Corruption

Morndas, 10th Sun’s Dusk, 4E 201

After sitting with my friends and enjoying dinner, I retired to bed, relaxed and in a good place mentally. I had only spoken to Rigmor briefly before falling asleep.

I awoke, and Rigmor was immediately in contact via our amulets.

“Wulf, Felix returned early and wants to know if he can join us?”

“Yes, of course, he can. I will get you two equipped. Then we can break our fast with the others before a quick tour of Silverpeak Lodge.”

“Well then, get a move on!”

It took ten minutes for me to don my armour. I then summoned Rigmor and Felix into our private quarters.

  • Wulf: Welcome to Silverpeak Lodge. These are our quarters, Rigmor.
  • Rigmor: Ooh, I like our room! I might have to add some bits n’ pieces, though.
  • Wulf: Whatever makes you happy, my dear.
  • Felix: You might regret that, Wulf.
  • Wulf: It is good to see you, Felix. How did your paranoid perimeter perusal go?
  • Felix: You don’t appreciate the size of Bruma till you ride its borders. We found a lot of caves that might lead through the Jerall Mountains to Skyrim. However, we were not too keen to travel through them to find out. Snow and ice are Bruma’s best defence from other Counties. Any Cyrodiil-based enemy would have no choice but to use the main roads, and many of them have overhanging cliffs or close, dense forests ideal for ambushes.
  • Wulf: It is wise not to travel too far down those tunnels. If you don’t come across significant smuggler camps, many necromancer covens make them home.
  • Rigmor: Sethri would probably know which ones we should be concerned about.
  • Wulf: It is also a two-way responsibility. The Jarls on the other side of the border should know which tunnels are of concern. I bet they did their homework when The New Order were about to arrive, so I will ask General Tullius if he has anything he can provide me.
  • Felix: Some of the tunnels must lead to huge caverns and valleys.
  • Wulf: Indeed, many will lead to Pale Pass and its abandoned castles and keeps. The Five Companions travelled through it once, escorted by Chevalier Renald and his company of Dragonguard. They were Tsaesci Vampires.
  • Rigmor: Mede told me he is considering reopening Pale Pass as avalanches are blocking other trade routes too often. It would help Bruma considerably but also open invasion routes. He said he would garrison several old forts along the route.
  • Wulf: You aren’t being paranoid, Felix, but prudent. If Mede dies before naming an Heir Apparent, there will be war. There is no clear Heir Presumptive, and The Elder Council will accept bribes to determine who they choose. They will take their time and cash in on the procedure.
  • Rigmor: If he named you as Heir Apparent, there would be very little opposition to you.
  • Wulf: If that is what The Divines want, they had better let us know.
  • Rigmor: Do I have to wear a helm, Wulf? I had never worn one except when we were in Solstheim, and I hated it!
  • Wulf: I have a large selection of wigs in my new armoury. You can change wigs every so often if that makes you more comfortable.
  • Rigmor: Good idea! Okay, let’s change into our Dragonguard gear, have some food, and then you can show us around.
  • Wulf: See the trapdoor over there? That leads to the armoury.

I opened the trapdoor and climbed down. Rigmor and Felix followed.

When we entered the central part of the armoury, Felix whistled, and Rigmor exclaimed, “This is bigger than any room in my castle!”

Felix gathered his Dragonguard armour from the dummy and headed back to my private quarters to change. I showed Rigmor the selection of wigs, and she picked one with a long-braided tail, similar to how Olette has her hair.

When Felix returned, Rigmor headed to our private quarters to change into her Dragonguard armour. As she did so, Felix asked me about the problem I had.

“Wulf, if you don’t mind answering, what caused your problem? Rigmor says you were in a very dark place.”

“Many things contributed, Felix. I don’t like killing, but I must do much of it. But it is also the evil that I deal with. Killing the pilgrims and soul-trapping Talos clergy were acts of evil by mortals who chose that path for personal gain. A Daedric Prince who did such a thing is acting out of compulsion. It is who and what they are. Mortals choose to be like that. Can you understand the difference?”

“Yes, Wulf. I understand the difference and how foreign that selfishness and lack of empathy would be to you.”

“As I said, there were many contributors to my problem. When Rigmor and I are close, my mind is clearer, and it is easier for me to suppress the dark thoughts.”

“Rigmor said that Saint Alessia spoke to her. She was told you need her close more often if you are to create that eternal peace you foresaw.”

“Yes, and that is why we had to tell Malesam and Freathof some of our secrets.”

“Do you think people won’t recognise The Dragonborn?”

“My face and armour are illustrated on countless news sheets. Nonetheless, I still encounter many people who have no idea who I am. I do not doubt that with the help of mortal agents, The Divines can hide any connection between The Dragonborn and Rigmor.”

We wandered around, chatting about various armour and weapons I had in the room. We were both surprised at how quickly Rigmor changed into her Dragonguard armour and rejoined us.

She said, “Okay, you two can stop gossiping about me now.”

I replied, “Let’s get some food!”

We entered the main living area through a different trapdoor and headed for my favourite dining table. As we walked, Rigmor couldn’t stop her head from swivelling as she took in the enormous room.

When we reached the table, she exclaimed, “This is by far the most impressive house I have ever seen!”

“You have only seen a tiny bit of it. Anyway, let’s sit and chat with some of the Dragonguard while eating. Felix is already heading for his seat. I could hear his stomach rumbling in the armoury!”

Felix sat between Erandur and Ishen, while Rigmor sat opposite Erandur and beside Kharjo. I sat at the head of the table.

As she always does, Rigmor made a stranger into a firm friend in minutes. Erandur and her chatted like they had known each other for decades. The priest knew quite a few of the Bruma families, including a few nobles, so gossip was soon exchanged. Felix felt at home as he knew many of The Dragonguard from our time in Solstheim.

After eating my fill and seeing that even Felix had slowed down, I decided it was time we did the quick tour and started the day’s tasks.

Rigmor and I gathered Felix and walked over to where Froa sat.

  • Wulf: Good morning, Froa, and welcome to The Dragonguard.
  • Froa: Vayu says I must wear boots. Only when I agreed to that did he approve me.
  • Wulf: There will probably be more recruits over the next few days. I will prepare your armour soon.
  • Froa: I know four Dragonguard at the excavation, but I have not met the two with you.
  • Rigmor: You are now a Dragonguard, Froa?
  • Froa: Yes.
  • Rigmor: You have been told who Wulf’s parents are?
  • Froa: Yes, and I have been warned not to regard him as anything but a mortal.
  • Rigmor: I am Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma.
  • Felix: Froa, I am Felix Decimus Varrus, ex Sergeant of The Legion and member of The Sons of Talos.
  • Froa: And now you fight beside the actual Son of Talos!
  • Iona: Froa, Ragnar is Rigmor’s father.
  • Froa: The leader of The Sons of Talos?
  • Rigmor: Yes, not Ragnar the Red out of that stupid song!
  • Froa: Ahh, are you the one Wulf said can chop people in two with a single swing of her sword?
  • Rigmor: It has been known in the heat of battle. It is not a very efficient way to fight, so I try to avoid it.
  • Froa: Oh…ahh…just as I thought I was getting used to the strangeness, I get hit in the face with a wet fish again.
  • Rigmor: I spoke to Brother Erandur, and he expressed the same sentiment. However, he didn’t mention wet fish.
  • Froa: So, are you another secret I have to keep?
  • Rigmor: Very much so. The other Dragonguard will explain but think of it as a request from The Nine.
  • Froa: Wulf, will you have issues after culling The Thalmor? Not in your head, and I understand where that can come from and have seen it often. I mean, from High Queen Elisif or Emperor Mede?
  • Wulf: No, Froa. Our leaders will point to the news sheets that should start appearing soon, and The Thalmor will shut their mouths. How could they pin the killings on me when tens of millions of Empire citizens would have killed them in my stead?
  • Rigmor: Wulf left no witnesses except the prisoners he freed from Northwatch Keep.
  • Wulf: Have a good day, Froa. I am sure the sword and board training won’t hurt too much.
  • Froa: Ahh…thanks…I think.

We ambled over to Inigo, who was chatting with Skritch.

  • Rigmor: Good morning, my flea-ridden friend!
  • Inigo: It is good to see you, Rigmor and Felix.
  • Wulf: You are travelling with us today, so get into your armour soon.
  • Inigo: Where are we going, my friend?
  • Wulf: We will check the archaeological dig first, then visit a few Holds with Olette.
  • Rigmor: Have you made friends with Skritch?
  • Inigo: He is pretending to be my friend because I have a Sweetroll. And you, Rigmor, are at fault!
  • Rigmor: What for?
  • Inigo: I would never have thought of eating a Sweetroll at the morning meal, but then you corrupted me.
  • Rigmor: And is it so terrible?
  • Inigo: No, but it still seems wrong.
  • Rigmor: Did you enjoy your time in Solstheim with Ko’rassa?
  • Inigo: Very much so, and we made friends with quite a few locals.
  • Wulf: Come outside after you change. I have a present for you.
  • Inigo: Okay.

We checked out my workroom first, and as expected, Rigmor found that boring. Felix noticed the weapon rack where I displayed the various weapons I retrieved from the Spirit Akaviri that guarded Sky Haven Temple. He asked, “What is that wicked-looking halberd?”

“That is the staff of Priestess Akamizu, Shaman of the Akaviri. She was one of the strongest opponents I have ever faced. She and several other Akaviri spirits guarded Sky Haven Temple. Some of them still do, but the more powerful ones can now be summoned to fight by my side.”

“Are all those weapons from the Akaviri spirits?”

“Yes, and they have unusual and powerful dweomer that I want to study. That is why they are here and not in the armoury.”

Rigmor did an extended and over-dramatic yawn. Felix and I laughed as we headed to another room.

We walked into the spa room. As I expected, Rigmor was far more excited. She exclaimed, “Look at the size of that spa!”

“Spa? What spa?”

“Ha de haha. I am so using this later!”

“You might want to use one of the outside spas instead.”

“We are halfway up The Throat of The World, Wulf. You know, above the snowline. Brrr!”

“They are naturally heated. I changed the smallest one, so it has the same minerals as the spa you liked in Severin Manor.”

“Oh, well, I can always try them all.”

We walked over to the showers, and I showed Rigmor how they work.

She commented, “Okay, these are on my list of things to try as well!”

