Sundas, 7th Hearthfire 4E 201
& Morndas, 8th Hearthfire 4E 201
Passing pilgrims and others often visited Father’s shrine. The Thalmor must know of its existence. However, they tend not to push the point when nobles are involved. A normal citizen with such a shrine on display would find themselves in deep trouble.
As predicted, it wasn’t long before Rigmor started probing for answers.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: Gobblygook means something magical or mystical that we can’t fully understand.
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: Like the need for me to repeat what you say.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: So why do I need to repeat everything you say?
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: I can accept that as gobblygook or ask Wulf. But the answer might hurt my brain.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: So, Wulf, why must I repeat everything Meeko says?
- Wulf: You don’t have to when he says yes or no because you understand his bark. As you would, a warning growl.
- Rigmor: And….?
- Wulf: And…I have to say hello to one of our regular merchants.
“Good morning, Merchant Styles. Are you buying or just passing through?”
“And good morning to you, Lord Welkynd. I was hoping to get two dozen healing potions of various strengths.”
“The mages have been busy, so they have plenty of stock. They also did a new batch of Cure Disease potions.”
“Wonderful! They always sell out quickly. They help with those embarrassing rashes in unmentionable places.”
“We disposed of the local bandits. They no longer demand tolls.”
“They are all dead, I hope. A few of my fellow merchants fell to them.”
“There were about a hundred and thirty of them living in tunnels. Now there are none.”
“All we need are regular Imperial patrols, and life can return to normal.”
“Have a safe and profitable trip, Merchant Styles.”
We turned onto the main road and passed many pilgrims and their guards. The bandits would have charged such a group a hefty toll.
Rigmor continued the questioning.
- Rigmor: Okay, Lord Welkynd, why must I repeat everything Meeko tells me?
- Wulf: I am Wulf, Rigmor.
- Celestine: Or a derogatory term when being a lady.
- Rigmor: Okay, Skeever Dung, why do I have to repeat everything Meeko tells me most of the time?
- Wulf: You know that you have an inner voice, or two, in your native language.
- Rigmor: Yes.
- Wulf: Imagine you were born deaf and had never heard somebody speak. What language would your inner voice be?
- Rigmor: I dunno?
- Wulf: You don’t know and can’t imagine what it might be. A deaf person’s inner voice would be foreign to you and vice versa. When Meeko speaks to you telepathically, he speaks with his inner voice.
- Rigmor: Okay, I understand so far.
- Wulf: Telepathy allows beings who don’t know each other’s spoken languages to communicate. The listener’s brain receives the message and subconsciously translates it to their inner voice. Are you still keeping up?
- Rigmor: Yep!
- Wulf: When Meeko communicates telepathically, his inner voice is more complex than most. You can try not to repeat what Meeko says, but then you will not be sure you understand. To aid translation and to ensure it makes sense, we speak the sentence in our native language.
- Rigmor: Does Meeko understand our spoken words? Can he correct us if we get it wrong?
- Wulf: Meeko, tell Rigmor who the Jarl of Falkreath is.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Haha. Siddgeir, the arsehole! Angi says he is a bit of a prick.
- Celestine: Meeko vocalises to punctuate what he says. Otherwise, you might translate the message but not its context.
- Rigmor: Should I be worried that this all makes sense?
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: That is kind of you to say, but I don’t think I am brighter than Skeever Dung.
- Wulf: You don’t realise what you just did. I am amazed and impressed.
- Rigmor: Huh?
- Celestine: You didn’t repeat Meeko’s message word for word. You used a single sentence to confirm what Meeko said and provide a response.
- Wulf: It can take days for people to realise Meeko is speaking telepathically. When you first met him, you immediately knew what was happening.
- Celestine: It usually takes a week or two before a person doesn’t have to repeat the entirety of Meeko’s message. You did it within seconds of meeting Meeko earlier.
- Rigmor: But I still confirm my translation in my response.
- Celestine: Exactly.
- Wulf: Rigmor, we know what you are doing and why. How your brain does the translation is something we don’t know. With gobblygook, we must accept partial answers and not lose sleep over the unknown components.
- Rigmor: So, for example, you are just going to accept I did these things faster than others and not worry about why or how?
- Celestine: Normal people would do that, Rigmor. Wulf has a massive appetite for knowledge and logic. He will be obsessed with figuring out what is different about you.
- Wulf: There is no need to worry, Rigmor. I rarely resort to autopsies to get the answer.
- Rigmor: Meeko, is there a word to describe Wulf’s horrendous sense of humour?
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: Just like gobblygook explains some things, weird explains Wulf.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Wulf: I’m weird? Meeko, what dog breed are you, and what is your age?
- Celestine: You know he won’t answer those questions, Wulf.
- Rigmor: Why won’t you answer, Meeko?
- Meeko: Woof.
- Rigmor: You are a dog who isn’t a dog? What kind of answer is that?
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Gobblygook does not explain all!
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Okay, if that is the only answer I will get.
We came to an intersection.
- Rigmor: If we go along that path for a distance, we can climb towards Angi’s. It is very steep but would save us an hour and a half.
- Wulf: Are you sure you could handle the steep climb?
- Rigmor: Once we are on the standard path, you will see that the climb is almost as steep. The shortcut will take a burst of effort, while the long way will require sustained effort. I want to minimise our travel time.
- Celestine: We can always backtrack if it is too much for Rigmor.
- Rigmor: I have done the climb in my old, heavy armour. I should be able to skip to Angi’s in this fancy outfit!
- Wulf: Don’t be fooled by the dweomer, Rigmor. You are still weak from two almost fatal falls in a short period.
- Rigmor: Yes, Lord Party Pooper.
- Meeko: Woof!
- Rigmor: Yes, I know he is just looking out for me.
We walked along the shortcut for a few minutes and then arrived at the steep section. Rigmor was determined to try, so we started the ascent.
It would be a challenging climb on dry ground. The covering of snow increased that difficulty to an almost impossible degree.
Halfway up, Meeko offered help to Rigmor.
“Are you sure, Meeko? Dogs usually don’t like their tail pulled. I learnt that lesson the hard way when I was a little girl.”
“Haha, that was not last year.”
“Okay, if it doesn’t hurt you, I shall hold onto your tail, and you can help pull me up.”
Just before reaching the top, Rigmor started to gag. She staggered onto the flat path and gasped for air.
Meeko looked innocent as he lay down and panted.
I asked, “Enjoying the fresh air, Rigmor?”
“What was that? It smelt like…like….”
“It smelt like nothing a dog could brew no matter what it ate. Meeko told you he wasn’t one.”
“Well, thank you for the help, Meeko. Wulf should have offered to help, but he is an ignorant peasant and can be forgiven.”
“If I offered to help, Rigmor, you would have given me a nasty look and told me you could make it.”
“Yes, well… maybe.”
“Enjoy the view for a minute, and then we shall continue.”
Rigmor hadn’t exaggerated when she said the long path was almost as steep as the shortcut.
I looked behind me on occasion to check Rigmor’s progress. She seemed to be coping well, and I marvelled at her resilience.
The last time I looked behind, I wondered what motivated Rigmor so much that she overcame life-threatening injuries twice in just over a month. My unconscious assaulted me with a memory as if to tell me why Rigmor was so determined.
Rigmor would let a Thalmor brute whip her to death rather than cry out in pain or beg for mercy. I pleaded with her, “Please, give them what they want. Scream out, beg for mercy. It will be a hollow victory for them. Surely you have something to live for?”
Rigmor only gave The Thalmor what they wanted because she did have something to live for. Whatever that is, death will have to wait till she is ready.
