Middas, 27th Last Seed, 4E 201

It has been four months since we arrived in Skyrim from Akavir. I have endeavoured to maintain a peaceful and well-ordered community in those four months. It helps that most of the staff have worked for large estates, and I credit them with the success of Aurane.

The staff we recruited knew that once they entered Aurane, they would remain until an unspecified future date.

Aurane is the Ayleidoon word for welcoming. What the estate’s real name is, I don’t know, but all who live here call it Aurane, so that is what it will remain.

When Silah first showed me Aurane, she was strictly instructed on what she could divulge. I know not to press her for information as she obeys our Celestial Father, Lord Akatosh.

I know Mother, Saint Alessia, had something to do with Aurane’s construction. Mother may have wanted a refuge for Barsaebic Ayleid, who lost their war against the Daedric worshipping Ayleid. That conflict is known as The Narfinsel Schism.

I do not know when Aurane was constructed. Therefore, it may have been intended for the Ayleid persecuted by The Alessian Order. I still fight my rage whenever I think of that blasphemy! The Alessian Order stole the Empire that Mother had built, and their doctrine was opposite to hers. They persecuted not only Ayleid but other races, such as Minotaur. All races can stumble towards committing genocide, but it seems to be a deliberate tactic when Nords are involved.

I greeted the six younger orphans who patiently waited for breakfast to be served. Three older orphans live in the barracks with the adults and will be breaking their fast with them.

I sat and ate with the six younger orphans. As always, there was a never-ending stream of questions and remarkedly insightful opinions. Nirn would be a better place if adult nobles remembered what the world looks like when you are ten years of age.

After our meal and helping to clean up, we entered the main living area. It is always noisy, and the familiar din is precious to me. It is the sound of life!

I stared at the throne and banners. The Life Tree, aka Tree of Life or Blessed Life Tree, was very important to the Ayleid. Some scholars think it is metaphoric and was never a real tree. Some scholars claim it was a real tree, like the Elden Tree, aka First Tree in Valenwood. Some claim that the Blessed Life-Tree was a gift from Meridia, the Dark Lord of whom I am now Champion.

Mother told me that worship of trees takes many forms, and it is a mistake to claim that the Life Tree is one thing, not another. It is best to regard it as a generic symbol of differing origins and meanings for each culture. As the various creation myths are all true, so are the interpretations of the Life Tree. The Hist, Elden Tree, Eldergleam, and Gildergreen are living entities that are, or were, revered by different peoples. There is a tree within Aurane that none of the mages can identify. Perhaps it is a cutting or seedling of the tree on the banner? I found another similar and of the same species in a cave next to Lakeview Manor, my estate in Falkreath Hold.

Meals are eaten in several places. It was a ritual of mine to wander around and talk to various people in the morning. As I headed for the main living area dining tables, I was intercepted by Olette.

“Cap’n, I am doing more archery practice with The Dragonguard later.”

“And it is just a coincidence that the practice range is next to the blacksmith where Oliver is apprenticing.”

“I dunno what you are talking about.”

“Do Celestine and Wujeeta need to have another one of ‘those talks’ with you?”

“No thanks, that was embarrassing enough the first time.”

“I am visiting Hashire and Sune soon. Are you interested in joining me?”


“Oh, I understand. The pretty Oliver is more interesting than a magical island full of unicorns and other horses.”

“Hey, it has been a few days since you became Thane of a Hold. Don’t slow down now, Cap’n!”

“Remember the safety protocols. I don’t want to hear an errant arrow killed a Dragonguard. Look at the targets, not Oliver!”

“I could pretend the targets are you. Then I would never miss!”

I attempted to ruffle Olette’s hair, which she hates. She dodged and ran for the exit.

I quickly chatted with Rayya, Gregor, Jordis and two of the older children, Claudette and Emily.

I wandered over to a Dragonguard on guard duty.

“Good morning, Dragonguard Finja.”

“A good morning to you, Lord Welkynd. Have you located any Blades?”

“Not yet, but I have no doubt some of them survived.”

“When Shaman Vayu arrives, can some of us train for the higher ranks?”

“You were told on Akavir that you can apply anytime, and that hasn’t changed. Why the renewed interest?”

“Well, there was a constant danger in Akavir, so we didn’t feel useless guarding the civilians. Here, Aurane, we feel redundant and perhaps irrelevant if the danger is dragons.”

“We are still on the mortal plane, and only the dweomer on the portal protects us. A reasonably powerful mage might stumble upon the portal and find a way to bypass the dweomer. However, no mortal outside Aurane or god outside Aetherius knows it exists, so nobody is searching for the portal. That will change when we attract more powerful enemies. I can understand you feeling redundant, but I assure you, that is not the case.”

“I suppose we would be wise to wait and see what enemies you attract.”

“I have already pissed off Vaermina, and do not doubt other Daedric Princes will take a disliking to me. I don’t think the children and non-combatants would enjoy Daedra appearing in the middle of Aurane.”

“Well, that thought is enough to keep me awake on night-guard duty!”

“Dragon’s Keep is another matter. Legionnaires will guard it, but that might not be enough. We might have to assign Dragonguard there. That could be a busier posting with more inherent danger.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“If you want to train to Dragon Knight level, it will be arranged. I know some of you want to contact family, but The Thalmor have snitches and spies all over The Empire.”

“I doubt anybody thinks our parents survived the purge of Blades preceding The Great War and the relentless hunting of Blades after. We were born on foreign shores and will be strangers to our relatives.”

“People will soon learn of your existence when The Dragonguard help protect their towns and cities from dragons. Who knows, protecting civilians from dragons might automatically give you the rank of Dragon Knight.”

“That is if Alduin ever bothers to turn up.”

Finja grinned, saluted and then resumed her guard stance. I don’t know how The Dragonguard can stand doing such tedious tasks.

I entered the barracks, and most people there had finished their meals and were busy consuming too much coffee.

  • Wulf: Dhali and Celestine, your squad is to accompany me today.
  • Celestine: Are we investigating the gold dragon claw that was stolen?
  • Wulf: Both of you have read the description of the claw that Jarl Balgruuf gave me. So, do you think it is worth our time?
  • Dhali: Even if it only leads us to more bandits that need removing, it is worth it.
  • Celestine: However, if it is the key to a Puzzle Door, we would be foolish to ignore the implications. Relics vital to our task may be hidden behind that door.
  • Dhali: Or relics that deserve to be in Wulf’s museum, not in the grubby hands of grave robbers or bandits.
  • Wulf: Jarl Balgruuf has lost a lot of guards to both sides of the civil war. He doesn’t have any in Riverwood, so he asked me to investigate.
  • Dhali: With all the help you have provided his Hold, never alone the large sums of money you have spent hiring local tradespeople, he should have made you Thane by now.
  • Wulf: He hasn’t decided which side of the civil war he will back. Perhaps he is cautious. He suspects I am a supporter of The Empire. What if he sides with Ulfric, and one of his thanes relieves him of his throne?
  • Celestine: Jarl Skald and Jarl Laila Law-Giver will be in for a surprise when your Dragonborn identity becomes known.
  • Wulf: Both of them are so convinced by Ulfric’s rhetoric they think The Champion of The Divines must be a Stormcloak supporter.
  • Dhali: It would be even more incomprehensible to them that the mighty Nord hero, The Dragonborn, supports The Empire.
  • Wulf: It is bad enough when they claim Father was a Nord. Perhaps I need “I am not a Nord!” painted onto my armour?
  • Dhali: When are we leaving?
  • Wulf: In about an hour. I will tell the rest of the squad.

I walked over to Shiva and P’Sua.

  • Wulf: Be ready in an hour. Your squad is with me today.
  • Shiva: Vampire vanquishing? Bandit bashing?
  • Wulf: Relic retrieving.
  • Shiva: Oh, great. Wake me when it’s over.
  • Wulf: You won’t fall asleep for a week if you drink all that coffee.
  • P’Sua: Sensible people enjoy a cold glass of orange juice.
  • Shiva: Since when have I been sensible, P’Sua?
  • P’Sua: A valid point. Anyway, where are we relic hunting, and what relic is it?
  • Wulf: A gold dragon claw was stolen from a trader in Riverwood. It has three Nord totem symbols on the bottom.
  • P’Sua: What is so important about this claw?
  • Wulf: I think it is the key to a Puzzle Door. What is behind that door may be of significant historical value.
  • Shiva: It was stolen, so there might be some thief thrashing!
  • Wulf: Maybe even Draugr demolition!
  • P’Sua: We will be ready, Wulf.

Ko’rassa looked impressive in the style of robes worn by Khajiiti Moon Monks.