When we exited, I pointed upwards and said, “Wave to the Greybeards.”

“Which dragon is that?”

“That is Odahviing. He enjoys the thermals and flying in circles around the summit.”

We walked over to the small spa.

Rigmor asked, “Will the water act like a mirror?”

“No, that was a bit creepy. It had to do with the refractive index of the water and was easy to avoid.”

“Okay, that was pure gobblygook but well done!’

As we walked, Felix and Rigmor kept expressing their disbelief at the size of Silverpeak Lodge and admiration for the views.

We came to the diving platforms, and Rigmor stared at them. Then she asked, “Do you dive from them?”

“Yes. You float to the platforms on a Telvanni Lift. I have a dweomer in the spa below. It gently slows any falling object approaching the water. It is safe as long as you don’t miss the water.”

“Why? That is a question that needs to be asked, Wulf.”

“Why? Because it is fun! Olette loves leaping from them.”

“Even the highest one?”

“Yes, even the highest one.”

“Then I shall add them to my list of things to do.”

We walked all the way around and stopped at the stables.

  • Hashire: Oh, Mighty Dragonborn, I am honoured by your visit. I have accepted my role as a garden ornament and am glad you find me remotely interesting. 
  • Wulf: Your whiney, woe is me attitude tells me Sune is still being offish.
  • Rigmor: Hello, Hashire!
  • Hashire: Greetings, Countess.
  • Rigmor: Can Sune hear us?
  • Hashire: No, she has not been invited into our circle.
  • Rigmor: Then take this advice. Show indifference to Sune. Speak to her about other unicorns and horses with admiration and make her jealous. At first, she might be a bit more hostile, but eventually, if she has any feelings for you, her attitude will change.
  • Hashire: That will work?
  • Felix: Oh yes, Hashire, that will work. By the way, it is nice to meet you finally.
  • Hashire: Hello, whoever you are. I would know your name if Wulf knew his manners.
  • Wulf: Did you give me a chance to introduce Felix before you started your whining?
  • Hashire: Felix, don’t listen to his lies. I do not whine!
  • Wulf: Well, not when you are asleep, anyway.
  • Hashire: Get f…f…far away!

We walked over to Sune.

  • Wulf: Sune, it is my pleasure to introduce Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma and her bodyguard, Felix.
  • Sune: It is a pleasure to meet you, Countess and Felix.
  • Rigmor: Sune, you are stunningly beautiful!
  • Sune: Thank you. I sense a special bond between you and Wulf. Something beyond mortal love.
  • Rigmor: The Divines say we have intertwined souls.
  • Sune: That is fascinating! I spent much time investigating such things before Hircine decided to decimate my kind.
  • Rigmor: Well, now Wulf has given you some safety. You can pursue such things once more.
  • Sune: I would like that.
  • Wulf: Tell me what you need, Sune, and I will see what I can do.
  • Sune: I shall think about it and let you know.

Just then, Inigo came strolling up to us, and I walked him over to Frost.

I told him, “Inigo, I am gifting Frost to you.”

“My friend, you are giving me that popular-smelling horse with abandonment issues and hopes of a brighter future? What a gift! Thank you!”

“His service fees will be sent to the previous owner’s family.”

“You are more than a gigolo, Frost! We will become good friends.”

“Alas, there is no riding to be done today. First visit, the excavation.”

We teleported into the valley.

Olette came running over, hugged Rigmor and then me.

  • Olette: We have thought of a name for you, Rigmor. How about Yrsa?
  • Rigmor: That sounds cool. What does it mean?
  • Olette: I asked everybody for names that mean bear. Jin suggested Yrsa and said it is ancient Nordic for she-bear.
  • Wulf: Rigmor’s father was called The Bear by some soldiers.
  • Olette: Therefore, Yrsa is suitable for his daughter!
  • Rigmor: Yes, it is a fitting choice.
  • Olette: Oh, hello Inigo.
  • Inigo: You look impressive in that armour, little one.
  • Olette: Can we please catch up on sword and bow practice, Inigo?
  • Inigo: Yes, of course.
  • Rigmor: Olette, this is my friend and bodyguard, Felix.
  • Felix: Hello, Olette. I am one of those soldiers who used to call Rigmor’s father, The Bear.
  • Olette: Will you be staying at Silverpeak Lodge when Rigmor visits?
  • Felix: Yes, Olette.
  • Olette: Can you tell me stories about Rigmor’s father when you stay? I have heard he was a hero.
  • Felix: You heard correctly, and I would be more than pleased to tell you some tales about Ragnar.
  • Olette: What are we doing today, Cap’n? They have made it through to the end of Windcaller’s Pass.
  • Wulf: First, we shall explore the last part of Windcaller’s Pass. Then we will visit Solitude as I need to speak to High Queen Elisif. After that, we will visit Dawnstar and Markarth.
  • Olette: I wonder if the Khajiiti caravan is still at Dawnstar?
  • Wulf: And I wonder if they have any of those yucky Azura’s Star treats?
  • Rigmor: Azura’s Star treats?
  • Wulf: Terrible things Ahkari is selling. Olette hates them!
  • Olette: You are just trying to avoid buying me one!
  • Wulf: Drool at them, and Ahkari might give you one out of pity.
  • Olette: I hate you!
  • Rigmor: That is not supposed to happen till you are a teenager.
  • Olette: So, I can only intensely dislike Wulf till then?
  • Rigmor: They are the rules, I am afraid.
  • Olette: Can I throw a tantrum if I don’t get a treat?
  • Rigmor: Yes, that is still within your age range.
  • Olette: Good!

We then spoke to Auryen.

  • Wulf: Good morning, Auryen.
  • Auryen: Guild Master, we made it all that way to Ivarstead. However, some work will need to be undertaken to make the pass suitable for wagons.
  • Wulf: We will let High Queen Elisif worry about that.
  • Olette: Jin said there are lots of dead miners and trolls.
  • Auryen: Yes, indeed, there are. There are rich deposits of iron and gold. They attracted miners. Unfortunately for them, many trolls recently discovered the caves and claimed them as their own. Lots of dead miners are now joined by the offending trolls.
  • Wulf: The Thane of Riften needs to be informed and arrange the collection of all corpses on the Riften side. The Thane of Whiterun is responsible for those on this side. I will write the required documents informing them.
  • Auryen: The guild members are doing one last sweep of the place. When you have inspected the final tunnels, we can declare this excavation over and a success.

We entered the tunnels.

Not far in, Inigo said, “My friend. I can hear an animal in distress. It is not a predator. No accompanying grunts or growls indicate a predator is the cause of the distress.”

“I am sure we shall soon find it, whatever it is.”

The guild members came walking towards us with worried expressions. I think dignity was the only thing stopping them from running. They rushed past us and exited without a word. Only Latoria stopped to talk to us.

  • Latoria: Guild Master, a terrible thing happened to Latoria! This one was bringing some interesting tiles back to Professor Marassi when Latoria heard a terrible screaming sound. It was something not of this world. It scared poor Latoria, and she lost her balance, tripped and knocked the wind out of Khajiit. Latoria skinned her knees!
  • Rigmor: Oh dear! What scared you so?
  • Latoria: Latoria does not know, but Latoria dropped the interesting tiles, and the screaming thing ran away with them!
  • Wulf: And you positively don’t know what it was?
  • Latoria: Latoria does not know, and Latoria does not want to find out, either. The others were further into the new passages, and Latoria was alone.
  • Olette: How big was it?
  • Latoria: Latoria had tears in her eyes. This one did not see it very well.
  • Wulf: Did any of the others see or hear it?
  • Latoria: When Latoria ran to them crying, they all laughed at this one. Then they all heard the terrible thing and came to this exit quickly, scared out of their minds. Latoria assumes the monster was something they dug up! It was probably starving after centuries of imprisonment in the tunnels, and Latoria would be dinner!
  • Wulf: Why would it pick up the interesting mosaic tiles instead of eating Latoria?
  • Latoria: Latoria doesn’t know. Khajiit did not ask it questions!
  • Rigmor: Relax, Latoria. We shall investigate.
  • Latoria: Oh, thank you. Latoria will be staying outside in front of the warm fire. Please, do not get eaten by the horrible thing!

We watched the terrified Latoria hurry outside to join the others.

  • Wulf: Well, Inigo, is the terrible monster your creature in distress?
  • Inigo: I suppose if you were by yourself and heard the unfamiliar sound, you might think so.
  • Olette: If an animal is in distress, we must find and help it!
  • Wulf: Yes, of course, we shall investigate, Olette. No creature should be left to suffer.
  • Rigmor: Olette, if it is badly injured, we may have to help it by ending its life.
  • Olette: Not until Cap’n tries all his magic stuff to heal it!
  • Wulf: Well, we are not helping it by talking.

We came to a cavern where several dead miners and trolls lay near another Eternium shard.

I collected that shard and another lying next to one of the miners. I now had all six shards.

The miners had done considerable shoring. They had been working the iron and gold ore for several months.

As we headed down a narrow exit tunnel, I finally heard the mysterious creature and laughed. I said, “Shhh!” and everybody stopped and listened.

  • Olette: What is it, Cap’n?
  • Wulf: The terrible creature is a rather annoyed racoon.
  • Olette: Ooh, I have never seen one of them before.
  • Inigo: Yes, my friend, it is no longer crying in distress but, as you said, seems angry.
  • Rigmor: Latoria and the others will be somewhat embarrassed.
  • Olette: As Inigo said earlier, it is natural to be scared if you have not heard something before.
  • Wulf: We all hid under our beds when we first heard Inigo sing!
  • Inigo: That was not funny, my friend.
  • Felix: I am afraid it was hilarious, Inigo.

We entered a cavern with abundant exposed ore, and several miners lay dead from troll attacks. I headed straight to the racoon with Olette close behind.

It was too dark to see the racoon clearly, so I cast Magelight.

I knelt and had a close look. One of the racoon’s paws was wedged between two planks, and it was tired from trying to free itself.

Olette said, “Stay calm. Cap’n will help you if you keep still!”

The racoon stood still as I pried the boards apart and gently lifted its paw free.

The racoon ran into the main chamber and dropped its hoard of tiles at my feet.

I said to Olette. “I think there are more tiles here that Latoria was carrying.”

I received excited chattering in return. Olette said, “He is agreeing with you, Cap’n.”

