawn emerged from the ground and attacked.
I stood back and watched the others deal with them. I was interested in how Rigmor and Felix handled their new swords.
Rigmor sliced an Ash Spawn in two. She had adapted quickly to the kai-katana.
The two Ash Spawn were soon reduced to piles of ash.
I asked Meeko, “Are you sure this is where the dead person lived?”
“Okay, only asking. There is no need to get snarky.”
We soon found a trapdoor.
We opened the trapdoor and quietly climbed down. We then listened in on two reavers who could not see us due to a room partition.
- Reaver #1: Listen to this one! ‘My nights have been impossible to bear without you. I beg of you: Please depart that blasted isle and return to Solitude at once!’
- Reaver #2: Hahaha! No more! What a fool.
- Reaver #1: Do you think he’s the one we killed in the tunnel?
- Reaver #2: Who cares? Nords all look the same to me.
- Reaver #1: Ha! Well, at least he didn’t see what we did to his lover.
I walked around the corner and said, “But we saw what you did to his lover.”
The startled reavers stood, attacked and died.
On top of a crate was a journal of somebody called Hrodulf. The journal outlined Hrodulf’s path to insanity. I quickly read it to myself and noticed the quality of grammar slowly deteriorated over time. I read the relevant entries to the group.
I’ve arrived in Solstheim and moved into an old house on the hill by the shore. Whoever lived here before is long gone.
I can see well out into the waters from my vantage here and can hear all things behind and around. Dunmer bandits wander the woods at night, but I don’t fear them.
There is a calling from the depths, a rumbling drone that sings to me at night. I’ve started sleeping in the basement and keeping a knife nearby. The call is loudest down here. I will be ready for whatever is coming…
it is as if a great machine reverberates beneath me
i tire of waiting for the caller underneath to emerge i walked to town + bought some digging tools: shovel, shovel, pick i started to break down the wall behind the bookshelf + dig down slow going i put the bookshelf back when i finish digging why? no houseguests here but i feel i have something to hide
how can i make bjorn hear what i have heard? i must not lose him yet i must remain in this place for i know i will know the truth soon
the murmurer in the earth and i we talk i lay my head against the dirt
fire from the deep.”
- Celestine: Hrodulf wrote, ‘As if a great machine reverberates beneath me.’ I would guess there are Dwemer ruins beneath us.
- Lydia: Did Dwemer machines make him insane?
- Celestine: I don’t think so. I think Hrodulf became obsessed with a mystery he couldn’t solve. He was isolated and a bit paranoid.
- Wulf: Uncle Sheo would be delighted by the convergence of events.
- Rigmor: What were these bastards laughing about?
- Wulf: There is a letter on the table where they sat.
I picked up the letter and read it to the group.
“Hrodulf, light and strength,
I feel your words are not your own, and I worry dearly for your health.
I beg of you: please depart that blasted isle and return to Solitude at once! My nights have been almost impossible to bear without you; to lose you would be the death of me.
My love, if you do not return soon, I will come for you.
Rigmor started to cry, and I held her tight. After she quietened, I handed her a kerchief, which she used to wipe her eyes and then blow her nose. We laughed a little at a shared memory as she tucked it into her gauntlet.
Rigmor asked, “Do you think it is Bjornolfr in the tunnel?”
“I will have a look. You can stay up here if you want.”
“No, I want to see what has caused Hrodulf’s madness.”
I opened the cliché pivoting bookshelf, but nobody was in the mood to jest about its obvious purpose.
We went down a ramp and entered a half excavated Dwemer corridor.
Halfway along the corridor lay a deceased Master Conjuration Mage. I searched his body and found a bloodstained letter with grammar similar to the later entries of Hrodulf’s Journal. I read it to the group.
do not come to this place
i have not much self left
the earth will take us both
Bjornolfr had a single stab wound to his chest.
At the end of the corridor was the back end of what I thought might be a Dwemer Lockbox, similar to the one that contained The Oghma Infinium.
I examined the Dwemer machinery and could not find any hidden doors or compartments.
- Inigo: My friend, can you hear that sound?
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: Barely, but Meeko says it is horrible.
- Celestine: Some sounds can affect a person’s mental state. Not all people might hear a very low or very high pitch, but that doesn’t mean its effects are negated.
- Rigmor: Is that what happened to poor Hrodulf?
- Wulf: We can only speculate, but if it was, I think Bjornolfr, being a mage, would have figured it out and helped Hrodulf return to sanity.