I gasped, and tears fell like they did that night. Rigmor halted, then looked at me with worry and puzzlement. I realised what I was doing and turned away. It wasn’t the first time she had seen my emotions rapidly surface.
The rest of the walk was pretty flat.
At the turnoff for Angi’s, spikes had been put in place along with bear traps. A sign declared, “KEEP OUT.”
I asked Rigmor, “Is that your artwork?”
“Yeah, Angi wanted some signs. You will see another one soon.”
“It could have been done with an exclamation mark and written in blood. Perhaps a skeleton in a cage might have added to the threat.”
“Angi likes to be left alone. It is designed to stop the busybodies and curious, not bandits and so on.”
“If you were serious, you would have buried the bear traps.”
“Angi is all bluster. I doubt she could hurt somebody who didn’t deserve it.”
The path to Angi’s was surprisingly long. We came to another of Rigmor’s works of art.
I asked Rigmor, “Will we be greeted with hugs, milk and cookies?”
“I doubt it. Just give Angi a chance, Wulf. She is all heart.”
We arrived at Angi’s, and she came running to intercept us. She was a blond Nord in her early thirties but might have been younger. Harsh living ages people prematurely.
Angi stopped in front of us. Rigmor walked past her and warmed herself before a campfire as we talked.
Angi said, in a very unwelcome tone, “Name’s Angi. I think you might be in the wrong place, friends, and if you try anything stupid, I won’t hesitate to put an arrow in your head!”
“Trying to arm your bow, knock an arrow and draw before I cut you in half, or Celestine gave you a Fireball enema, or Meeko tore your throat out would be stupid. There is no need for such a rude greeting or threat. We are here with Rigmor!”
“Nah! I don’t think so. Rigmor is under my protection, so don’t get any bright ideas!”
“Your protection was not enough to prevent Rigmor from severe injury. Rigmor still lives thanks to our efforts.”
“Well, she is with me now!”
“Calm down, and we shall tell you what is going on. We are friends!”
“Very well! Consider yourself warned, and keep your hands to yourself!”
“Angi, if Rigmor wants us to administer to her, we shall do so, and your permission will not be required!”
Rigmor had been watching with an amused smile. She said, “Angi, this is my Guardian, Celestine, and Meeko! They saved my life, and it’s okay. Relax!”
Angi turned and stomped away while grumbling, “Quiet solitude, one minute. A barbarian, a mage and a huge mangy mutt the next.”
Meeko protested with a whine.
I told him, “You are not a mangy mutt! You are a purebred thingy!”
Rigmor walked towards a tent and said, “Come, we can talk in my tent, out of the cold.”
Celestine warmed herself before the fire and allowed me to talk to Rigmor alone. I silently blessed her for it.
I had to duck to enter Rigmor’s tent. She managed to clear the doorway by several inches. I must look like a giant to her.
Rigmor sat on her bed. I sat on a wooden chair and hoped it could take my weight.
“You should be proud of yourself, Rigmor. You were close to death, yet here we are at Angi’s after a long walk and difficult climb.”
“Yeah, I know the magic stuff on the armour helped, but as you can tell, I have a strong will.”
“You told Angi that I am your Guardian.”
“Well, you are, aren’t you? Consider it a title bestowed upon a faithful batman.”
“Then I am honoured, Lady Ramsbottom.”
“You have to have a name, and Ramsbottom is common in some parts of Roscrea.”
“Ahh, at dinner last night, I heard you were from there. Ramsbottom, it is.”
“I was expecting far more questions from you today.”
“I will hit you with them when I am rested.”
“Angi is a bit overprotective. Was she the one to help with your original stomach wound?”
“Yeah, I got injured after the Bruma thing and barely managed to cross the border. I didn’t notice a cliff and landed badly in my hast. Angi found me when she was returning home from hunting in the forest. I was almost dead, and if it weren’t for her, I would have bled out where I lay.”
“It seems that a Rigmor in trouble attracts hunters who can heal.”
“Yeah, it is a bit creepy with the coincidences.”
“And Angi brought you back here?”
“Yes, and she nursed and sat with me through the fever. She treats me like I am her daughter.”
“That would explain why she is so protective of you. However, my instincts tell me she doesn’t live way up here on the off chance she can save a fugitive from Bruma.”
“Perhaps. Maybe Angi will tell you why when you get to know her better. Don’t be put off by her abruptness. She is a nice person once you get to know her. Mention to her about those practice targets near the Get Lost sign. She will enjoy that very much, and discussing archery will help break the ice. It might even give her a chance to get rid of that damn bow she is always on about.”
“Angi might be amazed at your newfound skills with the bow.”
“She would probably faint. She was more likely to be hit than those targets and gave up trying to teach me.”
“Did you choose Skyrim to run to simply because of its border with Bruma?”
“No, I don’t think so. I am not quite sure. I feel unsafe in Cyrodiil, and Skyrim is my ancestral home. I’ve never been here, so perhaps that decided my destination.”
“I only arrived in Skyrim just over four months ago. I had not stepped on Tamriel before then. Therefore, everything is fairly new to me as well.”
“Well, I want to explore and see it for myself.”
“Let’s see if we can make it safe for you to do.”
“Thalmor, dragons and bandits are suddenly going to leave me be?”
“The dragons are no longer a problem, although the occasional one might want to challenge me.”
“It is easy to forget you are The Dragonborn. As a child, you were in many Nord bedtime stories read to me. I didn’t expect a heroic figure to be…I dunno…almost normal.”
“So, why are dragons not a problem anymore?”
“Because my friends and I defeated Alduin in battle twice. First at the summit of The Throat of the World and then in Sovngarde.”
“Alduin was here? I saw dragons, but we don’t receive news sheets up here.”
“He destroyed Helgen. His dragon allies attacked many other cities and towns. But he is gone now, and when you are not so tired, I may tell you the tale of his defeat.”
“Helgen was destroyed? That was Angi’s home till she moved up here!”
“Did she have family there? I can find out if they are still alive.”
“No, she had no family left in Helgen. I don’t know if she had any friends there.”
“As I said, I will tell you about Alduin and how we defeated him when you are not so tired.”
“I am kinda pooped but would like to talk a little longer.”
“Okay. But don’t be surprised if Celestine does her physician thing and tells us off. You do need to rest before we head to Fort Black.”
“I haven’t seen much sign of the civil war.”
“At the moment, they are manoeuvring around each other. Both sides are afraid of committing to the first major battle. The morale after a win or loss could determine the war’s outcome. However, the lack of patrols means bandits are getting bold and making travel hazardous.”
“You said to the merchant this morning that you cleared out a hundred and thirty bandits from someplace.”
“Yes, a squad and I did that a couple of days ago.”
“Four of my friends make a squad. Each squad has a least one mage.”
“Five of you killed a hundred and thirty bandits?”
“I killed over a hundred of them. You will discover I am excellent at killing, Rigmor. Can you remember the last verse of The Dragonborn Song?”
- Dragonborn, Dragonborn, by his honour, is sworn,
- To keep evil forever at bay!
- And the fiercest foes rout when they hear triumph’s Shout,
- Dragonborn, for your blessing, we pray!
Rigmor looked surprised and asked, “Are you a trained singer?”
“No, Rigmor. But anyway, what that verse tells you is that I am not just supposed to defeat Alduin. I was placed on Nirn by The Nine to protect mortals from evil. That is all mortals from whatever the evil may be.”
“Sent by The Nine?”
“Yes, amongst my many titles is Champion of The Divines.”
“Yet, here you are, protecting a single mortal.”
“One or many, the choice is mine, Rigmor. I saved the many by defeating Alduin. Right now, I want to protect you.”