“Those robes suit you, Ko’rassa.”

“I hope I get to speak with Nafaalilargus soon.”

“He has asked that we use his Dovahzul name. He might change his mind later as his whims change with the wind.”

“Then I hope I get to talk to Nahfahlaar soon.”

“Like Silah and Valminoor, he dares not appear in Skyrim till Alduin returns.”

“At least Silah can appear here in her spirit form.”

“Which she hasn’t done for four months. I haven’t heard from Father since we arrived in Skyrim.”

“You knew that might be the case, Wulf.”

“Silah, I can understand. She can only concentrate on one thing at a time and has been watching the timelines for clues to Alduin’s return. We know it is imminent, but we have already been here four months.”

“But your father can do multiple things simultaneously. Therefore, there must be another reason for him not contacting you.”

“Sometimes, Ko’rassa, I must accept he is a Divine and not just Father.”

“Do you think Nahfahlaar will like the colours I have chosen for my robes?”

“They are the colours Ja’darri once wore in Nahfahlaar’s honour. He still gets melancholy when something reminds him of her, so don’t be surprised if his initial reaction is negative. But I know Nahfahlaar well, and he will soon appreciate the gesture. He well likes anything that appeals to his enormous ego.”

“It was strange meeting Inigo after all these years. He has not changed much, except some childlike enthusiasm seems to have vanished. He and Fergus were inseparable, and I wept when he described his brother’s demise. Inigo feels great guilt he did not die needlessly beside Fergus.”

“Inigo feels guilt over his spiral into Skooma addiction and crime. I hope he finds some redemption and solace by aiding us.”

“He seems much fitter than when you first found him rotting in Riften’s jail.”

“He will be fit enough to travel with a squad soon. The time spent with us has let him get used to the weirdness of who and what we are. The Housecarls didn’t get as much time to adjust and still shake their heads in amazement, or is it confusion, on occasion? I might have a quick talk with him before heading to Riverwood.”

I walked past Meeko without stopping to say hello and laughed at his indignant bark.

I turned to him and said, “Of course I still love you, but you must admit, Gladys is so much cuter!”


“There is no need for you to be jealous, Meeko.”

I briefly chatted with Iona before resuming my search for the blue Khajiiti.

I found Inigo leaning on a table, and some weariness was still evident in his posture and movements.

He asked, “My friend, when can I join you on spider-squishing expeditions?”

“Soon, Inigo. Sometimes we don’t stop for forty-eight hours or more, and you are not yet fit enough for such rigours.”

“This place is marvellous! I travelled widely with Fergus, yet never saw such architecture except in piles of moss-covered blocks and rubble.”

“Can you imagine whole cities of white marble and gold?”

“The fantastic paintings throughout Aurane allow me to imagine such magnificence.”

“Well, maybe we shall discover such a city intact one day.”

“Populated only by the spirits of its deceased citizens!”

“I was hoping to avoid the dead resident part of my wishful thinking, Inigo.”

“Sorry, my friend, but such morbid thoughts often intrude on my happy ones.”

“I am about to visit Sune and Hashire. Do you want to accompany me?”

“Sorry, my friend, but Ko’rassa and I are taking a stroll around Aurane. I am sure she finds me much changed from our time together in Elsweyr. I have found her different, but I am not surprised she risked all as a Blade Spymaster.”

“Any chance of rekindling that relationship?”

“I don’t know, my friend, as we have experienced much since then. We shall see. At the moment, Ko’rassa is a stable influence amongst the weirdness of who you are and all that entails.”

“I bleed and can die, Inigo.”

“My adoptive parents were an Argonian and a Khajiiti. Both were assassins. I used to think that was strange, then you told me your story, and in comparison, my childhood was normal!”

“Mother and Father were never gods to me, Inigo. No more than any child worships loving parents. When I accepted the Champion of The Divines role, I realised how powerful they are. Interacting with Father the Divine is different from a son/father relationship. It is difficult for both of us on occasion. My inability to talk to Mother for the last four years has been more stressful because she rarely acted like a god. She was always my connection with my childhood. Father is rarely that.”

“I had better make an appearance before Ko’rassa thinks I am abandoning her once more. Of everything I regret in my past, that one hurts the most, for it hurt somebody I loved dearly.”

“You used the past tense, Inigo. I can see the love is still there.”

Inigo smiled and wandered off to find Ko’rassa. I teleported to what I call Unicorn Island. I don’t know if Lord Magus has a name for it.

I startled one of the horses when I appeared out of the ether. It soon settled as Sune, or Hashire, or both spoke to it telepathically.

I approached the unicorns and was again taken aback by their natural beauty and grace.

  • Wulf: Good morning, Sune and Hashire.
  • Sune: Yes, it is a good morning, just like every morning on this island. It would be nice to have some variation in the weather.
  • Wulf: Ask at the shrines, and I am sure it will be arranged. Expect some derision at a complaint about too much sunny weather.
  • Hashire: As long as we are safe from Hircine and his devotees, I don’t care what the weather is or isn’t.
  • Wulf: This place is protected by the Liminal Barrier like the rest of Nirn. Hircine cannot manifest here, and none of his mortal acolytes has a way of reaching it. You are safe here.
  • Hashire: Are you riding anywhere today?
  • Wulf: Sorry, Hashire, no riding today.
  • Hashire: You were a lot more fun before rediscovering teleportation.
  • Sune: You were a lot less whiny before you became whiny.

As the two unicorns bickered, I wandered around the Island and admired its beauty.

I approached the still bickering unicorns and said, “Goodbye. Try to end the arguing before I return.”

My sudden appearance startled Erandur, who shrieked. The horse can be forgiven for his skittishness. However, Erandur was a mage who had seen me teleport many times. Shiva and Jordis stared at him as I excused myself and made my way to the exit.

The bright white marble of Aurane can be harsh on the eyes when the sun is shining. You soon get used to it, and none of us has gone blind!

Rayya was also having a stroll. She is the quietest of my housecarls. I have found that to be a trait of many Redguard.

Aurane is situated within a natural valley deep in the Jerall Mountains, south of Falkreath. It is inaccessible by even the most determined climber, and Silah assures me an illusion makes it appear as typical mountain terrain.

There was no sign of Olette at the practice range.

I asked, “Dragonguard Brovar, has Olette finished her lesson already?”

“That young lady is a quick learner, Lord Welkynd. There is not much more I can teach her. Olette needs to practice to hone her skills, and she will be as good a marksman as any of The Dragonguard.”

“Olette is quick to learn whatever she puts her mind to.”

“She certainly knows how to confuse adolescent boys. Poor Oliver is under her spell!”

“I think all of the orphans have thrived here.”

“Fortis told me that he and his good wife Hana have never been able to conceive. They plan to adopt both boys.”

“Anybody would think I suggested they be apprenticed as part of a sneaky plan to get them adopted.”

“Blacksmith Fortis knows that and will be eternally grateful to Lord Sneaky.”

I had a chat with Fortis and the boys.

Two months ago, when I found Oliver and Vanyatka, the siblings hid in a cave after witnessing a gang of bandits murder their parents. The bandits are now dead, and the boys have a new home and are thriving. I don’t believe in karma but strongly believe in justice, which was served with a good dose of anger.

I walked over to the odd tree. It looked dead but wasn’t. None of us knew if it blossomed on occasion or always looked so sparse. It was of the same species as the one near Lakeview Manor. Of that, I am sure.

I contemplated visiting the inn and various stores to greet other residents, but it was about time to leave for Riften.

Instead, I made my way to what looks like typical Ayleid ruins but is an incomplete part of Aurane.

I passed Valdemar, who was heading for the apothecary.

I entered the ruins and walked to the tessellated crystals.

I had found similar in the cave with the strange tree near Lakeview Manor. They are Welkynd crystals grown from Meteoric Glass that fell to Nirn from Aetherius. The only other time they were found was during The Oblivion Crises.

Silah materialised behind me. She said, “One day, you can use the name Septim. Until then, Welkynd is a good substitute, don’t you think, Star Child?”

I turned and replied, “The crystals are beautiful, as is Mother. I am proud of the name she gave me.”

“Will you ever use Valdr, or is Wulf a permanent change?”

“Since I can’t use Septim now, I honour Father by using his favourite alias.”

“Use your famous intuition and tell me why I am here, Valdr Septim.”

 “Alduin has returned from his sojourn through time.”