I looked closer and was sure I had seen this particular racoon before. A racoon’s facial features are as unique as a person’s.

“Olette, I think this is the racoon I told off for crossing the lake near Riften. It swam its width twice that I saw despite many Slaughterfish in the water.”

More excited chattering followed, and Olette said, “He agrees with you, Cap’n. He seems to be a bit of an adventurer.”

“And I suppose you want to add him to your menagerie?”

“I don’t think he would be happy staying with us. He might like to go on digs with Latoria.”

“Well, if he follows us, perhaps Latoria will make him a new guild member.”

I picked up the tiles, and we continued our inspection of the tunnel.

We encountered a few more dead trolls before exiting close to the bridge into Ivarstead.

I turned to my friends.

  • Inigo: I am sure they will widen the tunnels for carriage use. Windcaller’s Pass is a valuable shortcut, my friend.
  • Rigmor: I agree. We travelled some of the exposed, winding roads between Whiterun Hold and The Rift. I believe Windcaller’s Pass would be safer and save time.
  • Wulf: If the Merchant’s Guild asks, they shall get. It is incredible how much influence they have.
  • Olette: The clink of gold is magic to all ears, Cap’n.

We walked briskly to the valley. I did not teleport us as the racoon seemed keen to follow. When we exited and it saw Latoria, it chitted happily and rushed towards her.

The racoon came to a halt and stood still as the guild members surrounded it. Olette stood behind it.

When Latoria joined the circle of onlookers, the Racoon turned translucent green.

  • Marassi: Well, well, what do we have here?
  • Wulf: It is the beast of South Windcaller Pass.
  • Kyre: Wait, that’s the terrible beast that had Latoria running? Hahaha!
  • Latoria: What, that? Latoria is so humiliated!
  • Madras: Hahaha!
  • Rigmor: You all ran away from it, so leave Latoria alone!
  • Madras: Yes, it was shrieking like a devil.
  • Marassi: Haha, well, I suppose that is true. It seems this little guy has taken quite a liking to you, Guild Master.
  • Olette: No, the racoon has taken a great liking to Latoria. He was trying to help her and gathered more tiles than she dropped. Then he got his foot trapped and asked for help.
  • Wulf: He was probably trying to introduce himself when Latoria mistook his chittering for a monster.
  • Latoria: Why has he turned green?
  • Olette: That is Lady Kynareth letting us know she is watching. He will turn back to his normal colour shortly.
  • Auryen: I advise the guild members to nod and not ask too many questions. That is how you deal with gobblygook.
  • Felix: Yes, that is excellent advice. It is much better than rocking back and forth and dribbling in a corner.
  • Rigmor: Latoria, you should give him a name.
  • Latoria: Well, how about Fafnir?
  • Marassi: That sounds like a pretty good name.
  • Kyre: Alright.
  • Marassi: Great, then it is settled. Fafnir it is.
  • Wulf: You do know who Fafnir was, don’t you?
  • Latoria: Latoria does not know any famous Fafnir.
  • Wulf: He was one of the head assassins of The Dark Brotherhood at the time of the Oblivion Crises.
  • Latoria: Latoria does not think this Fafnir is an assassin.
  • Auryen: Well, Guild Master, is this excavation concluded?
  • Wulf: Indeed, the digging is, but I assume you have much material to examine at the museum.
  • Auryen: Yes, and I must transcribe all my notes into something more legible.
  • Wulf: Wait a minute, Auren. I will soon have a unique item for you to add to the collection.

I walked up to the strange rectangular obelisk. I then placed the six Eternium shards on the ground in its centre.

There was a flash of light, and the shards had been reforged into Hrormir’s Icestaff.

I lifted it out and detected a Magelight dweomer and powerful Frost-based destruction capabilities.

I climbed down and handed the staff to Auryen, whose eyes lit up with excitement.

I told him, “The Dragonguard will help you pack and escort you back to Solitude. I look forward to our next excavation.”

“It will have to be a Dwemer ruin, or Madras will cry.”

“I will remember to bring my pillows.”

I walked over to Jin.

I explained, “I meant to swap you lot out for another squad but was distracted. Sorry!”

“Wulf, when we heard what happened, none of us begrudged helping the guild for longer than planned. We have enjoyed our time with them and will ensure they make it home safe.”

“Thank you, Jin. We are about to visit High Queen Elisif. The news of the Thalmor culling should have reached her by now. I expect the news sheets will have the story of the pilgrim massacre and other crimes in print this afternoon.”

“It will be fascinating to watch how Mede deals with this.”

“He will rescind some of the powers granted The Thalmor under The White-Gold Concordat. International courts would support him, as nowhere in that agreement is enslavement, soul-trapping and mass slaughter allowed.”

“I look forward, like the others in this squad, to a hot spa and real privies.”

I gathered my friends, and we teleported into Proudspire Manor.

We exited onto the eerily deserted streets.

I stopped to talk to Marz and Oaks.

  • Wulf: Good morning, gentlemen.
  • Marz: Oh, hello, Dragonborn and Olette and Inigo and others.
  • Oaks: When is Auryen back? Nobody else can answer our questions as well as he does.
  • Wulf: We just finished an excavation, so he shall return in three days.
  • Olette: How are the orphans?
  • Marz: We are enjoying our time in Solitude. There is no racism, and even the tall Khajiiti are accepted.
  • Oaks: Some of them are dizzy from the endless games of chasey.
  • Wulf: There should be dozens of new exhibits on display soon after Auryen arrives back in his office.
  • Marz: Anything exciting?
  • Wulf: How about a genuine Dremora Lord’s Mask of Horror?
  • Oak: Wow!
  • Marz: Is it terrifying?
  • Wulf: We will leave the dweomer on it. I guarantee you will be so frightened that clean underwear will be needed!
  • Marz: Wait till I tell the others!

The young mages ran off to share the exciting news, and we continued to The Blue Palace.

We entered, and as we made our way to Elisif, I asked the others to stand at a distance. I wanted my conversation with the young queen to be private.

I stood before Elisif and bowed. I could see she was worried as she asked Firebeard and others to move some distance away.

When Elisif was content our conversation would be private, she said, “Wulf, I have received several disturbing reports. Perhaps you can shed some light on them?”

“Perhaps, my Queen. What is the nature of these reports?”

“The first was yesterday morning. Lightning spells killed every Thalmor in their headquarters, according to Priest Styrr.”

“The Thalmor are so popular I am afraid it would be difficult to narrow the suspects to less than half a million people, my Queen.”

“Late yesterday afternoon, I received a report that every Thalmor in Northwatch Keep was dead and all prisoners missing. I received another report from Jarl Igmund early this morning that said his Thalmor guests were also slain. Two had their throats cut, and Justiciar Ondolemar had his dagger shoved into his brain via his mouth.”

“That sounds like somebody didn’t like him very much, my Queen.”

“Five minutes before you entered, I received the news that every Thalmor in their embassy was dead. The Thalmor outside died from lightning, as happened at Northwatch Keep. The Thalmor inside died from various violent means. It seems First Emissary Elenwen took her own life. That is a common outcome for a high-ranking Thalmor who fails a mission. I am at a loss as to what mission condemned Elenwen.”

“Are there any suspects in the mass slaughter of our friends, The Thalmor?”

“Wulf, did you kill them?”

“Is it wise for me to answer that question? I am sure if they find any evidence or witnesses that make me a suspect, I will be asked that question by The Penitus Oculatus. Perhaps we should wait and see if any accusations come my way.”

“Okay, do you know why such a systematic slaughter of Thalmor might occur at this particular moment?”

“Very recently, Thalmor mages killed three dozen priests and priestesses of Talos to deny their services to Talos worshippers. However, their routine butchery was not enough. Thalmor mages soul trapped every one of them! That vindictive and evil act was done to deny the clergy their afterlife in Aetherius and had nothing to do with eradicating Talos worship.”

Elisif’s face now displayed shock instead of worry. All she said was, “Oh!”

I continued, “Talos worshippers were suddenly bereft of their spiritual leaders. Coincidentally, a hidden Temple of Talos had been established in an old watchtower. Pilgrims flocked to this hidden temple, and The Thalmor let their numbers grow. The Thalmor intended to raid the temple and hopefully capture some high-profile devotees amongst the peasantry. The Thalmor raided the temple, not expecting to be met by a squad of Dragonguard. Only the presence of my friends and a couple of brave pilgrims prevented every devotee from being butchered. Instead, some pilgrims survived, but over four dozen Thalmor lost their lives.”

“Priest Styrr and General Tullius both told me of that incident. I suspected the killing of The Thalmor in their embassy and so forth was retaliation. I knew nothing of the killing and soul trapping of the clergy.”

“The missing prisoners from Northwatch Keep will soon be telling their stories to the news sheets. They were destined for slave markets, delivered by The Thalmor. I can’t recall The Empire suddenly allowing slave trafficking within its borders?”

“Are there witnesses to the massacre of the civilians and the soul-trapping of the clergy?”

“I recovered the Black Soul Gems from the Thalmor transporting them. I also helped release the entrapped souls and send them to Aetherius. There are survivors of the massacre, including a squad of Dragonguard. I also have written orders, on Thalmor Embassy Letterhead, from one Justiciar to another that directly places the blame on Elenwen’s shoulders.”

I handed Elisif the orders, and she paled further as she read them. She looked at me and asked, “Do you suspect why Justiciar Ondolemar was given special treatment by his killer?”

“The dagger embedded in his brain had been retrieved from the back of a young girl called Jorae. Justiciar Ondolemar murdered her after Thalmor killed her mother, and the Justiciar slit her father’s throat in front of her. She was kneeling and praying at the time of her death. I am positive the surviving pilgrims will provide detailed descriptions to the news sheets.”

Tears streamed down Elisif’s face as she said, “His Imperial Majesty cannot suffer such brutality against our citizens any longer. If wise, he will act decisively and retract certain powers given to The Thalmor under The White Gold Concordat. I will demand that suspect worshippers be arrested by our troops moving forward and that minor fines be their only punishment. He will agree to that, or I swear on The Nine, I will have every Thalmor thrown out of Skyrim!”

“Thalmor plans were curtailed by the quick resolution of the civil war. It did far less damage to our armies and infrastructure than The Thalmor desired. His Imperial Majesty can act from a position of strength, and such will be the popularity of his actions within Dominion and Empire that The Thalmor will have no choice but to agree.”