- Rigmor: Two lovers reunited only to be torn apart by bandits. This house is a sad place, Wulf. Can we please leave?
- Wulf: I will put Hrodulf, his Amulet of Mara, and the wedding band next to Bjornolfr. Then I will conduct Arkay’s Rights and collapse the tunnel with The Voice.
- Rigmor: Bjornolfr’s light and strength will be with him once more. You are such a big softy, my dear Dragonborn.
I spent thirty minutes collecting and placing Hrodulf, performing Arkay’s Rights and collapsing the tunnel. Then we continued on our journey to Fort Frostmoth.
Rigmor entwined her arm through mine as we walked in the crisp night air. After some time, she looked up and said, “The dead are having a big party in Aetherius tonight. Too bad they all picked the same colour lanterns.”
I laughed and kissed her on the hand.
Fort Frostmoth came into view.
Several Ash Spawn stood atop its battlements as sentries.
I told the group, “I will use Unrelenting Force to remove the sentries. The Ash Spawn are weak, but why take the risk of unnecessary melees?”
Heat-Vision worked well with Ash Spawn as they had large core temperatures.
I warned the others, “Reavers are fighting Ash Spawn near the fort’s entrance.”
We rushed to where the reavers and Ash Spawn fought and wiped out both sides of the argument.
Instead of entering the fort’s courtyard via its entrance, we climbed over a wall. This manoeuvre was made possible by the accumulation of ash over the centuries.
General Carius’ disembodied voice echoed as he said, “Men, invaders have entered the fort! Prepare yourselves for an ambush!”
I used my Thu’um and replied, “I AM GENERAL WELKYND OF THE IMPERIAL ARMY. GENERAL CARIUS’ ORDER IS ILLEGAL. ANY LEGIONNAIRE WHO ATTACKS ME WILL BE COURT-MARTIALED!”
The Ash Spawn ignored me and attacked. We cut them down.
One door seemed to be barred from the other side.
We entered another and immediately encountered Ash Spawn.
It seems that many of the Legionnaires died in their beds.
We encountered many Ash Spawn as we explored the fort.
In an alcove, we came upon the remains of a Legionnaire named Maximian Axius. We knew his name because of a pile of letters close to his body and in his backpack. Only four were legible, and I read them to my friends.
The first letter read,
“20th Evening Star 4E 04
My dearest Selina,
It’s been a difficult day. General Carius ordered us to help the labourers shore up the walls since they’re starting to show their age. It was back-breaking work, but those walls wouldn’t stand up to a siege without the extra support. Some men are grumbling about the task, but I disagree with them. The general knows what’s best for Fort Frostmoth, and I would follow him to Oblivion and back if he asked. There’s a supply ship due on Solstheim in a few weeks, and I hope to send you all these daily letters I’ve been writing. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. I miss you, Selina, and I can’t wait to see you when my time on Solstheim is through.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
The second letter read,
“11th Morning Star 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
Euphemius was killed this morning by one of those awful Rieklings. We were escorting a supply wagon from Fort Frostmoth to Raven Rock when a war party of those bastards ambushed us from the cliffs. We fought them off, but poor Euphemius was impaled by one of their spears. The healers at the fort couldn’t do anything for him, and I watched him slip away as I held his hand. I don’t know how much longer I can stand being here. My loyalty to The Empire and the strong words General Carius delivers to us at each morning muster are the only things keeping me going. The supply ship should arrive tomorrow, and I promise to give the quartermaster my letters so they can finally be sent home. Give my love to the children.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
Rigmor said, “Maximian had children and a wife waiting to hear from him. These letters describe another sad tale, Wulf.”
“Yes, it is sad, my beloved, but not unusual. I do not envy the families of soldiers.”
I read the third letter to my friends.
“1st Sun’s Dawn 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
The supply ship due in Solstheim hasn’t arrived yet, and no one knows what’s happened to it. I’ll keep writing these letters in hopes they can be delivered to you one day. It’s awful being isolated on Solstheim like this, but General Carius keeps telling us we must maintain Fort Frostmoth for the good of The Empire. I believe what he’s saying only because he’s never led us down the wrong path in the past, but I’m wondering if anyone on The Imperial Council even gives a damn about this pile of rock. Four soldiers have died in the last two years at Fort Frostmoth. It almost seems that The Empire takes us all for granted and expects us to sit out here and get chipped away like the rock inside the mines. My posting here can’t end soon enough.