“Yes, several hours ago, he appeared at The Throat of the World, where the banishment occurred. He then went ethereal to wherever his portal into Sovngarde exists. He eagerly replenishes his energy reserves by devouring souls trying to reach The Hall of Valour. Lord Shor has sealed the doors and allows no heroes to tackle Alduin. Even The Divines would be vulnerable to Alduin within Sovngarde. They need you to find a way to defeat The World Eater. The years of preparation will allow you to do so, and The Nine have great faith in you, Wulf.”

“How long before he returns to Nirn?”

“Not less than a week, perhaps even a month or more. We know Alduin had to devour hundreds of mortal souls to revive a single dragon during The Dragon War. He may have allies who sense his return and make their way to Skyrim, but Alduin will want to revive some or all of those buried in Skyrim.”

“Odahviing, Paarthurnax’s replacement, will be a priority.”

“Indeed. But we are covering the ground and planning that you know well. Lord Talos wants to speak to you, but so do I. Have you tried the water in this cavern?”

“I tasted it and could not determine its four properties. Mother would be upset at that failure.”

“The Welkynd crystals have permeated the water. It doesn’t have the rejuvenating properties of some hot springs, but it does relax a mortal, much like an expert massage relieves muscle tenseness.”

“That might come in handy!”

“Indeed. Come, sit with me and tell me about the last four months. I have been staring at the timelines and not had a chance to gossip with the other Jills.”

We made our way to the edge of the pool. I took my boots off and sat with my feet in the water. Some might think talking to a female dragon’s spirit form is strange. Doing it while soaking my feet in Welkynd-infused water would seem stranger. Such things were second nature to me, so I found nothing odd about the situation.

I started, “Did you know I am Thane of five Holds?”

“I know little of your time in Skyrim. Which Holds, and how did you earn the titles?”

“If you want, I can use an Empathetic Link to share some of the memories.”

“Yes, please do.”

“In Riften, we wandered around, getting a feeling for the city and its people. Despite Jarl Laila Law-Giver being an Ulfric Stormcloak supporter, the citizens are far from xenophobic, and all races happily walk Riften’s streets. When I had Ka’Po’Tun with me, they hardly earned a second glance, as they are very similar to Khajiiti. P’Sua was the exception. His sheer size attracted closer scrutiny, and people would realise the Ka’Po’Tun are unlike any Khajiiti they have seen.”

Silah laughed at the memory I shared, then asked, “Did that curiosity make it difficult to accomplish anything?”

“Even before arriving in Skyrim, we had a strategy in place. We visited the cities often, and their citizens soon got used to our presence. When we helped with minor issues, they started to talk about us in favourable terms. You know full well how gossip works, Silah.”

“Indeed, I do. And I assume this is how you became known to the Jarls?”

“With most of them, yes. The Jarl of Whiterun, Balgruuf the Greater, learned of me through expensive land transactions. But more of that later.”

“Yes, let’s not exercise your habit of digressing!”

“Won’t that sentence likely lead to serious digressing as I vehemently deny the slur?”

“It seems it has done that.”

“In Riften, I noticed a young girl each time we visited. Although she was skilled at discreetly observing people, the training I received from The Dragonguard made her obvious to me. She was either a snitch or an information broker. I estimated her age to be ten or eleven. Knowing how dangerous either occupation is, I decided on one visit to sit with her and find out what she was up to and for who.”

“She looks innocent and a perfect target for those who prey on young girls.”

“Looks are deceiving, Silah. She made bloody examples of a couple of predators, and I have no doubt she would kill if need be. Other predators wisely let her be.”

“Oh my!”

“Her name is Olette, and she had recently turned eleven. Her father is a sailor who she has never met. He has left bastards at ports around the globe. When Olette was nine, her mother became a Skooma addict. Olette wanted to keep her mother alive and not let her become a prostitute to pay for her habit. So, to keep her mother supplied with food and Skooma, Olette looked at ways to earn the coin. She had seen others her age and even younger sell their bodies. They either ended up corpses or pock-marked wretches. She could have joined The Thieves Guild but had seen what happens to those caught by the authorities. A young boy no older than her swinging from a gibbet persuaded Olette that being a thief was a poor choice. Also, Olette has a strong moral code and doesn’t want to be a professional thief. She decided that gathering and selling information was something she could do. It had its risks but was the best option available.”

“Olette had done it for a couple of years?”

“Yes, and she had a natural talent for it. Eventually, she would sell the wrong information and be murdered, but I had to take it slowly with her, and each time I left the city, I hoped she would still be alive when I next visited Riften. She was naturally suspicious of my strange companions and me, but after several talks, she relaxed more, and I found her to be a little girl living an adult life.”

“You know you can’t rescue everybody, Wulf.”

“Olette had wormed her way into my heart, Silah, so I had to try.”

“You wouldn’t be the Wulf I know if you didn’t.”

“On one visit, Olette informed me she found her mother’s body. She had overdosed. I paid for her funeral and attended a small ceremony with Olette to celebrate her mother’s life. Then, Olette agreed to live with us, and now she has wormed her way into everybody’s heart in Aurane. Olette’s compassion led me to become Thane of The Rift.

After the little ceremony for her mother, Olette asked if I could help an Argonian friend called Wujeeta. She had recently become hooked on Skooma, and Olette did not want her to die like her mother. Long story short, Wujeeta is now one of our support staff.

From Wujeeta, I learned of the chief supplier of Skooma in Riften and from him, the main supplier of the drug. Wiping out the dealer and manufacturer of Skooma was the catalyst for me being declared Thane. Along with the title came a personal Housecarl, a Nord Shieldmaiden called Iona. My housecarls, other strays and The Dragonguard have all been waiting with me for Alduin’s return. I can’t officially give my housecarls the rank of Dragonguard, so Iona suggested The Sentinels as a collective name, which was universally approved.”

“Do the new additions know who your parents are?”

“Yes, and they understand the need for secrecy.”

“Please continue, Wulf.”

“I became Thane of The Pale after helping a Priest of Mara destroy an artefact of Vaermina.”

I shared some memories of the shrine of Vaermina and the artefact’s destruction.

Silah shuddered and said, “The Skull of Corruption is unclean! I heard about that feat from Lady Mara and how Vaermina tried to fool you into killing the priest.”

“Yes, at first, she tried to speak in my mind and seemed surprised my barrier held. Then she tried to convince me that Erandur was evil and was planning to claim The Skull of Corruption. I didn’t even bother to reply but watched the process unfold. After a minute of prayer, The Skull of Corruption vanished. Erandur is a powerful mage and has joined The Sentinels.”

“Who was assigned as your Housecarl?”

“Gregor, a Greatsword wielder of exceptional skill. Surprisingly, he has readily accepted the weirdness of Aurane and its residents.”

“The gobblygook.”

“Yes, and that is one the more useful Ayleidoon words.”

“I am not going to argue the merits of that beautiful language.”

“I became Thane of Hjaalmarch after Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone asked me to investigate the death of a daughter and mother in a fire. The girl’s name is Helgi, and her father claimed it was an accident caused by the spilling of fat onto an open fire. However, within a day of his family’s death, he moved in with a local woman. That was enough to generate sufficient suspicion to warrant a closer look at the incident. Helgi’s spirit appeared and asked me to meet her in the graveyard after dark. Once again, the shortened version is that the family was killed by a clan of Cyrodiilic Vampires led by a once-famous Vampire Hunter. I eliminated the vampire clan, which allowed Helgi’s spirit to thank me and join her mother in Aetherius. I rescued two recently turned vampire children from that lair. They now live with us in Aurane.”

“Are they Cyrodiilic Vampires?”

“Yes, so they are indistinguishable from mortals. They can eat normal food and rarely need to consume blood. Even then, animal blood is sufficient. They were not fond of the vampires who killed their family and were grateful for our assistance. The other orphans have accepted them without fear or prejudice.”

“How many orphans live with you?”

“Nine. Three of the orphans are vampires. I have funded new orphanages in Markarth and Solitude and have a large castle in Whiterun Hold being converted into a school and orphanage.”

“So that is how you attracted the attention of Jarl Balgruuf?”

“Yes, but he has not made me a thane.”

“Who is your appointed housecarl for Hjaalmarch?”

“Valdimar, a Nord mage who was once an Imperial Battlemage.”

“Where next?”

“I can’t stand the Jarl of Falkreath, but his requests for assistance could not be ignored. He asked that we wipe out a large gang of bandits, which we did with pleasure. He then asked us to kill a close relative who became the head of a vampire clan. The clan lived in a place called The Bloodlet Throne. The clan was unusual as it consisted of both Volkihar and Cyrodiilic vampires! They are usually mortal enemies. I have never heard of them co-existing. That is where I found a third recently turned child who now lives with us. Their shrine to Molag was impressive!”

Silah gasped and said, “I could have done without seeing that. To think Alessia is combating such a horror!”