“Theoretically, Wulf, could you travel from place to place and kill all of those Thalmor in one night?”

“I think it would take me little more than two hours, my Queen. Far less if I didn’t care about being identified.”

“Did you see the aftermath of the pilgrim massacre?”

“I saw it in a premonition before and in person after it occurred. The sight of Jorae’s body, with her hands still in prayer, was disturbing, my Queen. Somebody with my skills could make Elenwen see the barbarism of Thalmor actions as if she were there. Therefore, I suggest Elenwen killed herself out of guilt, not because she was embarrassed by failure.”

“This may impact plans for my coronation.”

“That would be a shame, my Queen. However, I must emphasise that I fight for all mortals. I value the politics of this world far less than the lives of the innocent.”

“I understand.”

“If I have your leave, my Queen, I have other matters to attend to. I will visit again soon and discuss more pleasant issues. I may even get a chance to visit Highreach and tell you of my decision.”

“Be assured, Wulf, that The Thalmor will never be given a warrant for your arrest here or any other province of The Empire.”

“They would be wise to leave me be, my Queen. However, The Thalmor lack such wisdom, and they will probably target those I love. They have proven their willingness to kill children of Olette’s age. I should hope that official warnings from yourself and His Imperial Majesty convey the folly of such actions.”

I bowed, gathered my friends and teleported to the outskirts of Dawnstar.

Olette asked, “I saw High Queen Elisif crying, Wulf. What made my friend so sad?”

“I told her what The Thalmor had done. I think her crying was a combination of sadness and frustration. She wants to punish The Thalmor but is constrained by the responsibilities of her position.”

“Everybody will know you punished them.”

“Punishments should deter the next person from committing a similar crime. That is what I hoped to achieve by shedding all that blood, Olette.”

“Will it work?”

“If there is a big enough outcry from the citizens of Skyrim and other provinces, it will work.”

“Don’t The Thalmor do similar all the time?”

“Quite often within the borders of The Dominion. That is why we ended up with so many Khajiiti orphans in Skyrim. This atrocity is not the first time they have treated Empire citizens like those of The Dominion. However, it is the first time such activity will be widely reported in news sheets all over Nirn. It will be a catalyst for change. Now, young lady, let us cheer you up a bit.”

I stepped up to Ahkari and said, “Consider that plate of Azura’s Star treats sold. Please put it on my account.”

“They have been selling very well. Here you are.”

Ahkari handed me the plate of treats, which soon did the rounds of my friends and was returned empty.

I could hear two things as we walked towards The White Hall. One was Ahkari’s cheerful laughter that always accompanies a sale. The other was the muffled words of appreciation as my friends stuffed their faces with Azura’s Star treats.

As we reached The White Hall’s entrance, there was much licking of fingers and claws.

We entered and approached Jarl Brina.

  • Wulf: Greetings, Jarl Brina. How is your city now that the night terrors are gone?
  • Brina: It is much improved, but it may take some time for our people to recover fully.
  • Wulf: That is understandable. The night terrors were horrors dragged up from childhood fears and adult worries.
  • Horik: Our people owe you and Brother Erandur a great debt.
  • Wulf: No, they don’t. We were doing The Nine’s work, which was rewarding enough.
  • Brina: Still, I now name you a Thane of The Pale. Gregor has been assigned your housecarl and left for your new estate a few days ago.
  • Horik: Gregor was headed for Silverpeak Lodge, not Heljarchen Hall.
  • Brina: He was? Well, Wulf, you will find him at one place or the other, I’m sure.
  • Horik: Ahem, are you forgetting something, my Jarl?
  • Brina: What?
  • Horik: It is sharp and used for stabbing people.
  • Brina: Oh, and here, Thane Wulf, is your sword of office. It is called The Blade of The Pale. Not a very original name, but it is of superb quality.

Brina handed me The Blade of The Pale, a sword of superb quality.

  • Wulf: I thank you for this honour, my Jarl. Now I shall wander around Dawnstar and show my daughter its delights.
  • Brina: Oh, I thought she was too young to be a Dragonguard recruit.
  • Horik: What is your name, young lady?
  • Olette: Olette.
  • Brina: I hope you enjoy our cold and damp city, Olette.
  • Olette: The salt air makes everything smell cleaner.
  • Brina: Don’t get too close to the fishing vessels. The air is a bit whiffy in their proximity.
  • Olette: Then they will remind me of the fisheries in Riften.

I gave my head a slight bow, and then we went outside.

It was snowing hard, and the wind was bitterly cold. Very few locals were walking the streets. A large ship was docked in the distance.

  • Olette: Cap’n, can we have a look at that ship. It is far larger than any that visit Riften.
  • Rigmor: Didn’t you visit the docks in Solitude?
  • Olette: Yeah, but that one is using a huge cargo crane. I have never seen one in action.
  • Wulf: Okay, we shall visit and watch how it works.
  • Rigmor: Where is this new house of yours, Wulf?
  • Wulf: Heljarchen Hall is many miles south of here, in the middle of nowhere. I can’t teleport there as I have never been there.
  • Rigmor: And it would be a hazardous journey to get there on horse or foot.
  • Wulf: Yep. Therefore, a visit will have to wait till another day. I will probably have to hire a steward to maintain and guard the place.
  • Inigo: As the number of Dragonguard grows, your houses will become quite busy.
  • Wulf: You must own property in a Hold to be named a Thane of that Hold. That is the primary reason I purchase them. But you are right, Inigo, they are places useable by The Dragonguard for time away from Silverpeak Lodge.
  • Felix: What do you know of your new housecarl?
  • Wulf: His name is Gregor Fjanssson. His father, Fjanss, was a sergeant under Jarl Brina during The Great War. Gregor was Captain of Dawnstar’s guards and asked to be assigned to me as housecarl.

We watched the dock workers and sailors loaded cargo aboard a ship named Seaspray for some time. When they took a break from their labour and Olette’s questions, it was time to visit Markarth.

I teleported to Markarth’s stables, and then we entered the city.

I whispered to the adults, “Let us wait and see what Olette notices.”

Olette stood still and observed the activity around the marketplace.

After a few minutes, she turned to us.

  • Wulf: Well, my little gutter snipe, what did you see?
  • Olette: I noticed one person casing the jewellery merchant, two pickpockets, one elderly prostitute and Cap’n, a dark-skinned girl watching you. She is probably being paid to keep a lookout.
  • Wulf: Yes, I see her. A young Redguard girl about your age. I don’t think she does that for a living, do you?
  • Olette: I don’t think so, either. She is too obvious and well-dressed, so she is probably not a street urchin.
  • Rigmor: At least there were some locals to stare at here.
  • Olette: Yeah, they were all snuggled inside their warm houses in Dawnstar.
  • Inigo: There are a lot of Khajiiti and Argonian here!
  • Wulf: Markarth is very cosmopolitan, even though many ‘Skyrim is for the Nords’ morons live here.
  • Rigmor: What is Jarl Igmund like?
  • Wulf: I only know him from hearsay. Therefore, I will reserve my judgement. His housecarl, Faleen, has a reputation similar to Irileth’s, and she is a straight talker with no qualms telling visitors and her Jarl the truth of things.
  • Rigmor: Ooh, I like her already.
  • Wulf: I ask that everybody stand at a distance and let me speak privately to Jarl Igmund.

We made our way to Understone Keep, and once again, I found Markarth’s architecture devoid of beauty or interest.

We entered the keep, and I told my friends, “Please remain at the bottom of the stairs. Jarl Igmund is a bit more paranoid than other Jarls.”

As we walked towards the throne, a Nord said, “You there. Are you another Imperial puppet? Answer me!”

“Why should I answer you?”

“Because I am Thongvor Silver-Blood, and we own this city!”

“Ahh, you are one of the infamously inbred Silver-Blood members. Still, that is not a compelling reason to answer your impertinent question. However, I will do so before you get upset and cry. Yes, Thongvor Silver-Blood, I support The Empire.”

“Your Empire is destroying everything Skyrim stands for. Honour. Pride. Mighty Talos. If you meet Jarl Igmund, tell him that the Silver-Blood family won’t tolerate his cowardice for much longer.”

“You are the first Silver-Blood I have met. To prove the theory that inbreeding creates morons, you think the Jarl would care what you think. You also stupidly asked a stranger to pass on a threat.”

“We own Cidhna Mine. It is the best prison in Skyrim and the source of half the wealth in this city. We keep The Reach safe. We flood Markarth with wealth, but does the Jarl listen to us when we want a say? No! He forgets that Ulfric Stormcloak saved this city from the Forsworn. Ulfric was a hero, not a damn criminal.”

“Oh, please tell me about Ulfric’s heroic rescue of Markarth.”

“He used the Thu’um and shouted those Forsworn down from the walls. Then he led a band of Nord warriors in to take the city. Like Talos himself at the Battle of Old Hroldan, they were reclaiming The Reach from those heaven natives. That’s a true Nord hero. A legend. So great that The Divines themselves lifted his soul into the heavens and made him a god. He founded The Empire, and now they’ve turned their backs on him to appease the Elves. Elves! Do the Elves rule Skyrim, or do the Nords?”

“You are an ignorant bastard, aren’t you? Saint Alessia founded The Empire. The Reach is not safe! The number of bandits and Forsworn that we have had to kill proves that fact. The number of beggars on the streets of Markarth makes your claim about wealth a lie. And it is also your Empire since Ulfric was put down like the traitorous dog he was.”

“How dare you….”

I put my face inches from Thongvor’s. I used the Thu’um to whisper, “SHUT UP AND LISTEN!”

Thongvor finally realised who he faced.

“Yes, I am the Dragonborn. I am also the Champion of The Divines. Do you think what I revealed about Ulfric before destroying his armies was a lie? Answer me!”

“But he saved Markarth! You never said anything about that!”

“I do believe I mentioned his massacre of innocents in Markarth. Rescuing Markarth was part of Ulfric’s plan, backed by The Thalmor, for a civil war. He did not care about this city’s people or Talos’ worship. He was not wearing an Amulet of Talos when I killed him. There was no sign of Talos worship anywhere inside The Palace of the Kings. When I asked High Priest Lortheim, he said Ulfric only ever visited and prayed for strength in battle, not the welfare of his people. Many of the Legionnaires and Stormcloaks who died in that senseless war did wear amulets of Talos! Ulfric was responsible for far more deaths of Talos worshippers than the Thalmor.”