Yours always, Maximian Axius.”
The last letter brought Rigmor to tears once more.
“3rd Sun’s Dawn 4E 05
My dearest Selina,
This is my last letter. I don’t know if you’ll ever get any of them, but I’ll keep them on me in case I’m ever found. Something happened here, Selina. It was horrible. Something’s happened at the Red Mountain, but I can’t describe it. It’s as if hundreds of Oblivion Gates opened at once at its summit, spitting fire and death in all directions. Fort Frostmoth has been completely destroyed. The walls crumbled like loose dirt, and the land is on fire. Everything around me smells of ash and of death. I don’t know where anyone is. I’ve been trapped in one of these lower sections of the fort, and I don’t expect to be rescued anytime soon. I miss you, Selina. I want to hold you and the children in my arms and tell you that everything is going to be fine, but I don’t think that will ever happen. Give my love to Siricus and Atia for me. Tell them their father died bravely defending the Empire, so they can hold their heads high when they speak of me one day. When you close your eyes at night, my love, think of me so my spirit can finally come home.
Yours always and forever, Maximian Axius.”
I held the sniffling Rigmor and said, “I will find the descendants of Maximiam and Selina and pass these letters onto them.”
“Sorry for what?”
“For being so emotional over people I don’t know.”
“Rigmor, you do know them via their own words. Never feel guilty displaying the abundant compassion you possess.”
I placed the letters in my journal case. Then we continued our search for General Carius.
We went to the fort’s basement, where a Hall of the Dead had been placed.
In an end alcove, we found evidence of necromancy amongst coffins and loose bones.
The Necromancer was called Ildari Sarothril, and her journal lay atop a coffin.
I read the relevant sections of the journal to the group.
It’s been almost a month since unearthing the crypt at Fort Frostmoth, and I haven’t seen a single spark of life in the general’s remains. Grafting the Heartstone to the subject is proving much more difficult than I originally anticipated. I’ve used almost every method I can think of, and still, there’s no sign of reanimation. At this rate, it could be years before I make any progress… which is time that I just can’t afford right now. If my vengeance is to come to fruition, I need results. If not, I may need to resort to more dramatic measures.
It finally appears that I’m making some progress. After my latest experiment, General Carius’s eyes briefly opened, and he moved his arms. It lasted for less than a few moments, but it’s the first sign of progress I’ve seen since I arrived here. A few of my assistants were insisting that I was imagining things, but I dismissed them for their insolence. They won’t be bothering anyone ever again.
General Carius awoke fully today. He bolted upright after my incantations and began staggering around like a blind man. He seemed to ignore my commands… in fact, hearing my voice seemed to increase his hostility. I was able to remove the Heartstone before he became violent, but this isn’t a result that I expected. Even though he’s able to be awakened, I feel as though the real work has just begun.
The general is still unable or unwilling to listen to my commands. He’s acting increasingly paranoid and appears to have his own free will. He’s convinced that I am a ‘spy’ or the ‘enemy,’ and I’ve had to restrain him to prevent him from outright attacking me. This is becoming intolerable. I’m beginning to wonder if someone with a Heartstone can be commanded at all. If my experiments with General Carius fail, I may have to resort to self-experimentation… something I’ve been avoiding for a long time.”
- Rigmor: What is Heartstone?
- Wulf: Molten rock surrounding The Heart of Lorkhan became imbued with some of its power. When Red Mountain erupted, the imbued molten rock was spread over a wide area, including Solstheim, and solidified. You can find it in rocks and ore veins. Heartstone is still warm to the touch even after two centuries.
- Celestine: It seems that the power of the Heartstone brought General Carius back to life, similar to how dragons are restored.
- Wulf: Like the Briarheart of The Forsworn and Nirncrux Heartstone of other Reachfolk, the Dreadhorn Clan.
- Rigmor: And what is Nirncrux?
- Wulf: Nirncrux is a red stone found in the Craglorn area of High Rock. It can absorb and release Aetherial Energy, the power of the stars. The Nede had to learn how to mine Nirncrux safely as it is incredibly toxic, then they built a forge called The Bloodroot Forge to create a form of Nirncrux usable in weapons and alchemy. The Dreadhorn Clan discovered the forge and learned how to imbue themselves and creatures with Nirncrux. Such creatures and people were called Nirnblooded. Eventually, they started replacing their hearts with Nirncrux Heartstones.
- Felix: Do you think the Ash Spawn are creatures made by Heartstone?