“Wherever the battle is taking place, I doubt Mother has to look at that particular avatar of his. He uses that one to scare mortals, not gods.”

“Do you worry about her?”

“It is a battle of wills. Mother’s determination to start and win The Slave Rebellion shows the strength of her will. So yes, the outcome is uncertain, and I don’t know why they battle or where, but I have confidence Mother can win.”

“I, too, have confidence in Saint Alessia but still worry terribly for her.”

“As do I, Silah, but I cannot give into despair. Mother is beyond my ability to assist, so I concentrate on helping those I can.”

“You must miss her.”

“Terribly! I miss the love of my parents, even if one is still close at hand.”

“He can be your father again soon, Wulf. It is difficult for you, but don’t make him feel guilty for performing his duties as the Ninth Divine.”

“I understand, but I don’t have to say a word for him to see how it hurts me. I have no doubt he shares the pain of our estrangement and the absence of Mother.”

“I can assure you he does, Wulf.”

“I can control many things, but raw emotions are not one of them.”

“And that is not a fault, Wulf. It is an affirmation that you are a mortal, despite the myriad blessings you have received from The Nine.”

“Rayya, a Redguard, is my Housecarl from Falkreath. To become Thane of Solitude, I stopped a coven of necromancers from resurrecting Queen Potema. They tried to control her, the fools! I eliminated the necromancers, but Potema’s spirit is now on the mortal plane. I don’t doubt she had a plan for such an occurrence, and it will not be the last we hear from her.”

“If Potema knows you are a Septim, she will try and eliminate or enslave you.”

“There is no way for her to know. After taking care of the necromancers, I removed the lingering presence of Emperor Thoriz Pelagius Septim III from The Blue Palace.”

“How did you do that?”

“Did anybody notice me missing from the mortal plane for any period?”

“Yes, but you reappeared about an hour later, so we did not investigate.”

“Lord Sheogorath made a pocket plane of The Shivering Isles that represented the mind of Pelagius. He tasked me with curing Pelagius’ insanity. It was relatively simple to do so, and I was returned to Nirn as Uncle Sheo’s Champion. He recognised me as a Septim, probably because he took advantage of the absent Liminal Barrier and watched Martin Septim closely during The Oblivion Crises.”

“Now he knows of you and may call upon you again.”

“He is predictable as long as you show moderate respect. He doesn’t want harm to Nirn or the mortals living on it. Therefore, if he asks for my help, I doubt it would be something that I find morally corrupt.”

“You annoyed Vaermina and made friends with Sheogorath. Have you dealt with any other Dark Lord?”

“Yes, the traitorous piece of shit that some call Meridia.”

“Language, young Wulf!”

“When clearing an ancient burial tomb of its bandit infestation, I opened a chest and found a large, dodecahedron-shaped crystal. When I picked it up, Meridia tried to break through my mind barrier. When she was forced to speak aloud, her tone was so condescending my dislike of her multiplied in size. Here, listen to what she said.”

Silah heard Meridia as if she were present at the time.

“A new hand touches the Beacon. Listen. Hear me and obey. A foul darkness has seeped into my temple. A darkness that you will destroy. Return my Beacon to Mount Kilkreath. And I will make you the instrument of my cleansing light.”

Silah laughed and said, “How to piss Wulf off!”

“I told Meridia to find somebody else and placed her Beacon back into the chest and closed it.”

“And that was the end of it?”

“No. Every so often, I would open a chest or cupboard, and there would be Meridia’s Beacon. Eventually, I asked Meridia the source of the darkness, and when she said it was a necromancer using the souls of fallen soldiers, I decided I would dispense with him. I did so with little effort, and as a reward, she gifted me her relic, Dawn Breaker. I told her I would never aid in her worship and that Dawn Breaker would exist in Aetherius, never to be used on Nirn again. So now I am Champion of Meridia, even though she would love to eviscerate me.”

“Lord Talos predicted you would clash heavily with some of the Daedric Princes.”

“All I ask for is respect. If Meridia recognised mortal free will and asked, I would have cleansed her temple the first time I encountered her Beacon.”

“Did you have to do anything else to earn the Thane of Haafingar title?”

“Jarl Elisif asked me to place her late husband’s hunting horn at the base of Father’s shrine in the wilderness east of Whiterun. A Thalmor patrol had been assigned to kill anybody who approached the shrine. They died. That is the only interaction I have had with them, and it was not in the public eye.”

“People don’t need to wear Lord Talos’ amulet or pray at his shrines if they want to worship him. Their deaths upset him, and the one person who could stop them, you, is constrained by the need for anonymity.”

“It would be a huge blunder to draw the attention of The Thalmor before I have established myself as The Dragonborn and gained a following. After I defeat Alduin, The Thalmor and Ulfric will find a formidable advocate for Lord Talos that they cannot touch. I hope to convince Stormcloaks to abandon Ulfric in droves before we kill them. How dare Ulfric say he fights for Father!”

“Calm yourself, Wulf. You have done well to restrain your anger these four months past.”

“Jordis the Sword-Maiden is my Haafingar housecarl. She is another formidable greatsword warrior.”

“Lord Talos said you have repurposed his temple in Solitude.”

“Yes, I have formed a group with Auryen Morellus, a well-respected Altmer historian over five hundred years of age! We call the group The Explorers Society. Father’s old temple is now called Dragonborn Gallery. We house relics, copies of relics if deemed too dangerous, and art and natural science interests such as plants, shells, gems, fossils, etcetera, and other items of interest. The idea is to educate the public about the real histories and show no bias in the telling.”

“I know it is not your primary goal, but the museum, the willingness to aid others and your noble status will make you one of the most, if not the most, popular person in Skyrim, if not The Empire.”

“The title of Thane will help me get things done quicker. I’m not too fond of traditional nobility, but it can be useful to have a big stick sometimes. The more popular I become, the greater the need to hide my origins. His Imperial Majesty has no living heirs, so there is no Heir Presumptive. Many people would want me to be named Heir Apparent. I would become a pawn of politics and find it hard to do my tasks as Champion of The Divines.”

“Not to mention the bounties placed on you. Assassins would be queuing to take you down.”

“I expect I will attract enough of them without being Heir Apparent. If the Divines wanted me to be Emperor at any stage, they had better have a plan that didn’t involve a bloody coup or civil war. But that is not a real problem, so let’s drop the subject.”

“Are you seeing anybody?”

“No, and for many reasons. It is not a subject I wish to discuss, Silah.”

“Wulf, that girl is an adult now and may have a husband and children if she still lives.”

“Silah, I said I don’t want to discuss it. Show some respect!”

“Sorry, you are right. You had better visit your father. He is expecting you.”

“I suspect that even after four months, Lord Talos will greet me, not Father.”

“We are at a pivotal point in history, Valdr Septim. You will do what is needed to protect the mortals of Nirn, and so will Lord Talos. Personal wishes cannot interfere.”

“Yes, logic dictates what you say. However, I am not a Dwemer Automaton. I do not have Mother to remind me of the love our family thrived on. I am surrounded by dozens, some of who undoubtedly love me, but I am lonely. Will you be visiting Akavir now and sending the ex-Blades as planned?”

“Yes, Wulf. I will also tell Nahfahlaar and Valminoor they may be summoned from this moment forward. Vayu and the others should arrive within a month of my visit.”

“A new Dragon War is inevitable. Let us hope it is not too large by the time my friends arrive.”

“Have faith in your abilities and those of your allies, Wulf. You will prevail.”

“My toes are all wrinkly, but they are relaxed. Maybe the water does as you say?”

Silah laughed as she vanished. I dried my feet and donned my boots. I then willed myself to Sepredia, the name I gave my room in Aetherius. Sepredia is the Ayleidoon word for peace.

When I materialised, Father was sitting. It was a signal that the meeting was business only. There were to be no hugs for the son he had not seen in four months.

I sat and let the god start the conversation.

“Valdr, I want you to know The Nine have faith in you and are confident you can defeat Alduin.”

“Excuse my scepticism, but you can’t tell me how the Ancient Tongues defeated him. I hope my strategy is better than theirs and I don’t throw him forward in time for others to deal with. I am less positive that the desired outcome will be achieved.”

“You may have to deal with The Greybeards. I advise you to show respect. They may prove crucial to your endeavours.”

“Why this advice? Do you see a clash in personalities on the horizon? I will mirror the respect they show me. They have done nothing throughout history to deserve more than that.”

“Who do you think Alduin will revive first?”