“But…”

“Shut up while I educate you, Thongvor!”

Thongvor’s went silent.

I continued, “Similarly, Ulfric slaughtered far more citizens of Markarth than the Forsworn did! It is well documented how innocent elderly, children and women were murdered because they refused to take up arms against the Forsworn.”

“I refuse to be silenced. You, the so-called Champion of The Divines, think it is okay to ban Talos!”

“I have seen the reports in the news sheets, and I assume you have as well. They tell everybody what Talos told me. The head priest in Windhelm’s Temple of Talos has verified what I said, and so have many other priests and priestesses. Talos does not want people dying over the ban! He has never asked for people to die over it! There is no reason for people to die over it! Ulfric was as much a blasphemer as the Thalmor and hijacked Talos for his ambitions, not for any concern about worship or religious freedom!”

Silence. The Silver-Blood just stared into my eyes.

“What you said about your Jarl could be regarded as a threat. I am also a Legion General. It is my duty to kill any who attempt to usurp the rightful leaders of this land. Will I have to kill you?”

“No, it is just anger talking. I promise.”

As I walked away, I heard a sharp intake of breath from Thongvor. I would not have cut him down, but it does not harm for him to think otherwise.

I heard Olette whisper to Rigmor, “Cap’n is so cool when he turns idiots into quivering idiots!”

“I know. It is an art with him and always entertaining.”

My group stayed at the bottom of the stairs as I continued my approach to the throne.

I stood at the bottom of the last flight of stairs and listened to a conversation.

  • Raerek: Igmund, we need to talk about the Silver-Blood family.
  • Igmund: What about them, Raerek? They seem loyal enough.
  • Raerek: Loyal? Thongvor supported Ulfric and his Stormcloaks! We should imprison the entire family as a precaution.
  • Faleen: I second that, Igmund. Who knows what that family will do for power? They could be working with the Forsworn, for all we know.
  • Igmund: Enough! We can’t imprison the very people that own the jail we would be throwing them into. The Silver-Blood family are to be left alone, am I clear?
  • Faleen: Yes, my Jarl.
  • Raerek: Yes, my Jarl.

I coughed and said, “That is unwise, Jarl Igmund.”

Faleen snarled and demanded, “Who are you to speak to Jarl Igmund or even approach without permission?”

“I believe I am at the required distance that protocol demands as I await one of you to notice my presence. As for who I am, I thought there would be enough pictures of me wearing this unique armour in the news sheets that even the illiterate would recognise me.”

Jarl Igmund laughed as Faleen spluttered. He stepped down from his throne and said, “Welcome, General Wulf Welkynd.”

I walked up to him, and he grasped my arms in a traditional Nord greeting. Then he remained standing, a sign of respect not lost on his housecarl and steward.

  • Wulf: The Silver-Blood family must be watched closely, but jailing without conviction is against Imperial law.
  • Igmund: You suspect the Silver-Bloods are disloyal?
  • Wulf: Indeed, but first, let us discuss The Forsworn. When I visited the other day, I saved a visitor to your city from an assassin.
  • Igmund: My guards told me. Poor Margret. Witnesses report that the attacker was shouting some nonsense about being a Forsworn. I want to make things clear. Markarth has its troubles, but there are no Forsworn in this city. They’re only a threat in the hills and along some roads. Everywhere else, we are in control.
  • Wulf: If you were in control, Emperor Titus Mede II would not deem it necessary to have spies in Markarth. One of them was targeted by an assassin who everybody knows was Forsworn except for you. Did the guards even investigate who the assassin was? Have they explained why he would claim to be Forsworn and try to kill a visitor from Bruma?
  • Igmund: You dare tell me my guards know of Forsworn in the city and that The Empire, who I have been very loyal to, is spying on me!
  • Wulf: Why would the Forsworn worry about a spy in your city if they have nothing to hide in Markarth? If Margret is here to investigate your activities, I assume you have nothing to hide, Jarl Igmund?
  • Raerek: General Welkynd has a point, my Jarl. A thousand spies would find nothing but a loyal man in you.
  • Igmund: And my guards?
  • Wulf: Some are covering up the existence of Forsworn in Markarth. That would take a lot of coins for bribes, and only one family could pay such sums.
  • Faleen: The Silver Blood traitors!
  • Wulf: I just had a conversation with Thongvor. He implied that you, Jarl Igmund, should listen to their complaints. That was a threat to your safety. He said that to me, a stranger he had met seconds before. If you think that family is loyal to you, I suggest you remove your head from your arse and look around!
  • Igmund: How dare you!
  • Wulf: Why do people ask that? I dare to tell the truth! You inherited your position and have not earned it. I owe you no respect, so don’t expect any. Do you like that nice comfortable throne? What if Margret or another spy did find something illegal in Markarth? You can be the one who gave me the authority to investigate, or you could try and convince the Emperor you knew nothing of unlawful activities uncovered.
  • Raerek: Even if you convinced The Emperor of your innocence, you would be someone who did not know what was happening in his city. You would be regarded as a poor leader of his people.
  • Igmund: I suppose you will snoop with my permission or not?
  • Wulf: The Empire already has people doing that. I could have done this without your knowledge, but after the civil war, Skyrim needs strong leaders. Make it look like my investigation was your idea.
  • Raerek: He should be given an official capacity.
  • Igmund: Are you suggesting I make him Thane?
  • Raerek: Can you think of a better person to announce as our Thane? The other Holds will be envious!
  • Wulf: Yeah, forget that you owe me your freedom and life!
  • Igmund: We can’t afford to give him Vlindrel Hall, and no other house is currently available!
  • Raerek: Dragonborn, the laws of Skyrim state that you cannot be Thane unless you own property in the city.
  • Wulf: How much for the house? And do not dare try and make a massive profit from me. Just remember the debts I just mentioned. You know, your life and freedom.

Raerek quickly whispered to Igmund. He looked sour but agreed with his advisor. Raerek told me the price, and I signed the ownership papers. I paid for Vlindrel Hall with a money order and was now the proud owner of another large house.

  • Igmund: Now that is settled, I name you Thane of Markarth. I grant you a personal Housecarl, Argis the Bulwark, to watch over your home. I also present you with ‘The Hammer of Markarth’ as your symbol of rank.
  • Wulf: I am honoured to be named Thane of Markarth, my Jarl. Is there anything I can do for you?
  • Igmund: I have heard rumours of Forsworn in my city! I need you to investigate for me.
  • Wulf: Yes, my Jarl. I will start my investigation immediately.
  • Igmund: Oh, the Thalmor living inside this keep, plus another visiting, were all murdered. Would you care to investigate that crime as well?
  • Wulf: What crime, my Jarl?
  • Igmund: The murders of four Thalmor!
  • Wulf: That is no crime, Jarl, and I already know who did it and why.
  • Igmund: Then answer me, who committed that crime and why.
  • Wulf: It is obvious who did it. I suggest you read the news sheets to find out why that person brought justice to Markarth.
  • Igmund: Who did it is not evident to me!
  • Raerek: That is due to your lack of intelligence, my dear nephew.
  • Faleen: Think hard, my Jarl. Who has the skills to sneak into this palace and silently kill our Thalmor guests?
  • Igmund: Oh, and I just made him Thane!
  • Raerek: That favour alone earned him the title, my nephew.
  • Wulf: Where will I find Argis?
  • Faleen: He will be waiting for you in Vlindrel Hall.
  • Wulf: You planned to make me Thane and had people watch for my entry to the city. Potential housecarls do not sit in empty houses waiting for a Thane.
  • Raerek: Ha! I told you he would figure it out, but nobody listens to old Raerek these days.

As I walked past Thongvor, I told him, “I am now your Thane and will be investigating links between the Silver-Blood family and Foresworn. So don’t go far, Thongvor. I might need to question you.”

My friends joined me, and we exited the keep.

Rigmor asked, “Is that the Temple of Dibella up there?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are we going to visit it?”

“Not today. We are going to visit my new home and gather my new housecarl. Then I will take you to Silverpeak Lodge and return by myself.”

“Why alone?”

“I want the players in the politics of Markarth to make the mistake of underestimating me. I am bait, Rigmor. The fish won’t bite if armed guards surround me.”

“Do you think the Jarl is in danger?”

“I think The Reach is in danger if the Silver-Bloods use Forsworn to increase their wealth.”

We made our way to Vlindrel Hall

Some might think the view from its balcony was spectacular.

We entered the house, but I was not interested in looking around. I placed a Mark and then looked for Argis. I soon found him.

“Argis, I am General Wulf Welkynd and am now your Thane.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Dragonborn, and it will be my honour to serve you.”

“Where did the name Bulwark come from?”

“My skill with my shield earned me that name. Enemies waste their last breaths beating against it.”

“What happened to your eye?”

“An arrow grazed it. It became infected, and I lost sight in it. I decided to leave it in place rather than wear an eye patch.”

“I will talk to you more later soon. Presently I have urgent business. Therefore, I will take you to your new home, Silverpeak Lodge. There you can spend your time getting to know The Dragonguard.”

“How long will this journey take?”

“Seconds. Please, place your hand on my shoulder.”

Argis did as asked, and we teleported into Silverpeak Lodge. He looked a bit startled.

“Sorry for lack of prior warning, Argis. That was the ethereal plane we travelled through. Anyway, I will ask Vayu, our Grandmaster and Shaman, to show you around and answer questions.”

Vayu had wandered over and heard what I said.

“Vayu, this is Argis the Bulwark, my housecarl from Markarth. Please help him adjust, as he is probably bewildered now.”

“Of course. Come with me, Argis.”

“Oh, Vayu, another housecarl should arrive sometime today from Dawnstar. His name is Gregor Fjanssson, and he was Captain of the Guard.”

“Okay. Can I expect any more strays?”

“There might be a few more over the coming days.”

Inigo had already changed into his kimono. Olette was leaning against a post as Rigmor spoke to her. I joined them.