“Why am I worthy of your time when so many others need help?”
“I told Rose I would help you, and that is what I am doing. Can we leave it at that for now?”
Rigmor smiled. I get the sense she knows far more than she is letting on. Perhaps she is being as cautious as me?
“May I ask what happened to your mother?”
“My mother and I were sold into slavery. I was a young teenager when we were separated. I haven’t seen her for four years and don’t even know if she is still alive.”
“But somebody in Riften has information?”
“Yes, Baa’Ren-Dar, who is very special to me, sent me a note. He has some information on my mother’s ring, but he will have to wait. Rose needs us, and I want to get my father’s sword back.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar is an ancient form of the Ta’agra naming convention. Dar is a rare honorific reserved for very well-respected Khajiiti. I am fond of Khajiiti and look forward to meeting him.”
“Hah, seeing what he makes of you will be fascinating!”
“Why do you think your father’s sword is in Fort Black?”
“I found it in the Bruma embassy. I lost it again when fleeing near Riverwood. I hope it is Fort Black. It might not be.”
“If it is there, that is a bonus. Rescuing Rose will be our main objective.”
“What happened to you, Rigmor? Who made those scars?”
“I’m sorry…I don’t want to talk about that right now. Maybe some other time.”
“Whenever you feel comfortable. You will find I am quite a good listener.”
“What about your parents?”
“Father is healthy. I have not seen Mother in four years, but at least I know she is alive.”
“Why haven’t you seen your mother in four years?”
“Like me, she fights evil. She is doing so at the moment. So far, the fighting has lasted four years.”
“A family of heroes. Is your father one as well?”
“Yes, to a lot of people, he is a hero. To some, he is a hindrance to their plans for domination. Father fought many battles, but he retired from the military. Now he fights evil in other ways.”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, Wulf. I know there is a lot you are not telling me. I can accept that because you are honest, and there must be a reason for secrets.”
“Why did you shave your hair?”
“Haha, a diplomatic change of subject. When I came of age and left Elsweyr, I first wanted to take revenge on the Thalmor that kept us hostages. Shaving my head was a symbol of renewal.”
“And the killings in Bruma were your revenge?”
“Yeah, the ones in Bruma arrested my dad for war crimes, and he ended up dead.”
“He was a soldier?”
“He was a brigade commander and led the Nord volunteers against The Dominion during The Great War.”
“You must be very proud of him.”
“Hell yeah! He was decorated by Emperor Titus Mede II and fought under General Jonna. Then, after the White-Gold Concordat was signed, he went to Hammerfell and helped the Redguards take on The Dominion.”
I sat stunned, and Rigmor looked at me worriedly.
“Wulf, is something wrong?”
“Rigmor, is your father Ragnar Fjonasson?”
“Yes. Did you know Dad?”
“I know of Ragnar. I spent a lot of time learning strategy and tactics. I studied famous commanders from many eras and wars. Your father and The Sons of Talos have been an inspiration to me. Ragnar’s determination and tactics against overwhelming odds in Hammerfell are legendary, and now you tell me he was convicted of war crimes. This subject must be hard for you to talk about, Rigmor, but as I said, I have never been to Tamriel till recently. That is the worst injustice I have ever heard, and I bet there is more. But you don’t have to tell me now.”
“I will tell you a little. The details are difficult for me.”
“Tell me only what you are comfortable with.”
“After The Dominion left Hammerfell and the fighting stopped, Dad met Mom, settled in Bruma, and they had me. Then, after many years had passed, they came after him.”
“They probably blamed him for their embarrassment in Hammerfell.”
“He sacrificed himself to save my mom and me. That’s what he thought. But they betrayed us. I slew them all at the embassy near Bruma. They’ve had the hots for me ever since. Haha.”
“You killed a platoon of elite guards, the mages, and others! Not everybody could do as you did. But not everybody has lost their father to such deceit.”
“You don’t think less of me, do you?”
“No, Rigmor. I am in no position to judge you for seeking revenge on those who harmed you and your family. I am an efficient killing machine designed by The Divines to protect the mortals of Nirn. I have killed far more people than you can imagine and, most of the time, for far less of a crime than you have outlined.”
“So, do think less of me?”
“Have you ever murdered somebody in cold blood? Have you been an assassin?”
“No, Rigmor. I only kill the guilty, but I so outmatch most opponents, you might as well call it an assassination.”
“Then we are the same. So, no, I cannot think less of you.”
“I know assassins, Rigmor. They are also good people when they kill to protect others, not for profit.”
“Of course. Celestine told me she is a Blade and that many of her friends are assassins.”
“As are many of the Penitus Oculatus. But they are not like the Morag Tong or Dark Brotherhood.”
“Yes, I have heard that about them as well.”
“Is there anything else before Celestine yells at us?”
“My story isn’t happy, as you probably already know. I spent some years in slavery. Baa’Ren-Dar rescued me and smuggled me out of Valenwood. I spent a few years in Elsweyr before I took my revenge and ended up here.”
“I won’t ask about your slavery. I can tell that is another thing difficult for you to express.”
“I do need rest for a while, Wulf. Please have a look at my map. It is in Angi’s shack on the table. Take the opportunity to break the ice with Agni. Let me know when you’re ready to move out.”
“Okay, and thank you for sharing with me, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, daughter of a hero to all who know the truth.”
“And thank you for saying that about Dad. He never did say much about the war.”
“Many soldiers are like that. As you know, to recount a memory is to relive it. Not many soldiers are keen on doing so.”
Rigmor lay her head on her pillow and fell asleep in seconds. It would have been wise to remove her sword first!
I said to Celestine as I passed, “Rigmor is asleep. I shall talk to you soon.”
I knocked on the entrance of Angi’s shack. She does not have a door.
I walked in and said, “Hello, my name is Wulf.”
“As I said, the name’s Angi, and I’ve been living out here for a couple of years now.”
“Rigmor tells me you are pretty good with a bow.”
“I’ve been hunting and fishing in these parts for years. There’s enough for everyone if you aren’t greedy.”
“I noticed the targets. What are they for?”
“I set up those targets a long time ago. I shoot at them from time to time. I don’t want to get rusty with my bow. Do you know how to use one?”
“Yes, but there is always room for improvement.”
“Well, let me know if you ever want to practice.”
“I would like that, but first, you must know what happened to Rigmor.”
“Rigmor was on her way to Riften when ambushed by a Thalmor hunting party with trackers and dogs. She leapt off a cliff and into the canopy of a large tree to escape them. She bounced between trees. The branches broke her fall, but she almost died as the wound you had attended to reopened. I have seen the work of many untrained physicians, Angi, and I must compliment you on the treatment you provided Rigmor.”
“I tried my best.”
“The ambush happened very near Riverwood. A huntress called Rose found Rigmor and asked me to help. I asked Celestine to help as she is one of the best Restoration Mages on Nirn. Celestine inspected Rigmor and said she could be moved after some healing. She cast her most powerful healing spell on Rigmor, and I carried her to Rose’s boat. We reached my estate, Lakeview Manor, where Rose tended Rigmor with skills she learnt in the Legion, which complemented the healing Celestine had done with magic. Together we saved her life. Now she is fairly healthy but still needs to recover her stamina.”
“That is uncannily like my experience with her.”
“Yes, it is very similar. The Thalmor have captured Rose, and we are going to rescue her. We will head for Fort Black after Rigmor has had a bit of a rest.”
“Just you and Rigmor?”
“We can do it, I am sure. There is a huge bounty, fifteen thousand Septims, for capturing Rigmor, dead or alive. There will be many bounty hunters after her. For that reason, Celestine will set up camp nearby to protect the path to your cabin. There will be another three women with her. They will be out of your way and will not intrude upon your solitude. Meeko will also remain here to protect you.”