- Wulf: That is an excellent theory, Felix. However, restored dragons are identical to their original form, while the Ash Spawn are grotesque mimics. Perhaps, like dragons, only a small section of bone is needed to restore a mortal.
- Lydia: Why would they suddenly appear? The eruption was almost two hundred years ago.
- Celestine: Perhaps the restoration takes time to happen? Say, almost two two hundred years.
- Wulf: We won’t know some answers without years of study. Perhaps somebody has already done the research. If so, I would love to find out what they have discovered.
- Rigmor: Somebody other than Ildari, you mean. She killed her assistants for doubting her!
- Inigo: Yet she didn’t kill General Carius even though he was uncontrollable.
- Wulf: Necromancers are reckless, and often their experiments cause problems for innocents. General Carius’ actions resulted in the death of Redoran Guards and maybe others. Ildari is responsible for those deaths.
- Rigmor: Well, let’s hope we find her rotten corpse after General Carius or Ash Spawn killed her.
- Felix: Wow! Remind me not to get on Rigmor’s bad side!
- Wulf: Sometimes, we must give Rigmor a Sweet-Roll to calm her down.
- Rigmor: You are asking for it, Dragonbum!
- Wulf: Quick, somebody hand the Countess a Sweet-Roll!
We continued to search the fort and came upon thick spiderwebs.
Lydia quipped, “If you hear groaning, it is Inigo getting overexcited about giant spiders.”
I burnt the webs with Dragonfire, and Felix stared at me in awe.
When we came upon the spiders, Inigo lamented, “They are tiny. I bet they don’t even make a crunchy sound.”
I replied, “They are still the size of a cat, Inigo. That is not tiny. And look at the venom dripping from their fangs!”
There were two types of spiders, red ones and smaller white ones. Two red ones leapt at me and exploded. They did me no harm due to dweomer on my armour but would have killed a person wearing everyday clothing or armour.
We killed the remaining spiders before they leapt at us.
Inigo looked upset.
“My friend, there are few things I want out of life. The pleasure of crunching giant spiders is one of them. Little spiders that explode and sound squishy when you hit them are not fun!’
“I am sure that somewhere on Solstheim, we shall find some huge spiders that crunch.”
“I hope so, my friend.”
When we closely studied the webs, they looked embedded with molten rock.
Near the webs was a large Heartstone deposit.
As interesting as the spiders were, we did not have time to contemplate them. We wanted and needed to find General Carius.
After searching all of the fort we could reach, we climbed up a ladder and exited onto the roof.
We disposed of two Ash Spawn sentries.
We then discussed our options.
- Wulf: General Carius must be in the other part of the fort. There will be a trapdoor leading inside.
- Felix: How do we get to the other side?
- Wulf: I will Blink and then summon you.
- Felix: Aah, what is ‘Blink’?
- Wulf: Blinking is a form of teleport where I don’t cast a spell. If I can see where I need to go, I use my will to move there instantly. It happens quicker than you can blink, hence the name. You saw me Blink when the Ash Spawn attacked Master Neloth and Captain Veloth.
- Felix: You warned us then were suddenly hundreds of feet away. Ah, I have never been summoned before.
- Rigmor: Wulf can do it now as you are known to him. In your mind, you will feel Wulf summoning you. Mentally accept the summons, and you will be teleported to where he is.
- Inigo: You don’t have to accept the summons immediately. Otherwise, it would be awkward if somebody summoned you while urinating or defecating!
- Lydia: Or you are in a compromising position.
- Rigmor: Or disastrous if you were in the middle of a good argument that you are winning.
- Wulf: Which never happens with Rigmor and me because she knows I am always right.
- Rigmor: Pfft! You are dreaming once more, Dragonbum.
I Blinked to the opposite roof.
And then I summoned the others.
As expected, there was a trapdoor leading to a ladder.
We clambered down the ladder, and General Carius attacked.
The General’s eyes were completely white. He demonstrated great strength and swung his hammer with speed and force.
I quickly blocked the hammer and killed General Carius. As he died, he said, “I have failed!”
A couple of Ash Spawn attacked. Lydia easily disposed of one.
However, she was knocked over by the second Ash Spawn.
Meeko and Rigmor came to her rescue.
I turned General Carius over.
Imbedded in his armour was a Heartstone.
I performed Arkay’s Rights then we made our way outside.
I placed a Mark.
Then I teleported us to the Safe House.
We all removed our armour and donned kimonos. We had a good meal and chatted, then cleaned the ash from our armour.