  • Rigmor: Olette, Wulf is not returning to Markarth to kill many people. He is investigating something, and we will continue our tour of Holds tomorrow.
  • Olette: By why does he need to do it alone?
  • Wulf: Olette, I want the people I am investigating to make the mistake of underestimating me. What can a sole person do against the mighty Silver-Blood family or Forsworn?
  • Rigmor: Wulf thinks that being surrounded by Dragonguard will scare them away.
  • Olette: Cap’n, you are not going to kill lots of enemies?
  • Wulf: I don’t plan to. You know that, if need be, I can summon Dragonguard to help me.
  • Olette: Well, I enjoyed today and know tomorrow will be fun.
  • Wulf: Yes, it will, and I think we shall start with Falkreath.
  • Rigmor: The Jarl of Falkreath is an arse.
  • Olette: Be careful, Cap’n.
  • Wulf: I will be as quick as possible and keep Rigmor informed via our amulets.

I gave Rigmor a peck on the cheek and ruffled Olette’s hair before recalling to the Mark in Vlindrel Hall.

I made my way to the market, and as I hoped, it was not long before the young Redguard girl approached me.

She timidly asked, “Excuse me, but are you The Dragonborn?”

“Yes, I am. And you are?”

“My name is Adara. That is my mom behind me. She is called Kerah and is a silversmith. My father, Endon, is also a silversmith. One day I am going to be his apprentice.”

“That is a fine occupation, Adara. You can use your imagination to create beautiful things that make people smile.”

“Yeah, that is what Mom says.”

“What can I do for you, Adara?”

“A friend called Eltrys asked that I hand you this note if I saw you. It is in a weird language, and I don’t know what it says.”

Adara handed me a note in Bretic, an ancient dialect of High Rock. It was similar enough to Ayleidoon for me to decipher it. Eltrys wanted to meet me in Markarth’s Temple of Talos.

I asked Adara, “Is Eltrys originally from High Rock?”

“Yes. Eltrys is a friend of our family. He and his wife Rhiada are expecting a baby, and he said they might call it Adara if it is a girl!”

“That sounds exciting! Do I owe you for handing me this note?”

“Oh, no, I am doing it as a favour. Eltrys says you will help him with a problem because that is what heroes like you do.”

“Look after yourself, Adara. I look forward to visiting Markarth one day and buying fine jewellery from you.”

Adara beamed as I walked towards the Temple of Talos.

Several cities in Skyrim have Temples and statues dedicated to Talos. For some reason, their removal and destruction weren’t demanded in the White-Gold Concordat.

I entered the temple and found Eltrys leaning against a column. I kept my distance as my self-preservation paranoia dictated.

“Eltrys, I assume?”

“Yes, Dragonborn, I am Eltrys. I’m sorry to drag you into Markarth’s problems, but after that attack in the market, I’m running out of time.”

“I am investigating that incident on behalf of Jarl Igmund. I am now a Thane of Markarth, so I have the authority to seek answers.”

“You want answers? Well, so do I, as everybody in this city does. A man goes crazy in the market. Everyone knows he’s a Forsworn agent, yet the guards do nothing but clean up the mess.”

“And one of them warned me not to ask too many questions. I had just saved Margret from an assassin, yet it wasn’t my business! That obvious corruption immediately made it my business.”

“This has been going on for years. And all I have been able to find is murder and blood. I need help.”

“And that is why I am here! I believe the assassin’s name was Weylin?”

“Yes, and the woman he attacked is a visitor from Cyrodiil.”

“She is from Bruma, to be precise. Where will I find Margret?”

“Visitors to the city usually stay at The Silver-Blood Inn.”

“And Weylin was a citizen of Markarth?”

“He was one of the smelter workers. I used to have a job down there myself, casting silver ingots. I never knew much about Weylin, except he lives in The Warrens, like all the other workers.”

“The Silver-Blood family are worth a fortune, but their workers live in slums?”

“You sound surprised.”

“That is not what people in other holds tolerate. It seems the Silver-Blood family rely on cheap labour and convicts. I assume not all residents of the prison are guilty of crimes.”

“No, they aren’t, and the Jarl seems to tolerate that.”

“Jarl Igmund is guilty of ignorance, but I am yet to uncover anything more sinister. Have you been investigating the Silver-Bloods?”

“Yes, it started when I was a boy. My father owned one of the mines. Rare for anyone who isn’t a Nord.”

“He was a Reachman?”

“Yes, and he was killed. The guards said it was just a madman that did it. Once again, everybody knew otherwise and that the murderer was a member of the Forsworn. I have been trying to find out why he was murdered ever since. I got nowhere despite trying, and then I got married. I have a child of my own on the way.”

“That complicates things!”

“I swore I would give up for my child’s sake, but it’s like my father’s ghost is haunting me. Asking me, ‘Why?’”

“Do you feel safe in this Temple?”

“Even though I believe in the Old Gods, I doubt even Forsworn would murder within this holy place.”

“Where does Rhiada work?”

“You know my wife’s name?”

“Adara is quite a chatterbox.”

“Oh, of course. Rhiada is a servant working in Treasury House.”

“She works for the Silver-Blood family?”

“Yes, and had once been a valuable source of information. However, Rhiada is unaware I have been investigating again, so I would appreciate you not mentioning me to her.”

“You wrote your note in Bretic. How did you know I would understand it?”

“I was hoping the news sheets weren’t exaggerating. They say you can read and speak most languages. Plus, you have that museum, so I thought you might occasionally come across Bretic. Many people in High Rock use it to preserve it.”

“Okay, Eltrys, I will start snooping and see what I find.”

“Thank you, Dragonborn.”

I left the temple and headed for The Warrens. The smell seeping under its door was reminiscent of The Ratway in Riften.

I entered and was met by squalor.

I approached a Breton who sneered at me and said, “The Warrens aren’t a place for your type. What do you want?”

“My type? Oh, I am not worth courtesy because I am well dressed and have the occasional bath. I see.”

“I meant no offence. It is just that The Warrens is where you go if you can’t afford a room anywhere else. When they opened the mines, someone got the idea to throw beds into these disused tunnels. Labourers. The sick. The lame. We’re all here.”

“That is not exactly adhering to The Ten Commandments of The Nine Divines.”

“That’s right. Welcome to Markarth, traveller and thank The Divines that you can choose to live elsewhere.”

“My name is Thane Wulf Welkynd. You are?”

“I am Garvey. Did you say Wulf Welkynd? Are you The Dragonborn?”

“Yes, and I am here investigating an attempted assassination. Did you know Weylin?”

“Oh yes. I know everyone who sleeps in The Warrens. I pass the keys around. I guess someone else will be taking his room now.”

“Please, may I have the key to his room?”

“Sure, here you go.”

Garvey passed me the key and said, “Weylin’s room is the last on the right.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Garvey. I shall return the key when I have finished.”

I headed past the wretched and the ill despite my whole being wanting to aid them. I needed to concentrate on the task at hand.

I unlocked the door and entered Weylin’s room. I was appalled at the filth and poverty on display; such places are ideal breeding grounds for radicals.

I found a key which opened a chest. Inside were Weylin’s meagre possessions, including pots, pans and a kettle. There was also a note, which I retrieved and read.

“Weylin,

You’ve been chosen to strike fear in the heart of the Nords. Go to the market tomorrow. You will know what to do.

N.”

I have no idea who ‘N’ is, but they are higher up the ladder and need to be found.

I handed the key back to Garvey on my out of The Warrens.

When I exited, a thug sauntered towards me.

He stopped and, in typical thug fashion, tried to sound intimidating.

“You’ve been digging around where you don’t belong. It’s time you learned a lesson.”

I looked him up and down, then laughed. It was not a fake laugh but a genuine, full-on belly laugh.

His face turned red, and he demanded, “What is so funny?”

“I am eighteen inches taller and a foot wider at the shoulders. I am wearing ebony armour compared to your shoddy leather armour. My biceps are bigger than your thighs, and you think to scare me?”

“Well…yes…I suppose.”

“Somebody doesn’t like you very much, do they? Otherwise, they wouldn’t send you to certain death.”

“What?”

“I am your Thane and The Dragonborn. I could kill you for threatening me, but I hate paperwork. So here is the deal. You will tell me your name and who sent you, and I will let you live.”

“Woah! Nepos sent me to attack The Dragonborn? I just wanted a friendly fight, not to die!”

“Your name?”

“Dryston.”

“Does Nepos work for the Silver-Blood company?”

“Nepos is in charge. That’s all I know.”

“Thank you, Dryston. You can go now.”

“Ahh…thanks for not killing me and stuff.”

“Thanks for not making me fill in paperwork. I hate answering the question, ‘Reason for summary execution.’”

Dryston sidled past and then walked backwards till he felt the door to the warrens. He managed to open it and walk backwards into The Warrens. I waved at him as he slammed the door shut.

I headed for The Silver-Blood Inn and entered.

I found Margret warming herself in front of the fire.

“Hello, I am General Wulf Welkynd. I am investigating the attack on you at the market.”

“I was told The Dragonborn rescued me and could hardly believe it!”

“Why do you think Weylin attacked you?”

“I don’t know. I was buying jewellery for my sister in Cyrodiil. I’ve never seen that man before.”

“And what are you doing in Markarth?”

“Just visiting. I had some business here. That’s all.”

“Penitus Oculatus business?”

Margret looked a bit shocked, then said, “Was it that obvious? Damn, I must be losing my touch.”

“It was not too difficult to figure out. The Forsworn would not waste an asset like Weylin on a random visitor from Cyrodiil. You seemed to purchase a lot of jewellery to send to your sister. I doubt she exists, and I am sure coded messages were included with the gifts you sent back to Cyrodiil. I assume you liaise with Commander Maro while in Skyrim.”

“Yes, I am one of his assets while here. I was sent to investigate Treasury House and the Silver-Blood family. They own Cidhna Mine, one of the toughest jails in Skyrim.” 

“And who do you think was behind the attempt on your life?”

“Mark my words. Thonar Silver-Blood was behind that attack, ah, somehow.”

“You think the Silver-Bloods can order Forsworn assassins to kill nosy Imperial agents?”

“Like I said, somehow.”

“Before coming here, were you told of any suspected links between the Silver-Blood family and the Forsworn?”

“No, not even a hint that might be an issue.”

“Can you show me on my map where Nepos lives?”

“Do you think he has something to do with it?”

“Yes, I found an order from Nepos to Weylin.”

Margret pointed to a place on the map close to my new house.

“What do you know about Nepos?”

“He is one of the treasurers for the Silver-Bloods.”