“Odahviing. His burial mound is in the southeast of Skyrim, near Riften. I will not wait there for Alduin to make an appearance. We cannot defeat him as he is impervious to all airborne damage. I bet Lord Akatosh regrets that design feature.”

“Do not mock Lord Akatosh.”

“Oh, which of the Ten Commands of the Nine Divines forbids that?”

“Son, this pettiness does you no service.”

“Lord Talos, it is too late to advise me on dealing with Alduin. What would have been beneficial is a hug, genuine reassurance, and best wishes. I could have then faced the challenges reinvigorated by my father’s love. You could have sent your avatar to Nirn to have this discussion. I can’t hug an avatar, and that yearning would have been somewhat reduced. Yet you summon me here where we could embrace as father and son, and try as I might, I cannot put aside my love for my father so easily. I will do what is necessary, Lord Talos. I must keep Alduin guessing the strength of my Thu’um. If he knows the truth, he will mock me as I die. A Dragonborn faces him who has never used The Voice.”

“Ask the Greybeards about a door they could never enter. We hoped a Dragonborn would face Alduin on his return, and Lady Kynareth has done what she can to prepare for this day. Use what is provided. Perhaps it may be the catalyst for victory.”

I nodded my head and willed myself back to Aurane.

I looked around for today’s squad and saw them near the throne.

Using a bit of Thu’um, I said, “Alduin has returned. He is currently in Sovngarde, feeding on the souls of fallen Legionnaires and Stormcloaks. I do not know how long it will be before he appears on Nirn to revive his fallen comrades. Till then, we will keep doing what we have always done. My squad for the day gather close. Our dragon allies are available to us, and the other Dragonguard have been instructed to make their way here. The rest of you remain armed and armoured as we may need assistance at any moment.

I saw Celestine’s tears. Her beloved Vayu would be joining her soon. They are not married, but we have prepared a house for them. I love them dearly, and they have been my comrades at arms through many battles.

I teleported us to the entrance of Riverwood. Darkness hardly penetrated by roadside lanterns replaced the brightness of Aurane. It was as if midnight arrived twelve hours early.

We quickly made our way to Riverwood Trader, where the gold dragon claw was stolen.

When we entered, the owner, Lucan Valerius, was arguing with his sister, Camilla Valerius.

  • Camilla: Well, one of us has to do something!
  • Lucan: We are done talking about this.
  • Camilla: Well, what are you going to do then, huh? Let’s hear it!
  • Lucan: I said no! No adventures, no theatrics, no thief-chasing! Oh, a customer. I am sorry that you had to hear that.
  • Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd. Jarl Balgruuf has asked me to investigate the theft of a gold dragon claw. I assume that is what you two were discussing loudly.
  • Lucan: See, Camilla, you should have more faith in the laws of our mighty Empire. I knew such blatant thievery would not go unpunished.
  • Wulf: Are you aware that knowingly purchasing stolen goods is illegal within Skyrim?
  • Camilla: Hah, should I put faith in the laws of our mighty Empire now, Lucan?
  • Lucan: If it was stolen, I didn’t know.
  • Wulf: Who sold it to you, and how much did you pay?
  • Lucan: Why should I answer you? You’re not even a Thane or guard of this Hold.
  • Wulf: If I return with a warrant, which will only take a few minutes, my friends and I will look through your stock and confiscate suspect black market and stolen items. You can then have a day in court arguing that said items were legitimate purchases.
  • Camilla: He has you over a barrel, Lucan. You won’t enjoy the next logical step in the process, so I suggest you cooperate.
  • Lucan: Three days ago, a rather scruffy-looking individual came here with the claw in his hands. He said it was worth at least a thousand in gold alone. I offered him five hundred. That was all the coin I had in our safe. He accepted it and found it was far harder to run while carrying five hundred septims than with a solid gold claw. Several ragged men and women ran past my store a few minutes later. I stuck the claw in our safe, and when a few ruffians burst into my store demanding its return, I denied all knowledge. I must have been convincing because they apologised and left.
  • Camilla: That night, somebody snuck in here while we were inside the Sleeping Giant Inn enjoying a good meal and mead. They stole our safe with the claw inside.
  • Wulf: And then you, Lucan, borrowed a horse, rode to Whiterun and complained to Jarl Balgruuf about a stolen family heirloom.
  • Lucan: Well, it could have become an heirloom.
  • Camilla: You need descendants to pass heirlooms onto, Lucas, and I don’t see any women queuing to knock boots with you.
  • Wulf: Your description said the claw had three symbols on the bottom. What were they?
  • Lucan: A bear, a moth and something in a cocoon.
  • Wulf: That would have been an owl.
  • Lucan: Sure, everybody knows owls come out of cocoons.
  • Camilla: It means you mistook the picture of an owl for a cocoon, you idiot.
  • Wulf: So, Lucan, do you know where we might find the fine people who stole your safe containing the golden claw?
  • Lucan: There is a massive nest of bandits at Bleak Falls Barrow. You might try there but bring more people. Five of you aren’t enough.
  • P’Sua: Grrrr!
  • Wulf: You disagree, P’Sua?
  • P’Sua: The last puny Imperial shopkeeper who questioned my skills is still searching for his left ear.

Lucan stared up at P’Sua, who was smiling, showing his impressive canine set. Meanwhile, Shiva pretended to be picking things off her razor-sharp claws.

  • Shiva: Damn smooth skins always get caught in my claws!
  • Lucan: No, no, fine sir, or whatever the Khajiit honorific is. I would never question your ability to ahh…kill…
  • P’Sua: Did you call me a Khajiiti? Do I look like a Khajiiti?
  • Lucan: Well, um, you don’t look like an Argonian!
  • Wulf: Relax, Lucan, we are only joking. Be assured that dozens of bandits stand no chance against us. That is no idle boast. The smile on Camilla’s face tells me she believes me.
  • Camilla: Look at their arms and armour, Lucan. Their swords look weird but are very expensive. Even the scant amount of armour the lovely lady is wearing speaks of money and prowess.
  • Shiva: Hey, my armour covers all the bits you Skyrim people are scared of seeing!
  • P’Sua: Your only wear a brasier so that you don’t knock yourself out when running, Shiva.
  • Shiva: True.
  • Lucan: So, will you, ahh, return the claw to me?
  • Wulf: I might purchase it from you to display in my museum. It is of historical interest, and those bandits are grave robbers. They have probably disturbed a nest of Draugr who might visit you, looking for their stolen claw.

Celestine started shuffling around like a Draugr while uttering, “The claw! The claw! Where is our claw?”

  • Lucan: Ahh, you are joking again, aren’t you?
  • Camilla: Do you own that new museum being built in Solitude?
  • Wulf: Yes, and you are welcome to visit anytime. Lucan can drool over the gold dragon claw and other relics on display.
  • Celestine: As long as a Draugr hasn’t eviscerated him. Removing leaked bodily fluids from marble tiles is a tedious process.
  • Camilla: Do you know where Bleak Falls Barrow is?
  • Wulf: Yes, Camilla, it is that vast structure that can be seen from miles around. It is kind of hard to miss.
  • Celestine: Plus, it will likely be shown on Lord Welkynd’s expensive map.
  • Shiva: We don’t follow Lord Welkynd’s directions very often. We once ended up in Akavir, of all places!
  • Wulf: I am almost positive we won’t get lost travelling the few miles to Bleak Falls Barrow. We shall return soon, Lucan, and you can look at the claw once more before it makes its trip to Solitude.
  • Lucan: What about the Draugr?
  • Wulf: I suggest you show them a range of the latest fashions. The stuff they wear is so out of date!

Relentless rain soaked us to the bone as we crossed the river and headed for a winding path.

When a large wolf snarled and ran towards us, I drew my bow and fired an arrow into its head.

I am surprised that trolls don’t starve to death. They continually grunt and growl and can be heard long before you see them.

A single arrow took care of a troll that had made itself known to anybody within a mile.

The sky had cleared somewhat, so we had a good view of an ancient watchtower overlooking the path.

Heat Vision allowed me to detect the sentries populating it.

It wasn’t very likely they could see us from that far away, even though P’Sua is eight feet tall.

I fired one arrow and took down a sentry. His death scream attracted the attention of the second sentry. He saw the arrow jutting out of his comrade and started looking for the assailant.

I whispered, “Yoohoo, we are over here!” Then I fired a second arrow that flew true.

P’Sua grumbled, “I bet none of us wet our blade. Wulf will kill them all, inside and outside.”

We walked to the watchtower and then ascended a ramp to the top. A worried voice called down, “Is that you, Bruhn?”

I drew my sword and walked into the open. The bandit prepared to run down and engage me. He was slightly surprised when I used an Ethereal Shift and blinked to a foot in front of him. He was even more surprised when my katana ignored the plate mail he wore and embedded itself in his heart.