“Do you think that is necessary?”
“No matter how good you are with a bow, Angi, you could not prevail against a platoon of Thalmor or a large group of bounty hunters. On the other hand, they would be slaughtered by Celestine’s Destruction spells and the skills of those with her.”
“While Rigmor is resting, I would love you to tell me about archery!”
“Follow me then. You have your bow but must use the practice arrows, or this may prove too easy.”
We walked to the practice area in silence. I picked up a quiver of practice arrows along the way.
Once there, Angi started demonstrating techniques. She explained, “My father was rarely home, so my mother taught me how to use a bow. She always said composure was the key to a successful archer. Your arrow will likely find its target if you remain calm, even amid the chaos.”
After Angi’s demonstration, I was required to hit the three closest targets without any time limit. I had been watching the trajectory of the practice arrows. They were heavily fletched, which increased accuracy but made them dip quicker than the ones I used. Angi’s bow had nowhere near the draw of mine. I did not think the arrows would dip when shot from my bow.
I was correct in my assumption and did not aim high to hit the targets.
Angi’s second lesson was about speed while maintaining accuracy. As she demonstrated, she said, “My older brother took me out hunting a lot when I was little. It was difficult to keep food on the table then, let alone have enough left to sell at the market. So, whenever we encountered more than one deer in a single location, we needed to kill as many as possible.”
My test was to hit all three targets in eight seconds or less. I did that. I think Angi was surprised I had yet to miss a target.
Angi’s third lesson was about precision. She consistently hit the furthest target while explaining, “We’ve talked about speed and composure. Now we’ll go over precision. Often, you won’t be able to get as close to your prey as you’d like, and you’ll have to settle with a long shot. However, with such a long shot, it’s more than likely that’s the only shot you’ll be able to take before your prey runs off.”
My test was to hit the furthest target. I had to aim slightly higher to compensate for the practice arrow, but I hit it first try.
Angi’s eyebrows raised a bit at that feat.
Angi then challenged me to hit all four targets in ten seconds. She was surprised when I accomplished that first try and exclaimed, “You did it! All four targets in ten seconds. Nice job. And you never missed a target once!”
“Thanks for the lessons, Angi.”
“I think you already knew all I tried to teach you. You are a far better marksman than me. That is kind of scary when I think about it.”
“I have to shoot people trying to kill me in the head quite often. When your life is at stake, accuracy increases quickly.”
“If you don’t mind, can you tell me why you live here alone?”
“I moved here from Helgen after my family was killed. At the time, I couldn’t stand to be around anyone. They all felt sorry for me, and I didn’t want them to. It was my problem, not theirs.”
Angi did not want sympathy, so I did not give her any.
I asked, “How did your family die?”
“Two Imperial drunks who thought they were above the law.”
“Were they ever brought to justice?”
“You could say that. That is part of the reason I’m living out here now.”
I could see why she would bond with Rigmor. Both of them have killed others to avenge their families.
I asked Angi, “Do you still have friends or family in Helgen?”
“Not anybody I care about very much. Why?”
“Helgen is no more. A dragon destroyed it several days ago. Over half the people were killed, and a battalion of Legionnaires was wiped out.”
“I have noticed dragons flying overhead. I might not have liked some people, but… was it bad?”
“Yes, it was bad. Very bad. Helgen wasn’t the only place attacked. Solitude, Windhelm, Dawnstar and Riften were also attacked, as well as some towns.”
“I cannot honestly mourn those I did not like in Helgen. But I am very sorry for all of them.”
“The town will be rebuilt. I will make sure of that.”
“It is not often I get visitors out here. Let alone pleasant ones. I know it isn’t much, but here, take this bow. It was given to me by my family. It is special to me but brings back too many painful memories.”
I took the bow, and it was of superb quality. I said, “This is a most precious gift, Angi. It will be used and not locked in a cupboard somewhere.”
I could see Angi was close to tears. I told her, “I must look at Rigmor’s map.”
“And I must finish my cooking.”
We walked back to her shack without another word.
Rigmor’s map was, to be polite, different. The depiction of the Jerall Mountains was artistic and very squiggly.
Next to the map was a note written in Aldmeris. I doubt Rigmor knows the language or the content of the note. What follows is my translation.
“To Justiciar Milen, New Order of Alinor.
The Order requests that the Daedric artefacts be moved to Fort Black immediately. High Justiciar Joror has now been assigned to replicate the weapon and amulet.
Too much time has been taken to duplicate the items, and although a breakthrough has been made to fuse Daedric relics with advanced metallurgy, four years for only one of each item is not acceptable.
High Justiciar Joror believes he can quadruple production time to furnish our military personnel as soon as possible. Ensure both the originals and duplicates are dispatched. Too much time has already been wasted.
General Tilar Aedriath.”
I suspect Rigmor found the note in the Bruma embassy. Is her father’s sword the Daedric weapon they are trying to duplicate? And was the amulet also her father’s?
The New Order of Alinor is unknown to me. Perhaps it is some religious sect within The Dominion. Perhaps our visit to Fort Black will tell us who or what it is.
The Justiciar I confronted in Riverwood was High Justiciar Joror. He did not tell me his full title, which was wise, as that would have almost ensured his arrest. High Justiciars do not hunt fugitives.
I was busy speculating when I did not have enough information. That is a habit I despise and generally abstain from doing.
I know the events that wrecked Rigmor’s life occurred just over four years ago. That is when I found Rigmor in her cell via ethereal travel. And now I know that terrible place was in Valenwood and that the Khajiit I saw carry her to safety is named Baa’Ren-Dar.
I left Angi’s hut and walked over to Celestine.
I told her, “There is much more going on than Thalmor hunting Rigmor. Here, read this note.”
I handed Celestine the note. She can read, write and speak Aldmeri.
Celestine returned the note and said, “It seems a visit to Fort Black might do more than save Rose.”
“I will be travelling there with Rigmor. I want you to set up camp. Come with me, and I will show you the ideal location.”
We stopped not far along the trail to Angi’s.
“I want you to summon Iona, Lydia, and Jordis. They are to camp here with you for a few days. We shall swap with another squad if we are here longer than that. Summon Vayu and tell him what that note says. He is to see if any information is available about The New Order.”
“The ladies will be pleased to rough it out here when we are yards away from Aurane’s portal.”
“You aren’t going to protest my decision to travel alone with Rigmor?”
“I know you can summon help if need be.”
“Yeah, bundles of it. Anyway, Rigmor was having night terrors.”
“I will sit beside Rigmor and give her one hour of quality sleep. Then we shall set off for Fort Black.”
I rushed to Rigmor’s tent and could hear her amid a night terror. I entered with all the stealth I could muster, which is substantial. Her nightmare ended when I was within a few feet of Rigmor. I sat on the chair and let Rigmor sleep peacefully for an hour while eating fruit.
When the hour was up, I gently shook Rigmor awake, and she groggily got to her feet.
I said, “Fill up, empty, and we are ready to go.”
“Eat and then go to the toilet. Or the other way around but not both at the same time.”
As Rigmor attended to her filling and emptying, I spoke to Meeko.
“I know joining your friends at their camp will be tempting, but I want you to stay here.”
“It is more than likely that enemies will approach up that long path, but they could also have climbers as we had in Akavir. It was a good tactic to use them and surprise the enemy in their mountain holdouts.”
“Yes, Angi doesn’t seem that keen on you. Use your charms, and she will soon be patting you and giving ear scratches.”
“No, she will not try and put an arrow in your head. However, if she tried, it would bounce off your thick skull. If it did penetrate, there is nothing vital in there.”