“Margret, I suggest you leave Markarth immediately and head to Commander Maro or go back to Cyrodiil. Thanks for your help, and I am glad you survived the attack.”

I left the inn to find another moron waiting to threaten me. A Markarth City Guard this time.

“You. I’ve seen you snooping around. Asking questions.”

“As a General of the Legion and your Thane, I have every right to investigate attempted assassinations. I advise you to tell your colleagues that. I will find out what is behind the attack and who is bribing guards.”

“Back off! You don’t want to know what happens to troublemakers here.”

“I am curious. What do you think you can do to an Imperial General and your Thane?”

“This is your last warning. We keep the peace here. Stay out of our business.”

“This security of this city is my business. Do you think you have power? Nobody would ask me why if I could cut you down where you stand.”

I drew my sword and was upon the guard in a split second.

I growled, “Don’t move an inch, or your head will bounce to Oblivion!”

A familiar guard chuckled and moved closer to observe the fun.

I asked, “Guardsman Maknnag, do you know this guard?”

“His name is Kjarael Bearclaw. I have never seen him perform the duties of a Markarth Guard. He and his friends spend far more gold than we honest guards earn. Silver tinted gold if you ask me.”

“Are most Markarth Guards receiving Silver-Blood money?”

“No, there are only about a dozen slime bags like Kjarael. However, that is enough to stain the reputation of us honest guards and this fine city.”

“Please take Kjarael’s weapons and manacle his hands. Then place him in your holding cells. I doubt he would live long if sent to Cidhna Mine. His future lies in one of High Rock’s lovely penal mines.”

“What shall we charge him with?”

“Threatening his Thane, for starters. That is worth at least two years in the mines. If he has been accepting payments from the Silver-Blood family, he won’t leave the mines for decades.”

Maknnag called over another guard, who was, of all things, an Altmer. They soon had Kjarael disarmed and trussed up. The citizens of Markarth were not shy in letting the crooked guard know what they thought of him. I was impressed by the aim some exhibited with rotten fruit and dung.

I decided it was time to visit the Silver-Blood family and headed for Treasury House.

Upon entering, I overheard a conversation.

  • Betrid: Rhiada, did you clean the tables today? They’re filthy!
  • Rhiada: I’m sorry, Betrid. I’ll clean them right away.
  • Betrid: No, don’t bother. You’re useless, as always. I’ll get Nana Ildene to do it.
  • Rhiada: I’m sorry, Betrid. I thought I had cleaned the tables properly.
  • Betrid: Oh, stop apologising. It makes you look like an idiot. Learn to talk back a bit, girl! Why, when I was in the temple…
  • Rhiada: The temple, Betrid? I heard you were one of Dibella’s faithful.
  • Betrid: I misspoke. Never mind what I said. Now get back to work!

Betrid left Dibella’s Temple. That usually does not sit well with the other sisters. Betrid was apparently of some rank by the way she ordered Rhiada around.

I walked up to the reception desk. Rhiada was starting to show signs of pregnancy and was quite tall for a Breton.

Rhiada said, “Treasury House is just for patrons of the Silver-Blood family. You don’t belong here.”

“Do I look like a beggar to you? Tell me, what kind of patrons do you have if I am unsuitable?”

“For one, the landowners of The Reach. It goes without saying that they rely heavily on us for our silver and support. All the Reach miners, farmers and labourers get their daily wages through us. Nepos the Nose handles that part of our business. He has a way with the workers.”

“Who is in charge here?”

“That would be Thonar Silver-Blood. He handles all the family business. If you are here to talk politics, you’d want his brother Thongvor. You might find him in Understone Keep.”

“I wish to see Thonar.”

“I’m afraid he’s asked not to be disturbed. He has important business.”

“Too important to speak to a Thane of this city?”

“Oh! No, I’m certain it isn’t. You may go right in.”

I walked past Betrid. She briefly looked up, did a dismissive grunt and returned to the ledger she was writing.

I barged in on Thonar, who seemed to be contemplating his belly button.

I towered over Thonar, and he finally looked at me and snarled, “What are you doing here? I told them no visitors.”

“You also told them you were conducting important business. Instead, I find you enjoying some cheese and wine and contemplating your belly button. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that lying is naughty?”

“What do you want?”

“What did Margret do that was worth her life?”

“The Imperial agent? That’s right. I knew. How many dogs is the Empire going to send after me?”

“WOOF!”

“This is my business and my city. You Empire lovers should learn to stay out of it. Now get out!”

Behind me, I heard somebody yell, “For the Forsworn!”

I turned and saw an elderly woman approaching the defenceless Betrid while unsheathing a dagger with one hand and holding a primed spell in her other hand.

I Blinked and placed myself between the old woman and Betrid. Before she could release her spell, I cut her down.

Rhiada screamed, “What are you doing, Donnel? Leave me be!”

I Blinked to the other side of the room and found a guard engaging Donnel, a mage of mediocre ability.

I cut Donnel down, and the room was silent.

Rhiada noticed the other body and cried, “Nana Ildene as well? Has the world gone mad?”

I searched Donnel and Nana Ildene. They had nothing on them of use in my investigation.

I asked Betrid, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, and if you expect a reward, beg one from Thonar, my husband.”

I could tell what kind of woman Betrid was, and my blood boiled.

I asked her, “Do you love your husband?”

“What an impertinent question. How dare you?”

“Let me guess, the lure of Silver-Blood wealth made you abandon your oaths. Once a Sister of Dibella and now a wife in a loveless marriage. It is not too late. Show The Sybil some genuine regret; you may be forgiven by Lady Dibella and return to helping those seeking assistance. Or you can stay here and think that money makes you superior. I am worth far more than the Silver-Blood family and still serve The Nine.”

“Begone, I am bored by you already.”

“What a stupid, shallow woman you are. Perhaps Nana Ildene was tired of your fake nobility.”

I left the fuming Betrid and confronted her husband.

Thonar snarled, “My wife. They tried to kill her! Damn Madanach. Damn his Forsworn backside!”

“The King of Rags did not die twenty years ago? That would explain a lot. Did he double-cross you?”

“The Forsworn are my puppets. I have their ‘king’ rotting in Cidhna Mine. He was supposed to keep them under control.”

“Thank you for confirming your deal with the Forsworn. That was easy.”

“When their uprising was crushed, I had Madanach brought to me. He was a wild animal, but a useful one. I offered him a stay from execution if he used his influence to deal with annoyances such as competitors, spies and idiots. I’ve let him run his little Forsworn rebellion from inside Cidhna Mine. Now he’s out of control.”

“Maybe he got tired of being unjustly imprisoned for twenty years? With more digging, I will have enough evidence to ensure you take his place.”

“You already got what you wanted, you damn hound. This mess is your fault.”

“You are a typical Breton merchant who has no morals and counts coins as his only friends. Those two Forsworn would have cut you all down if I were not here! You are a powerless worm!”

“You and Madanach are animals, and I’ll see you both rot to death in Cidhna Mine!”

I laughed, which made Thonar’s temper grow to epic proportions.

I asked, “Tell me, Thonar, how will you have The Empire’s biggest hero, a friend of the Emperor and High Queen, and your Thane, put in prison?”

Silence from Thonar, whose hands wandered towards his weapons.

I noticed a journal on the dining table. I picked it up and started to read it. Thonar’s hands were on the hilts of his swords.

I growled, “Go ahead and draw a weapon. Do you think you stand a chance against me? You are pathetic! I will take this journal as evidence. The last entry is enough to get you executed, Thonar. Let me read it to you, so you remember how much trouble you are in.”

Madanach is becoming unruly. You’d think that twenty years in prison would calm a beast like him down a bit. Maybe I should have let the Jarl execute him after the uprising.

Still, he’s been invaluable in getting rid of several ‘problems’ over the years. Maybe I’m overreacting. No one knows about our little arrangement. Not even the Forsworn have any idea. I wonder how they would react knowing their ‘King in Rags’ was one of my most important assets.

This little shadow rebellion of his had better not include me, though. If I find out he’s even thinking about double-crossing me, I’ll make sure he dies inside Cidhna Mine.”

I sighed, turned my back on Thonar and casually exited the building.

It didn’t take long to find Nepos’ house. I entered without knocking.

A woman dressed as a maid approached me. Her poise and movements told me she was a warrior of some skill.

She stood at the top of the stairs, so she had the height advantage. The move was so predictable I groaned at the theatrics. It seems Markarth is full of predictable morons.

The fake maid demanded, “Excuse me. What’s your business here?”

“I am your Thane and demand to see Nepos. Who are you?”

“If you must know, I’m the maid. The master of the house is old and needs his rest.”

“If you are a maid, then I am Lifts-Her-Tail. Your master is not too tired to send thugs my way, so move aside!”

Nepos said, “It is okay, Uaile. Let him in.”

Uaile stepped aside, and I marched into the house.

I looked behind, and Uaile had armed herself with a broom and viciously attacked imaginary dust bunnies.

Two other ‘servants’ also tried to look busy sweeping.

I walked up to Nepos, and he did not have the courtesy to look at me when speaking.

He said, “I’m sorry about my housekeeper. She is a little protective of me. Now, what is it you want?”

“I am sorry your servants can’t keep your house clean. All three of them are busily sweeping at once!”

“Why are you here?”

“I know you organised Weylin to kill Margret. I know you sent Dryston to rough me up. I want to know if Thonar ordered these actions or Madanach?”

“Ah, yes. You’ve proven to be a real bloodhound. Well, you’ve sniffed me out. I’ve been playing this game for almost twenty years, sending the young to their deaths. All in the name of the Forsworn. And I’m tired. So tired.”

“Oh, you poor old thing. Now answer me, who gave you the orders?”

“My king told me to. I don’t know how, but he lives. I get his messages, and I hand out his orders without question. Madanach stokes the passions of the oppressed in this city. Directs them to kill the enemies of the Forsworn in our name.”

“The Silver-Blood family have made it easy for you and Madanach to find recruits. If they had shared their wealth instead of hoarding it, all of this murder and illegal imprisonment would have been unnecessary. Did you know Madanach has been rotting in Cidhna Prison for twenty years?”

“I had my suspicions. So, my king has done remarkable things from inside a Nord prison. The irony is quite thick.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Nepos. I will have to think further about how to resolve this problem.”

“My dear boy, what makes you think you’re leaving here alive?”