Having cleared the sentries, we made our way along the path and turned one hundred and eighty degrees so Bleak Falls Barrow was ahead of us.

Heat Vision showed me the unfortunate bandits given sentry duty in the bitter cold. I swiftly eliminated them.

Another group of bandits made themselves easy targets when there was plenty of cover they could have utilised. They paid for their lax attitude with their lives.

The main body of bandits finally realised something was happening and that the most likely point of assault was where we stood.

They started streaming down the stairs, intent on running towards us and dealing with pesky intruders. It took no more than one arrow each to end that silly idea.

P’Sua whined, “I told you so. Aim, twang, whoosh, death. Like a machine, over and over.”

“Are you saying the Dragonguard Bowmasters shouldn’t have trained me so well?”

“We all trained with them, Wulf. Yet none of us approaches your level of skill.”

“I watched Inigo the other day. He is probably as good, if not better.”

Shiva piped up, “He is no slouch with dual wielding either. He could probably pass a Swordmaster test.”

We opened the huge and noisy doors and entered Bleak Falls Barrow.

Two bandits, who I assume were supposed to guard the entrance, didn’t even look in our direction.

Two arrows ended their incompetence.

It seems the most opposition the bandits had faced were skeevers. The bandits did not always win.

We arrived at a chamber where a bandit stood puzzled by a simple Nord Totem Puzzle. It would have been amusing to watch him get the combination wrong and die from poison or another penalty. However, I was not in a waiting mood and sped things up with an arrow to his back.

We stood and looked at the clue conveniently provided by the ancient Nords.

  • Wulf: I often wondered how stupid the ancient Nords thought grave robbers were.
  • P’Sua: As stupid as the one you just put out of his misery.
  • Celestine: He was about to pull the lever with the wrong combination.
  • Shiva: I assume poison darts would come flying out of those tubes and end his stupidity.
  • Wulf: Yep. Stupid is as stupid does.
  • Dhali: I thought you had left those weird Roscrea colloquialisms behind.
  • Wulf: I should have left the weird Ka’Po’Tun behind.
  • Celestine: Will it only take a month for the others to arrive?
  • Wulf: We had favourable sailing conditions, which took us a month. We could risk teleporting them, but over large bodies of water, that can be hazardous as the Ethereal Plane can get scrambled. We have a portal-to-portal link with Unicorn Island for that reason. I was thinking of teleporting to them and bringing them to Skyrim one at a time via Sepredia.
  • Celestine: Would you use your will to reach Sepredia and teleport to them?
  • Wulf: Theoretically, it would work.
  • Celestine: Theoretically, you could get lost on the Ethereal Plane, and godlike beings are waiting to devour the lost souls.
  • Wulf: Another option is to send Nahfahlaar and Valminoor to bring them here.
  • Dhali: If the Tsaesci saw Nahfahlaar and Valminoor, they would send dozens of their dragons to bring them down.
  • Wulf: Ahh, we are doing hypotheticals already discussed and dismissed in Akavir. We left our friends behind because, once they leave, there won’t be enough Dragonguard remaining to protect our headquarters and the elderly who live there.
  • Dhali: I argued they should all come here, far from the Tsaesci, and help fight the dragons.
  • Wulf: Grandmaster Geldis-vydrij had the last say and was not enthused about that option.
  • Dhali: I can’t blame him for not wanting such a radical change in his twilight years.
  • Wulf: Okay, whale, snake, snake is the combination. Keep out of the way of the poison darts in case we are just as stupid as the dead Nord.

I turned the totems, so the triangles on each base pointed at the correct symbols.

I pulled the lever and was not peppered by poison darts.

We approached a spiral staircase, and P’Sua said, “I smell Skeever!”

I laughed and replied, “Of course, a big cat would smell big rats.”

“That is being a bit racist, monkey boy.”

“Only a bit? I was trying for a lot of racist!”

I prepared Chain Lightning as we descended the stairs.

I cast the spell as soon as the first Skeever showed its twitchy nose. Half a dozen of the rodents fried and died.

We came to a lair of giant spiders. I used my bow to bash and break through the tough webs halting our progress.

An unmistakably Dunmer voice called out, “Is… is someone coming? Is that you, Harknir? Bjorn? Soling? I know I ran ahead with the claw, but I need help!”

I finally broke through and entered the chamber. A small Dunmer was caught in thick webbing. The giant spider keeping him fresh for dinner dropped from the ceiling.

I nocked and fired. The spider was dead before it reached the ground.

We walked up to the intended midnight snack and could not help but be amused.

  • Wulf: You have found yourself in a sticky situation. What is your name?
  • Arvel: Arvel the Swift. Now cut me down before something else shows up!
  • Shiva: I don’t think you are in a position of authority here, Arvel the Not Swift Enough.
  • Arvel: Haha, I am glad you think this is amusing.
  • Wulf: You were trying to cheat your fellow grave robbers, who are all dead.
  • Arvel: All dead? Are you sure?
  • P’Sua: We watched in total boredom as Wulf killed everyone. The dozens outside and the few who were inside. He can be a bit greedy sometimes.
  • Shiva: But not as greedy as a small Dunmer with squinty eyes who tries to cheat his gang members.
  • Wulf: I don’t suppose you would have the gold dragon claw on you, Arvel the Immobile?
  • Arvel: Yes, yes, the gold claw. Cut me down, or you will never get it!
  • P’Sua: We could carve you to pieces till we find it.
  • Arvel: WHAT! No, no, cut me down, and I will show you how to use it. You won’t believe the power the Nords have hidden here!
  • Wulf: The claw has three Nord totem animals on one side. A bear, a moth and an owl. You turn the concentric circles on the Puzzle Door from top to bottom to match that pattern. Then you insert the three talons of the claw into the central circle and twist it in either direction. The door will slide into the ground if you have the combination correct. If you have the combination wrong, poison darts or another deadly trap is sprung.
  • Celestine: Tell us, Arvel the Motionless, what is behind the door?
  • Arvel: Ahh, umm…
  • Celestine: You have no idea. For all you know, it could be a stash of mouldy Sweet Rolls!
  • Wulf: Dhali, can you hear them?
  • Dhali: Yes, are they always that noisy?
  • Wulf: Some of them are. Should we cut Arvel down and let the Draugr kill him?
  • Arvel: Do you think I am a fool? We have not seen any Draugr here!
  • Wulf: I am going to release you, Arvel. A wise person would hand us the claw and run for the exit. A fool will try and run towards the Puzzle Door and be killed by the Draugr or us. Let’s test your intelligence, shall we?

I bashed the webs with my bow, and Arvel was finally free.

Arvel turned and ran whilst saying, “You are the fools! Why would I share the treasure with anyone?”

Arvel noticed the Draugr and screamed just before my arrow thumped into his back. I quickly disposed of the Draugr with another.

Shiva muttered, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

I retrieved the gold dragon claw and a journal from Avrel’s corpse.

I read the relevant journal entry to the group.

“My fingers are trembling. The gold claw is finally in my hands, and with it, the power of the ancient Nordic heroes. That fool Lucan Valerius had no idea that his intended store decoration was the key to Bleak Falls Barrow.

I would have slit his throat, but that would guarantee a visit from Whiterun’s guards.

Now I need to get to The Hall of Stories and unlock the door. The legend says there is a test that the Nords put in place to keep the unworthy away, but that ‘When you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.’”

I said, “This place will be crawling with Draugr. Some of them may use The Voice. I will not take chances and will kill them from a distance. Sorry if that spoils your fun.”

I killed dozens of Draugr on the way to The Hall of Stories. There was no story told, just bass reliefs of the Nordic pantheon.

I turned the concentric circles to match the pattern on the claw.

I then inserted the talons and twisted the centre circle anti-clockwise.

Tumblers clicked, and the door slowly sunk into the ground, accompanied by loud grinding and dust clouds.

I quickly disposed of two Draugr.