“I am glad I found Rigmor as well. But we will have to wait and see how things turn out.”
I watched the activity in Celestine’s camp. Setting up the tents and starting a good fire didn’t take long.
Twenty minutes later, Rigmor tried sneaking up on me. She was completely silent because of the dweomer on her armour, but I saw her reflected in Meeko’s eyes.
Without turning, I said, “Good, you are finally ready. Let’s go, Lady Ramsbottom.”
As we walked, Rigmor asked, “Well, did you look at my map.”
“You did that map all by yourself?”
“Yeah, it’s something, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is something. The mystery is, what is that something?”
“You will see how accurate it is!”
As we walked past the camp, she asked, “Who are they?”
“They are my friends Iona, Jordis, and Lydia. Angi might feel more comfortable if females were doing the guard duty.”
“Why did you think that?”
“Intuition, Rigmor. Was I wrong?”
“I will introduce you to them later. If we hurry and you don’t get us lost, we should make it to Fort Black just after sunset.”
“I have the directions in my head, Dragonbum. We shall not get lost.”
After some time, Rigmor said, “We turn off to the right and use that path. It will lead us to a mine. We have to go through the mine to reach Fort Black.”
We followed the path and ended up at a dead end.
Rigmor gave me a death stare, so I said nothing as we backtracked to the main path.
We passed the outcrop where my spirit travelled the ether to Rigmor just over a month ago. We were playing a game of cat and mouse. Rigmor caught me staring at it, and a sly smile flickered. Then she composed herself. The trouble is, I didn’t know if I was the rodent or the feline.
Not far from the erroneous turnoff, Rigmor said, “This is the correct path to follow!”
“Yes, of course, it is, Lady Ramsbottom! Even if it isn’t, any errors in our navigation are entirely my fault.”
We turned right up the, hopefully, correct path.
As we passed a large, ancient structure, my sense of linear time detected an anomaly nearby. I approached a lowered portcullis and stopped. I did not want to upchuck the fruit I ate while Rigmor slept, so I rejoined the path.
Rigmor asked, “Okay, know it all. What is that place?”
“It is called The Eye of Cyrodiil and is a bit of a mystery. Nobody has been able to enter it since The Oblivion Crises, and its purpose is unknown.”
“In other words, it is exactly the type of place you would love to explore. I picked up a lot of information during dinner last night. It seems you like dark, dingy places nobody has entered for a long time.”
“Well, my museum won’t be very exciting without artefacts, will it? But I haven’t had much chance to explore for the fun of it lately.”
“You looked pale and sickly when you approached the gate.”
“I am sensitive to time, Rigmor. There is something inside that place interfering with time.”
“More Dragonborn stuff?”
“Yes, dragons are sensitive to time. My Dragonsoul makes me sensitive to it as well.”
“So, how much like a dragon are you?”
“I don’t have the compulsion for combat and conquest like dragons do. However, I could become lost in battle lust and kill without discretion if I am not careful. Like some berserkers do.”
“Has that ever happened?”
“No, and I am cursed, or gifted, with something that helps prevent it. I remember every kill I make when the victim is visible to me. I can replay every one of them in my mind in perfect detail. It is not something that The Divines have forced upon me. I think it is my subconscious protecting me.”
“Only those I can see. Fireballs and other spells could kill dozens at a time, and I wouldn’t see all who perished. But of those kills that I can remember, the current count is one thousand, seven hundred and thirty-seven individuals. I would probably have caused the deaths of twice that many.”
Rigmor fell silent. She now knows the killer who walks with her.
Ten minutes later, we turned a corner and saw many steps.
Rigmor whispered, “Wulf, look at me.”
I turned to a solemn-looking Rigmor.
She said, “You are a soldier, not for any country but for all people. That is the task that The Divines have given you. If killing didn’t bother you, those memories would not exist. So never feel guilty for doing what is necessary to protect us.”
“I fear what I could become, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier. Do you know of Pelinal Whitestrake?”
“He was a champion of Saint Alessia. He was insane and killed anything he thought was Mer.”
“The Divines sent him to aid Saint Alessia. He wasn’t insane until his lover, a male spearman, was killed in battle. That personal loss triggered his insanity and a deep hatred for Mer. He killed many innocents, which saddened The Divines and Saint Alessia. However, Pelinal was crucial to Saint Alessia’s slave revolt, so she reluctantly accepted the collateral damage resulting from his insanity. I never want to be like Pelinal Whitestrake. If I did become like that, I hope I would be struck down and not allowed to rampage as he did.”
Looking into Rigmor’s eyes was dangerous. I told everybody, including myself, I would be careful. But there was no denying what I saw. I quickly changed the subject.
I asked, “Where is the mine?”
Rigmor recognised the use of a non sequitur and smiled.
She replied, “Up the top of the steps. Duh!”
“I didn’t see steps marked on that wonderful map of yours. You were probably too busy doing the squiggly mountains and forgot.”
“We are here, aren’t we? There is nothing wrong with my map!”
“I didn’t say there was. It is a beautiful abstract rendition of something.”
Rigmor shook her head, and we proceeded towards the stairs.
A Nord in well-worn armour came towards us. We stopped and waited for him.
He said, “Alright, that is far enough! What can I do for you, friends?”
“You can step aside and let us pass.”
“We are in control of this mine. You know how it works. The toll here is one-hundred Septims.”
I smiled and used a bit of Thu’um, so my answer echoed. I told him, “My friend, you have two choices. You can stand aside, live, and not get the toll, or you can die and not get the toll. What will it be?”
“What? Hmmm, okay, you can go through to the mine. I think it is time I found another way to make a living.”
As our ‘friend’ turned and walked away, Rigmor whispered, “If you were a mindless killer, his head would be rolling. Now get moving if you want to reach Fort Black before the sky is black!”
We soon passed our friend and his fellow thugs. I stopped and turned to Rigmor.
“On your wonderful map, you drew some two-legged thing I couldn’t identify. Could it have been a troll?”
“I thought that was a wonderful rendition of a troll!”
“Have you ever seen a troll?”
“That would explain it. Trolls tend to make a lot of noise, which doesn’t make sense. How are they supposed to surprise prey if they do that? Anyway, I can hear one ahead. I don’t want to get my sword covered in troll guts. Therefore, I will use The Voice.”
“How loud will it be?”
“Loud enough to startle a young woman who might fall down some steep stairs.”
The troll came into view, and I used Unrelenting Force.
It didn’t kill the troll outright, but the unfortunate creature fell into a den of SabreCats.
As the troll fought for its life and lost, Rigmor ran at it with her sword drawn.
The troll died, and then Rigmor realised the SabreCats were not her allies.
She propped, and when the SabreCats attacked, she killed all three with a single swing for each.
She ran up to me and said, “Ahh, guardians are supposed to guard.”
“Those who the guardian is guarding should not run and tackle enemies without checking the guardian, as mentioned above, is with them.”
“Well, I have been carrying this sword and wondering how good it is.”
“The sword is good, but I just witnessed superb swordsmanship. However, please don’t run off like that. And you saw how powerful The Voice is, so never run before me at the start of a fight.”
“Yeah, that was impressive.”
“Your swordsmanship or The Voice?”
It was my turn to shake my head as we continued our climb.
At the entrance to the mine, I sniffed and asked, “Can you smell that?”
“Yes, but being a lady, I would not mention your fart.”
“I didn’t fart. There is something foul-smelling wafting under the door. Let’s enter the mine quietly because I don’t think fluffy bunnies are inside.”
We entered, and the stench was overpowering.
We walked slowly, and then I stopped.