“You and three unarmoured lackeys have no hope of stopping me, Nepos. Who knows, I might even release Madanach. Wouldn’t you like to live and see such a thing?”

“We can’t take that risk.”

“You have no idea who I am, do you?”

“You are just another Imperial lapdog. We have killed many before you.”

I stood back and let them attack me.

I easily parried Nepos’ sword and said, “I am The Dragonborn, you fool!”

The realisation of his predicament crossed the old man’s face just before I lopped off his head.

Two unarmoured idiots attacked me with daggers. It seems culling stupid is my task for the day.

I cut their heads off and whistled as Uaile ran towards me.

I knocked her dagger aside with my shield. Her head also rolled on the floor.

Four more deaths added to my tally. I wonder what percentage of them are stupid people?

I searched Nepos and found his journal. The last entry read,

“I grow guilt-ridden in my old age. So many of the young were sent to their deaths. All in the name of Forsworn. All in the name of Madanach.

My king, how long have I served you? Since the uprising of the Nords? Was there ever a time when all that violence hasn’t overshadowed our destinies?

What choice do I have but to do as I am instructed?”

I said aloud, “You had mortal free will, Nepos. Blindly obeying a monarch is no different than blindly obeying a Daedric Prince. It does not excuse your sins.”

I decided to speak to Eltrys. I had enough evidence to end the Silver-Blood family and give him the answers he sought.

I entered the Temple of Talos and immediately drew my sword. Eltrys lay at the feet of Talos. He was alive but badly injured.

I slowly walked down the steps, intending to kill the three corrupt guards.

One of them said, “We warned you, but you just had to go and cause trouble. Now we have to pin all these recent murders on you. Silence witnesses. Work. Work. Work. Wait till people hear how you beat poor Eltrys to death inside a temple of all places.”

“Drop your weapons and surrender.”

“Did you hear that? This Imperial busybody wants us to surrender. Let’s kill him. It is less complicated.”

The corrupt guards attacked.

I used my Thu’um and whispered, “YOU FACE THE DRAGONBORN, AND IT’S TIME TO DIE!”

The corrupt guards, like Nepos, realised their fate just before I delivered it. All three died in less than three seconds.

I cast Grand Healing on Eltrys, then helped him to his feet.

I told Eltrys about the Silver-Bloods holding Madanach in prison for twenty years and how the Forsworn were used to do their dirty work, including, I suspected, the murder of his father.

Eltrys listened intently and asked several questions. 

When finished, I warned him, “I am about to arrest the Silver-Blood brothers and confiscate everything they own. Their properties and wealth will belong to the people of Reach Hold. I will have the remaining corrupt guards also placed under arrest. I suggest you stay at home with Rhiada until told it is safe to emerge. Your part in this is over, Eltrys.”

“Thank you, Dragonborn. At last, I can put this to rest and be a proper husband and, soon, father.”

As Eltrys left, I stared at Father and said, “Accurate pictures of me wearing this armour have been in the news sheets for months, yet people still don’t recognise me. I don’t think The Nine will have much difficulty hiding my identity before I enter Cyrodiil!”

I decided I had had enough. The longer the Silver-Blood brothers roamed free, the more attacks on me and others could be expected. Therefore, I made my way back to Treasury House once more.

I entered, and as I walked past Rhiada, I told her, “Go home, Rhiada. Eltrys is waiting for you there. Some corrupt guards tried to kill him. I healed him, but he will need to rest for a few days.”

Rhiada ran and exited the building. I made my way to the dining room.

I walked up to Thonar and said, “Under the authority granted me as Thane and General of The Legion, I hereby place you under arrest, Thonar Silver Blood. You will answer charges of sedition, murder, bribery, kidnapping and other assorted crimes as may be added to the list.”

“Do you know how many people rely on my company, Dragonborn? You are willing to ruin everything and have them left jobless and destitute to pursue more glory.”

“Your businesses will continue under management appointed by Jarl Igmund. And I seek no glory, Thonar. There is much I have done to keep everybody on Nirn alive and free. I have done so without a word being reported in the news sheets. Place your weapons on the table and come with me.”

Thonar stood, drew his swords and advanced towards me.

I drew my sword and said, “I have killed thousands in battle, Thonar. You stand no chance, so don’t be a fool. Put your weapons down.”

Thonar attacked. I casually blocked his swords and then cut him down.

Betrid stood, came over and inspected her dead husband. She remained silent.

“Betrid Silver-Blood, you are under house arrest and are not to leave this building. All assets of the Silver-Blood family are now the property of Reach Hold. If you try to leave this building carrying even a single Septim, you will be charged with theft. I am positive you knew of your husband’s criminal activities, but I will leave it up to Jarl Igmund to decide what charges you face.”

Thongvor came storming into the building and yelled, “Thonar, we have to do something about that fucking Dragonborn! I know where his kid lives. Perhaps a more direct demonstration of our power is required?”

I walked out of the dining room, weapon in hand and stood behind Thongvor.

I growled, “Turn around and draw your weapon, Thongvor. Your brother is dead, and you are about to join him.”

Thongvor turned, drew his sword and attacked.

I parried his sword, then swept his feet from under him. He crashed to the ground.

I stood back and said, “Get up, you piece of shit. You must be a mighty warrior to have the audacity to threaten my daughter.”

Thongvor scrambled to his feet.

He attacked once more. This time I parried his sword and smashed his face with my shield.

As he stood stunned, I cut his head off with a backward swing.

I exited Treasury House and headed for the marketplace, hoping Maknnag was still on duty. He was, and he waited for me to approach.

“Guardsman Maknnag, you said earlier about a dozen Markarth City Guards were working for the Silver-Blood family.”

“Yes, Thane, I have made a list of them, thinking you may want to arrest them.”

“We have Kjarael in prison, and I just killed another three. Can you gather enough honest guards to arrest the remaining eight without risk?”

“It would not take long to gather at least another twenty-five honest guards. Even idiots won’t fight when outnumbered three to one.”

“Do so as soon as you can and arrest the Silver-Blood cronies. Cram them into whatever holding cells you have. Then send the four guards you trust the most to Treasury House. The Silver-Blood brothers are dead, and all company assets now belong to Reach Hold.”

“I take it they resisted arrest.”

“The three dead guards and Silver-Blood brothers all drew weapons and attacked. They were legal kills as were those of Nepos and his Forsworn guards.”

“Do you get sick of idiots attacking you, Thane?”

“I get sick of not being recognised. It is like some people live with their heads up their arse and only remove them in time for me to lop them off!”

“It will be interesting to see how Markarth changes now the Silver-Blood disease has been removed. I had better gather my comrades and arrest the last of the pestilence.”

“Before you go, who is the chief jailor of Cidhna Mine?”

“All the guards are ex-mercenaries employed by the Silver-Bloods. Their boss is a very unpleasant Orsimer by the name of Urzoga gra-Shugurz. Just talk to her like you enjoy having your balls chewed off, and you will get along just fine.”

Maknnag grabbed a couple of passing guards. They had a quick conference and then trotted away, gathering more comrades as they went.

I made my way to Cidhna Mine as I wanted to speak to Madanach. Some compromises with The Forsworn might be possible if we open discussions with one of their leaders. He is not in charge of all clans, but there has to be a beginning.

I entered the mine and soon found Urzoga standing on a bridge.

She said, “Cidhna Mine is for prisoner scum only. Get out!”

“Oh, why should I leave?”

“This is a jail owned by the Silver-Blood family. We use the prisoners to mine for ore. It’s the most secure prison in Skyrim. Throw scum in, close the gates. No one gets out. So, unless you’re here to dig, you don’t belong here.”

“You, Urzoga gra-Shugurz, and your fellow mercenaries are out of a job.”

“Huh?”

“The Silver-Blood brothers are dead. Their company and assets have been seized on behalf of Reach Hold. I am a Thane of The Reach and, therefore, somebody you had better speak nicely to. I am yet to decide if you were complicit in the many crimes committed by the Silver-Blood brothers. It would be embarrassing for you to end your days working as a prisoner in this very mine.”

“Hey, we just accepted the prisoners sent our way and kept them in line! We were probably more hands-on if you take my meaning, but we never kidnapped or killed anybody.”

“Surely you knew that some prisoners were innocent of any crimes.”

“This is not the first prison I have guarded. Every prisoner claims they are innocent. Guards rely on the courts and so on to figure that out. We guard who we are sent.”

“I will let others determine your suitability to remain prison guards here. In the meantime, I want to talk to Madanach. Escort me to him.”

“Fancy armour you are wearing. It looks the same as what The Dragonborn wears.”

“That’s because I am The Dragonborn.”

“Oh! Well, follow me to Madanach.”

Other guards pulled some levers and made our way through several gates. It was soon apparent something was amiss.

I laughed and said, “It seems your inescapable prison lacks prisoners.”

Urzoga cursed and rushed ahead. I followed, chuckling as we went.

We arrived where Madanach had spent the last twenty years. His cell was empty.

Near his cell was an open gate.

I asked, “Where does this tunnel lead?”

“I have no idea.”

“Well, there is only one way to find out. Follow me, and for your safety, don’t ever get in front of me.”

“Why?”

“Just don’t!”

“Okay.”

I drew my sword, and we made our way along the tunnel. We soon came to a Dwemer door.

Through the door were more tunnels with a mixture of Nord and Dwemer architecture.

We travelled along the main corridor for some time then I said, “Giant spiders ahead. You might want to block your ears.”

We turned a corner, and I Shouted Unrelenting Force, eliminating one giant spider.

Urzoga cursed again, and I turned to her.

“I told you to block your ears.”

“What the fuck was that?”

“You recognised me as The Dragonborn, so you should know what that was.”

“The Voice!”

“Yep.”

“How did the escaped prisoners get past the spider?”

“Madanach is a powerful shaman. He would have spells to make the spiders ignore him and his fellow escapees.”

“Are there any more?”

“I can hear at least one more ahead. Come on, the prisoners can’t have escaped long before I arrived at the mine, or I assume you would have noticed them missing.”

“Yes, we do a verbal check every fifteen minutes. We randomly call out a prisoner’s name, and if they don’t respond, we go in and find out why.”

I eliminated another giant spider before we came upon a Dwemer walkway. It was a small part of a more extensive Dwemer ruin. A Dwemer Automaton and Spectre guarded the walkway.

I killed the Spectre with Unrelenting Force and cut down the automaton.