  • Wulf: I can hear a Word Wall ahead.
  • Dhali: I can’t hear anything except more Draugr shuffling around.
  • Shiva: Neither can I.
  • P’Sua: Nor me.
  • Wulf: I have never heard one before, but Father described it to me. Only Dragonborn can hear them, and only if they have not absorbed the Word of Power.
  • Celestine: The noise makes a Dragonborn aware of a Word Wall’s existence. Otherwise, it may be missed in a dark environment or if the Dragonborn moves swiftly.
  • Dhali: The Word Wall teaches you a Word of Power and where it sits within a Shout.
  • Wulf: Yes, but it does not teach me how to use the Word of Power or Shout.
  • Celestine: That knowledge comes from dragon souls or is gifted to the Dragonborn via other methods.
  • Wulf: I am skilled with weapons and magic. I need to be an expert in The Voice. Father said there is a part of High Hrothgar inaccessible to The Greybeards. I hope Lady Kynareth has provided a way to learn what is needed faster than hunting dragons and Word Walls.
  • Dhali: You don’t want to kill dragons, do you?
  • Wulf: No, because it is destroyed when I absorb their soul. That is too harsh a punishment! The dragon is removed from this and all future Kalpa. It ceases to exist.
  • Dhali: You can destroy mortal souls with a thought. Could you do that to a dragon?
  • Wulf: Yes, and it would be an option if a dragon proved too powerful to defeat. I doubt it would work on Alduin. He is a demi-god, like Morihaus and Pelinal Whitestrake. His soul will not resemble that of other dragons.
  • P’Sua: I am still confused about why The Divines don’t tell you how to defeat Alduin.
  • Celestine: That is because you continue to think of them as omnipotent beings who know all.
  • Wulf: Most of what occurs on Nirn is hidden from gods, both Aedra and Daedra. The ancient Tongues who defeated Alduin may have documented how they did it, but if so, that knowledge has been lost. I know what it says on Emblems along the Seven Thousand Steps. Emblem four says, ‘Kyne called on Paarthurnax, who pitied Man. Together they taught Men to use The Voice. Then Dragon War raged, Dragon against Tongue.’ Emblem five says, ‘Man prevailed, shouting Alduin out of the world. Proving for all that their Voice, too, was strong. Although their sacrifices were many-fold.’
  • P’Sua: What does ‘shouting Alduin out of the world’ mean?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, and nobody can tell me. But I don’t want to repeat their method, for all it did was throw Alduin into the time stream. It was temporary relief, not a cure.
  • P’Sua: Can’t Lord Shor ask the ancient Tongues how they did it?
  • Wulf: That has been tried, and they don’t remember. The knowledge is lost, and I must recover it. I am hopeful The Greybeards can assist with that endeavour.
  • Shiva: Would Alduin try and recruit Emperor Tosh Raka?
  • Wulf: I doubt it. Alduin wants to rule over the people of Tamriel. Emperor Tosh Raka wants to destroy the people of Tamriel. Similar divisions exist with the Daedric Princes. Let’s continue. We must be near the end of this boring stroll.

I had to dispose of several more Draugr before we could approach the Word Wall.

I stood before the Word Wall, which taught me the Word of Power, ‘Fus’. It means force. It is the first Word in the Unrelenting Force Shout.

  • Dhali: That was impressive to watch.
  • Wulf: It is not a comfortable experience. You know I have mental barriers that gods can’t bypass.
  • Dhali: Yes, but Word Walls can.
  • Wulf: The dweomer involved is another that is lost to the ages. Whatever it is, it works through my soul, not my mind. The knowledge is forced into my mind via a method for which I have no protection.
  • Celestine: The blessings that make Wulf a Ningheim provide natural intuition about souls. If exposed to enough Word Walls, he could probably create a barrier for his soul to stop the knowledge transfer.
  • Wulf: But since I can’t foresee any reason to do such a thing, that discussion was purely academic.
  • P’Sua: That sounds like it was a riveting conversation. I am sad I missed it.
  • Celestine: Yep, we should talk about real and imaginary sexual conquests instead. Isn’t that right?
  • P’Sua: Ooh, Celestine has her claws out, which is no easy accomplishment for a Breton. They aren’t born with them.
  • Dhali: What does the inscription say?
  • Wulf: Het nok faal vahlok deinmaar do dovahgolz ahrk aan fus do unslaad rahgol ahrk vulom.
  • Dhali: Which means?
  • Wulf: Here lies The Guardian, Keeper of The Dragonstone and a force of unending rage and darkness.
  • Shiva: Who is The Guardian?
  • Wulf: Walk towards that closed sarcophagus. I am positive he will introduce himself.
  • Shiva: You first!

I nocked an arrow and walked toward the sarcophagus. The Guardian emerged and died.

From a chest next to the sarcophagus, I retrieved The Dragonstone.

I inspected The Dragonstone, and then it was passed around. It eventually made its way back to me.

  • Wulf: The symbol at the bottom is that of The Dragon Cult.
  • Shiva: The same symbol is above the Word Wall.
  • P’Sua: They were Atmoran, weren’t they?
  • Wulf: The first to arrive in Tamriel were. They soon grew in numbers and were led by the most potent Dragon Priests. During the Dragon War, most of them were killed. The survivors are responsible for the Dragon Mounds you see dotted around Skyrim. I don’t think they knew Alduin was tossed into the time stream. However, the construction of the Dragon Mounds suggests a belief that Alduin would return one day.
  • P’Sua: And each Dragon Mound covers the skeleton of a slain dragon?
  • Wulf: A dragon’s soul resides in its skeleton. If another dragon or I am the cause of death, the defeated dragon’s soul is absorbed. Alduin could not revive them, as their soul would no longer reside in the skeleton. So yes, the Dragon Mounds cover skeletons of slain dragons, but only those not killed by a Dragonborn or another dragon.
  • Celestine: In another riveting conversation, Wulf and I discussed the possibility of him transferring stored dragon souls back into their skeletons.
  • Wulf: So, what do you think The Dragonstone is showing us?
  • Dhali: The location of the Dragon Mounds.
  • Wulf: Yes, and the writing on the back reads, ‘Het nok un mahlaan drogge erei suleyk se Alduin vokrii.’
  • Dhali: I understood one word, which is ‘Alduin’.
  • Wulf: Here lie our fallen lords until the power of Alduin revives.
  • Shiva: The names of the dragons are not recorded.
  • Dhali: Not on The Dragonstone, but they are recorded in Atlas of Dragons. Our copy is one of the few items that survived the destruction of Cloud Ruler Temple.
  • Shiva: Will we ever visit Sky Haven Temple?
  • Wulf: I have been hesitant to do so. No doubt I will be tested by the spirits of Dragonguard before I am allowed into its centre. However, a clue to Alduin’s defeat may be there, so we shall visit it soon.
  • Shiva: That sounds like Dragon Knight training back home.
  • Wulf: Not all the dragons we face will be revived by Alduin. I expect many more will have hidden until Alduin returns. The Dragonstone will let us keep track of his progress in reviving his comrades. I don’t think this new Dragon War will start until he revives most of them.
  • Dhali: And if we figure out how to bring him to the ground, we can prepare an ambush at the next Dragon Mound he will visit.
  • Wulf: Let’s keep going. If this is like every other boring Nord barrow, it will have another way of exiting that doesn’t require a retracing of steps.

It wasn’t long before we found the exit.

The second we stepped into the fresh air, a dragon appeared from the ether and strafed us with Dragonfire.

Lightning crackled from the hands of Celestine and me. Arrows flew from the bows of others.

The dragon lasted less than a minute before crashing to the ground, dead.

What was going to happen next was unstoppable. The closer I was to the corpse, the quicker the ordeal would be over. I stopped a few feet from the Dovah’s head and braced myself.

Shiva was going to ask a question, but Dhali grabbed her arm and shook her head.

The transfer of the dragon’s soul from skeleton to me looked spectacular. When it was over, the soul sat within me. It was like an unread book of knowledge. If I opened it, I would learn how to use the Unrelenting Force Shout. The soul would then cease to exist. The dragon would cease to exist.

I felt sick, and unwelcome tears of grief streamed.

My friends knew how much the process upset me because we had discussed it many times. The reality of it was far worse than I imagined.

After a few minutes, I was ready to talk.

  • Wulf: He was a Thorntail and of low rank. He was no match for the damage we could inflict without The Voice.
  • Shiva: He was waiting for us to exit. How did he know we were here?
  • Wulf: I don’t know, Shiva. He may have spotted us from up high, but there is no way he would know I was The Dragonborn and wouldn’t be looking for one anyway.
  • Dhali: I know what you are thinking, Wulf, and it isn’t comforting.
  • Shiva: What do you think this means?
  • Dhali: Alduin knows Wulf is a Dragonborn. This low-level dragon was sent to test his strength.
  • Wulf: More disturbing is the implication that Alduin knows where I am and can track my movements.
  • Shiva: Oh, crap!
  • Wulf: This is speculation, Shiva. Let’s not get too concerned until we can confirm our hypotheses.
  • P’Sua: Even with the dweomer on our armour, the Dragonfire was not pleasant.
  • Celestine: Let’s visit Lucan, and then we can return home.