I whispered, “There are dozens of huge rats ahead.”
“How do you know that?”
“Dragonsoul remember? I can see the heat given off by living creatures like dragons can. I can also see in the dark.”
“And the weirdness level increases.”
“I don’t think they pose much of a threat. I could use The Voice to kill them, but I am unsure about the support beams’ sturdiness. Therefore, I will use Chain Lightning. It is a spell that will kill many of them at a time. Just stay behind me, and you won’t get zapped.”
“I thought I was kinda immune to electricity in this armour.”
“You are, up to a point. My spells are far more powerful than most mages. Therefore, even with the dweomer on your armour, it would not tickle if I accidentally hit you with lightning. I would hate for milady to say naughty words, so stay behind me.”
Rigmor giggled. Then she gasped as electricity sparked between my fingers and hands.
It only took a couple of casts to kill dozens of rats.
Rigmor squealed as a crispy rodent flew past me and hit her on the chest.
Heat Vision showed no living rats, so we moved into their once-occupied area.
I could use Night Vision, but Rigmor could not. So, I lighted my lamp and revealed the horror to her.
I turned to Rigmor, who asked, “What has happened here?”
“Torture and murder, which are hobbies of our Dominion friends. A weak Destruction mage used a Flames spell to kill the miners. It looks like one of them got special treatment and was crucified.”
“Why would anyone do this?”
“The Thalmor don’t need an excuse. But at a guess, the miners posed a security risk, and this was the economical solution.”
“They need to be eliminated!”
We continued upwards and came to a door. I warned Rigmor, “More rats are through the door.”
“You can see through things?”
“Yes, and I quite like the underwear you are wearing.”
“That had better be more bad humour, or you will speak with a squeaky voice!”
“I can see their heat, even through the door.”
“You were next to me when I slept in my undies as my Guardian. That is different than being a weirdo pervert!”
“I understand the difference, Rigmor. I promise never to be a weirdo pervert without your permission.”
“Why do I bother talking to you?”
“My charms and manners are irresistible.”
“In your dreams, Dragonbum. Keep moving!”
In between zapping the waves of rats, I said, “They have a big buddy approaching.”
I let the troll get closer before hitting it in the chest with my spell.
It turned into a pile of ash.
We continued to another set of doors.
I told Rigmor, “There is another troll waiting for us on the other side.”
“That one is mine, so don’t zap me!”
We burst through the door, and Rigmor killed the troll with a mighty swing.
I remarked, “Well done, Lady Ramsbottom! You almost sundered the hideous beast in two!”
“Oh, I am sorry. I was trying to kill the troll, not you.”
At the mine exit, Rigmor breathed in and declared, “Fresh air!”
She opened it quickly and rushed outside, only to discover an extremely narrow platform lay beyond the door. I grabbed her around the waist and swung her back onto the narrow platform before she became Rigmor smear on the ground below.
Rigmor giggled and said, “Wow, watch that first step!”
“Let’s try not to kill ourselves. The Thalmor would cry.”
“Well, they shouldn’t be so shoddy in their upkeep!”
“When we find them, you can formally complain before I chop their heads off.”
“Good idea, and thanks.”
We climbed a few levels, and then I stood transfixed. I used Zoom Vision and could hardly see it through the low cloud. Everything was muted, and I could make out much detail. But there was The Imperial City, and in its middle, The White Gold Tower.
Rigmor squinted and asked, “Can you see the Imperial City with your dragon eyes.”
“I have normal mortal eyes, Rigmor. But yes, I can zoom in like a looking glass.”
“Oh, Baa’Ren-Dar had a beautiful one of those till I dropped it from a balcony.”
“Have you ever been to The Imperial City?”
“Yes, and I shall tell you all about it another time. Right now, we have two choices. Head straight for Fort Black, or go to the summit and look at Skyrim from there.”
“You want to climb these rickety steps while winds try to blow you to your death?”
“The view, Wulf. Think of the view!”
“I am but your humble batman. Let us proceed upwards as we have time to reach Fort Black before sunset.”
Despite Lady Kynareth’s attempts to kill us, we reached the viewing platform.
Rigmor was transfixed by the view and turned left and right to take it all in.
Finally, she said, “This is so cool!”
“Yes, it is rather cold.”
“No, cool, as in good.”
“Is that what it means? I have heard you use the expression a few times and thought it was a speech impediment.”
“Guess what, Dragonbum?”
“Ahh, you hate me?”
“I know what cool means. The orphans who live with me say it all the time.”
“You have orphans living with you?”
‘Not in Lakeview Manor but one of my other estates.”
“How many estates do you have?”
“Well, tell me, isn’t the view amazing?”
“It is breathtaking. Maybe one day I can take you to the summit of The Throat of the World. Then you will be at the highest point in all of Tamriel.”
“That is where you fought, Alduin, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and there are other dragons, friendly ones, who live there.”
“You have friend dragons?”
“Mortals have always had dragon allies. That is why we survived The Dragon War. One of my dragon friends is called Nafaalilargus, or Nahfahlaar, to use his Khajiiti name. He was a soldier in Tiber Septim’s army. The dragon you see on The Empire’s coat of arms is a depiction of him. Nahfahlaar has aided mortals several times, including the Khajiiti when dragons invaded Elsweyr.”
“I was never taught about friendly dragons. They were always depicted as evil, mindless beasts.”
“You know I have a museum in Solitude. The reason I wanted one is to teach real history and not the biased garbage that is taught in most schools. For example, when I do a display about Ragnar Fjonasson, it will highlight the truth of what he did, not the lies.”
“You will do a display about my dad?”
“Yes, of course, I will. Ragnar and The Sons of Talos are an important part of history.”
“That would be so….”
“I meant to ask you something. There was a note next to your squiggly mountain drawing.”
“Yeah, I grabbed it when I was in Bruma’s embassy. It was written in elvish, so I have no idea what it said.”
I translated it. It read,
“To Justiciar Milen, New Order of Alinor.
The Order requests that the Daedric artefacts be moved to Fort Black immediately. High Justiciar Joror has now been assigned to replicate the weapon and amulet.
Too much time has been taken to duplicate the items, and although a breakthrough has been made to fuse Daedric relics with advanced metallurgy, four years for only one of each item is not acceptable.
High Justiciar Joror believes he can quadruple production time to furnish our military personnel as soon as possible. Ensure both the originals and duplicates are dispatched. Too much time has already been wasted.
General Tilar Aedriath.”
Rigmor growled, “So the bastards did bring my dad’s sword here!”
“For some reason, I thought that was what they were referring to. Can you tell me what the Daedric relics are?”
“There are two. There is Dad’s sword, duh! And a Daedric Amulet of Talos.”
I shocked Rigmor when I burst out laughing.
Rigmor asked indignantly, “What is so funny?”
“I am sorry, but in a way, it is funny. In another, it is tragic. What is supposed to be so special about the amulet.”
“Well, it has Daedric qualities and acts like a full suit of armour.”
“A Daedric artefact is made from a metal that can only be forged in Oblivion. If no dweomer is placed on them, they are just high-quality weapons and armour. It sounds like the amulet had a dweomer similar to what I have placed on your armour. However, it could never hold Lord Talos’ blessing. It can’t possibly be an Amulet of Talos, even if it looks like one.”
“Those arseholes lied.”
“Thalmor lie? What a shock. They were trying to frame Ragnar. I bet they found them when searching your house.”
“Yes, they are family heirlooms passed down to my dad. They were found buried in a chest by the Thalmor when they arrested him. My mum and I didn’t even know about them. They are around two hundred years old and have something to do with The College of Winterhold. One day soon, I hope to go there and find out more. It’s also one of the reasons I came to Skyrim. Maybe we could check it out sometime?”