We let the ladies have the spa room first.
While they happily soaked and gossiped, I had a private talk with Felix.
“How did you find travelling with The Dragonguard and me?”
“When In combat, The Dragonguard is like a well-oiled machine. They easily switch between bow and sword, and Celestine protects us all with her spells. I can see why it only needed a few of you to destroy Ulfric’s army.”
“They had no answer to the tactics we used. Either did The New Order. However, given enough time and battles, competent leaders find a way to nullify us. Then we become better than average infantry soldiers. That is what happened in Akavir on more than one occasion.”
“I had seen Rigmor do her sword forms and some sparring, but that did not prepare me for her ferocity in battle.”
“She is the best greatsword wielder I have seen. When we fight back-to-back, we flow together in a dance of death more lethal than its individual warriors.”
“They are all deadly warriors, yet so kind and compassionate.”
“Ragnar’s soldiers, especially the berserkers, earned a reputation for brutality.”
“Yes, sometimes the enemy would route before we reached them.”
“Yet Ragnar, Yngol, Casius and yourself are not bloodthirsty monsters. I can’t see any of you relishing an afterlife in a place like Sovngarde.”
“Yngol is the only one who would be invited, but I doubt he would want that to be his afterlife. Those who fought beside Ragnar do not glorify war. What is the plan for tomorrow?”
“We continue on our way to Miraak’s Temple. One of The Dragonguard that scouted Solstheim for me is a Bosmer bard called Daenlyn. So powerful was Miraak’s dweomer, Daenlyn cut down trees and cleared vegetation!”
“Rigmor said you were safe from the dweomer because you have barricaded your mind.”
“Yes. Anybody can do it with practice. I did it because I don’t want enemies, especially Daedric Princes, probing and finding things that need to remain hidden. I also hate the idea of hearing their voices in my head. Hearing them through my ears is bad enough, especially Hermaeus Mora.”
“What is Lydia’s story, if I am not being rude asking.”
“Lydia was a Whiterun Guard. She was engaged to a Falkreath Guard, Bjorn, stationed in Helgen. He was killed when Alduin destroyed Helgen.”
“That explains the underlying sadness I see in her.”
“Lydia has found the support of The Dragonguard and others, such as my adopted daughter Olette, invaluable during her grieving. As a gift for helping defeat Alduin, Lord Shor allowed her to speak to Bjorn in Sovngarde. It was heartbreaking to witness, but also beautiful and uplifting.”
“I can tell Inigo and Lydia are good friends, even if they seem nasty to each other.”
“It is just a game they play. I have seen Inigo panic when he thinks Lydia is in trouble during combat.”
“It must be difficult for your and Rigmor to live apart.”
“Rigmor has to lie to her mother, which is not ideal. I don’t expect a reward for doing what I do. However, I hope that one-day Rigmor and I can settle on a farm and not be running around facing constant danger.”
“It has been fascinating, if confusing, so far. I look forward to more of the same tomorrow.”
As the ladies didn’t seem like vacating the spa anytime soon, I looked for Inigo. I found him in his partition, looking at his keepsakes.
He turned when I approached.
“Inigo, I am sorry you don’t have personal space at Silverpeak Lodge.”
“My friend, it is a wonderful house, and I am sure it will be filled with laughter. But I like to look at these reminders of my time with Fergus.”
“We will have a display case, and whatever else is needed, so you can store them and view them whenever you wish.”
“We had to kill today, but not in great numbers. That must be a relief for you.”
“Everybody has been too polite to ask about the final culling. I can assure you, Inigo, that I felt no guilt wiping out the stubborn remnants of The Stormcloaks. In total, I killed over three hundred who insisted on pursuing Ulfric’s false cause.”
“But why did you do it by yourself? I would have fought by your side.”
“I told the world that The Dragonborn would destroy the remnants of The Stormcloaks. The news sheets are reporting that I fulfilled that promise. I moved from Stormcloak camp to Stormcloak camp and killed them all in half a day. It was necessary, and as I said, I feel no guilt, just sadness that so many still thought the civil war was justified and Ulfric a hero.”
“It sounds like the women have stopped turning themselves into prunes. There was a lot of ash in my armour. I am hoping there is not as much in my fur.”
Inigo, Felix and I soaked, talked and laughed in the spa.
When Rigmor and I retired to bed, we were surrounded by Our Quiet, which is as it should be.
I know not what time I fell asleep.