I teleported us to the outskirts of Riverwood.

We entered Riverwood Trader, and Lucan stared at me worriedly.

  • Wulf: Lucan Valerius, on behalf of The Explorer’s Guild, I am offering you 1500 septims for your gold dragon claw. A most generous offer, don’t you agree?
  • Camilla: I swear, Lucan, if you try and barter with Lord Welkynd, you will wear your gonads as a neck ornament!
  • Lucan: Ahh…yes…that is a most generous offer.
  • Wulf: A wise decision, and because I am such a nice person, I will have our craftsman create a replica, not of solid gold, mind you, and have it couriered to you.
  • Camilla: Rejoice, Lucan! You will have a stupid gold thing on the counter and not go to jail. Thank goodness some people have restored our faith in the laws of our mighty Empire by ignoring them.
  • Lucan: What about the bandits and Draugr?
  • Dhali: Lord Welkynd killed them all. We just watched and applauded.
  • Lucan: All of them? By himself?
  • Wulf: I couldn’t have done it without their cheering and clapping!
  • Lucan: Oh.
  • Camilla: You are so stupid sometimes, Lucan. It is a wonder you remember to breathe.
  • Dhali: Lord Welkynd did kill them all. No cheering and clapping was needed.

I handed Lucan two rubies worth more than 1500 septims and said, “I don’t carry 30 pounds of septims with me. Those rubies are worth more than 1500 septims. Goodnight, Lucan and Camilla.”

I didn’t bother exiting the store before teleporting us to Aurane. I have no doubt Lucan will be gossiping about today’s events to all who will listen. I want people to wonder who Lord Welkynd is. When I let the world know I am The Dragonborn, people will accept that fact and have hope because they have heard exaggerated stories about my achievements. My friends know of this tactic and don’t mind me taking all the credit for joint efforts.

I could see that the fate of Vayu was playing on Celestine’s mind, and so did Dhali.

Dhali said, “Come with me, Celestine, and we will have something to eat and a private chat.”

Fighting back the tears, Celestine replied, “Yes, Dhali, I need to talk to somebody. Your shoulder is always the most comfortable to cry on.”

“Even when I am wearing this armour?”

“Even then.”

Dhali led Celestine to the pantry.

Shiva came to me and exclaimed, “You seem so calm, Wulf. On the other hand, I feel like I have drunk a gallon of coffee!”

“Go to the inn. Dance on the tables and get drunk on beverages you have never heard of before. Do what you need to do to relax, Shiva. I may seem calm, but that is a ruse. The responsibility weighs heavily on me, and my mind constantly processes ifs, buts and maybes. I need to prepare, and I will first match The Dragonstone with the Dov mentioned in Atlas of Dragons.”

“I think I will drag Khao with me. He is always melancholy in outlook.”

I headed to my private quarters and looked in on the younger orphans.

At first, some children had terrible nightmares as they relived the traumas they experienced. Without me asking, Meeko decided he would sleep in their room as his presence calmed them down. Gladys soon joined him. Every night, the children say goodnight to their four legged guardians and sleep undisturbed till morning.

I retrieved our copy of Atlas of Dragons.

I decided to read it outside. The stars’ voices reminded me of Mother, and I found them comforting.

Atlas of Dragons listed the contents of seven Dragon Mounds. The Dragonstone showed twenty. Some dragons still listed as living in Atlas of Dragons may be under the mounds. Defeated but not chronicled.

I found Nafaalilargus’ entry amusing,

“Nahfahlaar – Repeated alliances with mortal protectors which have prevented his elimination. His last known protector was the King Casimir II of Wayrest, which the Dragonguard successfully ended in 2E 369. He escaped, and his current location is unknown.”

The Dragonguard later found a loyal and powerful ally in Nafaalilargus. Together, they defeated The New Moon cult and Kaalgrontiid, a marginally less mighty dragon than Alduin. If The Dragonguard and Nafaalilargus failed, Kaalgrontiid would have been more potent than Lord Akatosh, and he would have destroyed Tamriel out of spite.

Nafaalilargus has been defeated in battle twice. Once against Kaalgrontiid’s lieutenant, Laatvulon. In that instance, Nafaalilargus was sure of his victory as he had always been more powerful than Laatvulon. What he didn’t know was Laatvulon had acquired new powers. Their battle raged for days near Senchal in Elsweyr before Nafaalilargus fled, disheartened and unsure how to handle the fact that he lost a fight.

The second time Nafaalilargus lost was to a lone mortal, Cyrus the Redguard. Cyrus covered his blades with Nafaalilargus’ blood, which enabled them to penetrate the Dovah’s hide. The fight was within the confines of a treasure vault, so Nafaalilargus had little room to manoeuvre. That was in 2E 864, and only recently was Nafaalilargus revived. Cyrus was not Dragonborn, and my friend’s soul was still with his remains. Who revived him is a mystery.

I had the distinct feeling that chaos would control my life for some time. When I entered my bedroom, I looked fondly at the armour I used when training with Father in Roscrea.

I looked at my Psijic Monk outfit with less fondness. They are the most irritatingly arrogant individuals on Nirn or any other planet in the cosmos.

I stripped off my armour and crawled into bed.

I had not told Silah about the Mal Zeymah I had encountered, for I made a solemn promise not to mention them. They will make their presence known when it is safe to do so.

Mal Zeymah means little brother. They were weaker dragons that found purpose within the cities populated by mortals and their stronger Dov brethren. It was not practical to make all residences of suitable size for Dov to walk through. Using lost magics, Dov volunteered, and their size was reduced. They could then traverse the mortal-sized halls and act as couriers. It may have been demeaning, but it allowed them to survive.

I do not know what time I fell asleep.

12 thoughts on “Waiting

  1. My man, my man! Untill a certain point, I thought it was like before and I admit I had forgotten about the re-writing. Then you started talking about the golden claw. Yep. Nice…
    I also noticed some changes in the textures; doors, and othee stuff. What mod did you use?
    Keep up the good work, Mark. Let’s live again the meeting between Valdr and Rigmor!!!!

      1. Well, in my defense, I just redone the same quest and I noticed because of the barrow door. XD. I hadn’t check for any other thing related before because I don’t even care that much about the textures usually…but I installed skyrim again because my younger brother suggested me three very good mods about trees, grass and Oblivion gates and ruins all around Skyrim
        Anyway, thanks again. I really enjoy your ‘documentary mod’.
        Looking forward for your next episode!!!
        May the Moons watch over y’all guys

  2. A great beginning! Sometimes you just need to get out your frustrations out in killing some bandits! Love the banter and thoughts that DB shared. The burden of personal responsibility still weights down on the DB. Thank You Mark

  3. Hmmmm..it was growing on me when it suddenly finished. It will take me a couple of journals to “snuggle ” into this new story, because it certainly is new. You know I love Wulf and his crew, they are my family as I have said in the past. Looking forward to the rest of our story, thanks Mark.

  4. Aurane looks good but Silverpeak, to me, was home. Even Dragons Keep was good, I send all the children there other than the adopted six who reside at home with us, but had many rooms and levels in which to loose people. People will disagree with me but I love Silverpeak.

    1. When you have high resolution graphics, a full Silverpeak is a memory hog. I either compromise on the graphics everywhere else, or use a different house. I chose the latter.

      1. I love the look of Aurane and immediately downloaded it for my own build. I don’t have to redo DynDOLOD for it, so that’s good. Personally, I was surprised at the way you began this new version, and I kind of missed the “old” Wulf and his origin story as he tried to regain his memories, etc. But I got into the story very quickly and really like it. Looking forward to reading more.

        BTW, I’d like to point out a slip-up near the beginning when Wulf was explaining his various Thane statuses to Silah. Windstad Manor in Hjaalmarch is the one (well, the land) given by Jarl Idgrod Ravencrone for the Helgi/Alva/Laid to Rest quest, and that housecarl is Valdimar. The land in the Pale is Heljarchen Hall (given by that a** Skald if Dawnstar hasn’t yet been taken by the Imperials), and that housecarl is Gregor. Just thought I’d mention it so you can correct. It’s possible you just got Pale and Hjaalmarch mixed up. It can happen. There’s so much detail in these stories, and it’s very easy for something to slip now and again. No worries. And great job! 🙂

  5. It looks like the mod author for Silverpeak Lodge has modified the latest download by deleting the cellar altogether and removed the stairs to the loft bed. There is a note on the floor explaining that the cellar has been filled in with rubble. If you had filled that cellar with all of the gear l reckon it would take up a fair bit of memory.

  6. And here’s me thinking that was why the mod was running perfectly for me now. Thàt begs the question why delete the cellar?

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