“Certainly, if you have not got sick of me and told me to go away.”
“Or discovered your secrets and ran away screaming?”
I stood still. Had I underestimated Rigmor, or was this part of the cat-and-mouse game?
Rigmor continued, “I know there is so much more to you, Wulf. You are revealing bits and pieces as we go. Yes, I am telling you my story in chapters as well. But I think there is a difference.”
“I find it hard to talk about my past. You said that soldiers are reluctant to talk about their past. You said it is because talking about their experiences is to relive them. Well, the same with me. Maybe, eventually, I will have the courage to tell you all. But you are afraid to tell me more about yourself. You are not ashamed of what you are or scared of past experiences. You are afraid I won’t accept the reality. Celestine is a wonderful person, but I could tell that certain questions were broaching subjects she was reluctant to discuss. There were undertones of secrets at dinner even though everybody was friendly and talking about Wulf adventures.”
“Please, Rigmor, let us keep travelling and learning about each other that way. It is important to me that we do that.”
“You look frightened, Wulf, and I don’t think that is natural for you. I am happy to continue as we are and unravel the real Wulf in chapters. I think the gobblygook would overwhelm me otherwise.”
“I am always the real Wulf, Rigmor. There is nothing fake in my actions or words.”
“That is not what I meant. Perhaps I should have said the whole Wulf.”
“Come on, my Guardian. We have some Thalmor to visit.”
I am convinced Rigmor knows I am the Guardian who pledged to be so in that dark cell. I am the mouse in this game.
I said, “Hang on, what is in that satchel?”
Inside was a journal that I read to Rigmor.
“A Mountaineer’s Journal.
We made it!
By the gods, who would have believed it? This surely must be the highest peak in the Jerall Mountains. After everything we have been through, the months of planning the attempt at the summit, setting up the base camp below the abandoned mine, and building the frame, here we are.
Cyrodiil to the South, Skyrim to the North, Hammerfell to the West. We will never forget this moment. This is undoubtedly a view to die for. The sun is setting, and we are about to descend before we freeze to death on the mountaintop. That shouldn’t be a problem. We used a lot of timber from the mine to build our way up here. So it will be easy to make our way down. Without those resources, it would have been impossible.
Poor Vidngar, Rokkir was right about the South face being too dangerous. The wind would have blown us all to our deaths. He was wise to abandon that attempt and build our frame up the west face. It is a pity the other three were not here to see this. A strange fellow came to see us, a lovely friendly chap. He informed us that our missing companions had been tragically killed when part of the rotten wood edifice collapsed on the east face. That old mining frame should be avoided. Poor Sorella! The child insisted on going with her parents.
We have decided to stay at the base camp for now. There are ample ore deposits, and as long as we avoid the SaberCats and that stupid dumb Troll, we can start a new life as ordinary citizens.
We have kept them unharmed to deter the new gold prospectors from muscling in on our patch. We have been told we can trade the ore in Falkreath, and the Jarl has decided to overlook our bandit status as we are Nords! As long as we don’t cause trouble or rob the locals and pay him a small tribute.
It’s so good to drink the local mead, and we are planning on building ourselves real homes soon, and Frikka is with child. I love her so much. One day, I might make a respectable woman of her and ask her to marry me.
Oh well! The others are calling, and it is time to go.
To you reading this journal, I say you are well met!
We are the first, and not the last, to conquer this peak, may it be written so:
Jakkob of Windhelm, Frikka Kjannsen, Siggi Kjannsen, Rokkir of Riften and Inga Argeldssen.”
Rigmor shed a tear as she said, “A little girl fell to her death!”
“Yes, I hate hearing about and seeing the deaths of children.”
Rigmor was openly sobbing, and along with copious tears was copious snot.
I handed her a kerchief, and she wiped her eyes and blew into it, long and hard. She held it out for me, and I said, “Nah…you can keep that one.”
Rigmor laughed and tucked it into her gauntlet.
She said, “You must think me a big baby, crying over strangers like that?”
“No, Rigmor. It shows you have copious compassion, something that others who have survived enslavement might have lost.”
“They sound like decent people, so why the demand for a toll?”
“Who knows, perhaps they are finding it tough going? Not everybody can survive off the land like Rose and Angi. I offered that thug a chance to step away, and he took it. If he didn’t, I have no doubt we would have had to kill them all.”
“Including the pregnant one! Oh, Wulf, I would have needed ten kerchiefs if that happened.”
“But it didn’t, and I have delayed us again.”
As we started down, I noticed The Eye of Cyrodiil in the distance. I will have to ask Silah if she knows anything about it.
There were a lot of miners on the platforms, but also many armed men who were not miners.
Rigmor noticed them and suggested, “Maybe we can talk our way down without conflict?”
“The Thalmor would not leave anybody alive but toadies this close to Fort Black. Remember the other miners? Why kill them and leave these alone?”
“Your brain is so agile when dealing with this stuff. Eventually, I would figure it out, but you just come up with answers immediately.”
“My logical brain is a trait I was born with and not gifted by The Divines. But once it was recognised, much of my training was designed to exercise it so I can analyse things quicker and make decisions quicker.”
“So, the smart arse became smarter arsier?”
“Yes, you could say that.”
“I know, I just did so logical that!”
I laughed, which made Rigmor smile.
A weasel in an Imperial uniform approached us.
He asked, “And where do you think you are going? This area is off-limits to citizens. Turn around and go back the way you came.”
“That is strange. I don’t think this is a restricted area, certainly not on any map I have seen. But even if it was restricted, I am a Thane of Falkreath and can legally go where I wish within the Hold. Therefore, we shall continue to pass through without trouble from you.”
“Not through here, you’re not. Last warning, go back the way you came.”
“Do you know how to fly?”
“You just don’t get the hint, do you? Alarm!”
Unrelenting Force sent the weasel flying. I yelled, “Flap your arms!”
Rigmor laughed and said, “I don’t think he heard you over the echoes and his screams.”
The armed people below started to react.
I sent them plummeting to the distant ground.
I told Rigmor, “Most would have died when Unrelenting Force hit them.”
She replied, “They are the lucky ones. The others had a long fall before they joined them in death.”
Everybody on the platforms was armed in some form or another. Many ran at us with their pickaxes. Many had bows, while some were armoured and waving swords or axes. They all died.
Because of the mountain, darkness came fast. There was no lingering sunset. It didn’t stop the killing.
After ten minutes, Heat Vision showed that nobody was alive to oppose us. We carefully made our way to the bottom. The rickety scaffolding was even worse after my Thu’um smashed into it.
It was as dark as a moonless night when we reached solid ground.
There was a howl nearby.
“Wulf, there are wolves!”
“Yeah, you think so? It could be a Skeever with a sore throat.”
I used Heat Vision and could see a pack of wolves waiting for their meal to approach.
Two Unrelenting Force Shouts killed them all.
I used my lantern until Fort Black came into view. From then on, we had to move slowly and carefully as we crept towards our goal.
When I could see the entire fort, I whispered to Rigmor, “Heat Vision shows me half a dozen sentries. I expected more.”
“They probably think that nobody would dare attack a Thalmor fort.”
“The guards at their Skyrim embassy thought the same.”
“You would think with all the noise The Voice made that they would be alert to trouble.”
“There were mages amongst those killed. They might think the noise is them taking care of the trouble.”
“So, what next? I will follow your lead.”
“I will put an arrow in one. Others will crowd around, wondering who killed them. Then I shall kill them all.”
“I would have ducked under cover when I saw an arrow poking out of the first one!”
“Yes, Rigmor, but you are smarter than a rock.”
“Yes, I am smarter than a rock. Therefore, I know you can’t hit any of them from here.”
“Oh…is that so? You will have to wait to see the evidence. Then I will stick my tongue out and say, ‘Told you so!’ I may even do a raspberry to emphasise your wrongness.”
“Go on, waste arrows, and then you can devise a realistic plan.”
I knelt, took aim, and released.
“Fiddlesticks, I missed!”
Rigmor sneered, “Oh, so what is your excuse?”
“Only their head is showing above a wall. So, I shall not miss this time!”
I Shouted Unrelenting Force, which rushed towards the sentry.
I turned to Rigmor, who said, “Apart from the SabreCats and that troll, I have not had to bloody my sword.”
“The best way for me to protect you is to remove your need to fight. But I think the corridors and rooms of the fort will be different. They should hear us approaching and be prepared. You will get to chop people up.”
“How good are the people in your squads?”
“Some of them are Swordmasters. Some are Master Mages. They are all excellent in battle and have the same dweomer on their weapons and armour as you do. We have defeated armies much larger than the ones we fight beside. We have infiltrated many places like Fort Black with minimal numbers. That is why Celestine did not insist on accompanying us. There is very little The Thalmor can do to stop me, Rigmor.”
“Come on then, let us get inside and find Rose and my heirlooms!”
As the dead sentries came into view, Rigmor said, “Okay, no raspberry or other comment is needed.”
We approached the entrance to Fort Black.
I told Rigmor, “There is nobody in the lobby. However, there are some in the room after that. We should be able to surprise them.”
We entered the lobby, and I studied the heat signatures in the next room.
I whispered, “There is one on a balcony and six on the ground floor. Three of those are sitting and drinking. One is standing and drinking. I think the other two are servants. We shall not harm the servants unless they attack us.”
“Are we just going to rush them?”
“The best tactic would be to open the door and hit them with Unrelenting Force. However, that would kill the servants. Therefore, I will use a Shout I have never tried before. It will be interesting to see how well it works.”
“What does the Shout do?”
“It will make me sound like a mouse.”
I opened the door and then Shouted Slow Time.
At an accelerated pace, I rushed into the room and killed the five armed Thalmor before they drew their weapons or fired a shot from a bow.
I said, “Well, that worked better than I thought.”
Rigmor stared at me, then giggled. The two Altmer servants looked a bit disturbed. After all, we were surrounded by still twitching corpses, and I did squeak like a mouse.
I collected a key from a table and waited for the Shout to expire.
Then I approached the male servant and spoke to him in Aldmeri.
“I will not ask you questions about who is inside the fort. We won’t harm you, but I don’t think The Thalmor will be so kind.”
“No, they will not. They would expect us to pick up a weapon and die for them. So, my wife and I will need to flee. There are dissident Altmer spread throughout Tamriel. We shall be okay if we can reach one of those groups.”
“No Thalmor or lackeys are alive in the mines, but a bandit gang may demand a toll.”
“There is another pass, but an Orsimer mercenary squad is blocking it now.”
“Well, we might encounter them. Wait a few hours, then take whatever route you think is best. I hope you and your wife remain safe.”
I asked Rigmor, “Are you over your giggles?”
“I don’t know. Are you a man or a mouse? Come on, squeak up!”
Rigmor’s giggling continued till we stopped at the exit door.
I told her, “There are some more Thalmor but in a distant room.”
We approached the occupied room.
I whispered, “There are five. Straight ahead are three clustered around a table, looking at something. I believe one of them is a Justiciar or Wizard, as he is not wearing armour. To the left are two others. I will open the door and hit the three middle ones with Unrelenting Force. You will need to take care of the two on the left.”
Rigmor replied, “This feels like cheating. Not that I feel guilty about it!”
I drew my sword.
Then I threw the door open and blasted the three ahead with Unrelenting Force.
Two of the three lay dead. High Justiciar Jovon Joror was slowly getting to his feet when another guard ran to intercept me.
I quickly cut him down while Rigmor disposed of her opponent.
I walked over to Jovon, who recognised me.
I said, “The young lady is Rigmor of Bruma. Take that information to The Void!”
I then cut him down.
Jovon had a key on him and nothing else of use.
I walked over to the table and exclaimed, “You have got to be joking!”
Rigmor asked, “What is wrong, Wulf?”
I turned to her and said, “They are planning an invasion of Skyrim and Cyrodiil!”
“What? The Dominion wants to start another Great War?”
“They have always had plans for that. But I don’t know if this is The Dominion or those who call themselves The New Order. We need to search for more information on this plot, Rose, and your heirlooms. The dead Justiciar was in charge of the hunting party near Riverwood.”
“That is why you told him who I am.”
“I can be spiteful just before I kill somebody who has riled me.”
Rigmor searched one side of the room while I searched the other.
I found the Justiciar’s journal and called Rigmor to read it to her. What follows is my translation from Aldmeris to Tamrielic.
“Journal of High Justiciar Jovon Joror, Seer and Mage to Tilar Aedriath.
20th Last Seed, 4E 201
I arrived at Fort Black and immediately set about my tasks. Even though the originals were stolen when that Nordling girl sacked the Bruma Embassy, the experiments have gone well. I managed to replicate the advanced forging on the duplicates we had made. This merging of Daedric relics could also be used on armour to ensure our troops have optimal protection and their weapons superior to any underlings they encounter in battle. I have sent word to The Order for more gold to start production.
27th Last Seed, 4E 201
Those pesky miners have been busy again. They were seen at the forest edge this time, and our guards had to warn them off. I sent a couple of scouts to find out what they were doing. They found gold ore deposits at the mountain’s base and built an elaborate wooden frame to transport it.
We can’t have them around the vicinity. The activities here at the Fort must be kept an absolute secret and can only result in dire consequences for the New Order if the Empire or Dominion find out. I’ll send word to General Aedriath to inform him of this pesky nuisance.
1st Hearthfire, 4E 201
General Aedriath has instructed me to dispose of the miners. He doesn’t want to risk our operations being snooped on. I went to the mine with some guards using the same framework they built. It was imperative to find out if they knew anything.
I had the foreman crucified and tortured, and the others…I incinerated myself. They begged us to let them live…fools, if only they had kept their inquisitive noses out of our business. They didn’t know anything about our operations after all. Oh well…
2nd Hearthfire, 4E 201
Some bandits have been hanging around that old mine and were very busy extending the framework to the summit. Three were seen snooping in the forest and were captured and brought here. If they knew of anything, they would have talked. They had a child with them. Maybe a clean, quick death would be the best thing to do for her. The others bandits have been quiet. We told them their friends had been tragically killed in an accident due to the rotting framework and told them to stay on the Skyrim border side.
Maybe they will be helpful by deterring other nosey trespassers.
3rd Hearthfire, 4E 201
Gold prospectors have arrived and are occupying the framework. I had intended to put them all to death, but only more would eventually come. So, I have relented and negotiated a percentage and have appointed trusted supervisors to oversee the work. They seemed a little reluctant at first, but as death was the only alternative, they soon saw the immediate benefits of a mutual agreement. The deposits will help fund our work here at Fort Black.
5th Hearthfire, 4E 201
The Nordling girl was spotted near Helgen by that unscrupulous scoundrel Morion. I must think of an excellent way to despatch him. We caught up to her on the outskirts of Riverwood, then apprehended and disarmed her, retrieving the original sword. Alas, she managed to escape.
Morion later told us a local huntress called Rose, an immense armoured Nord and small Breton mage, had placed Rigmor into a boat and rowed her somewhere unknown.
6th Hearthfire, 4E 201
Morion informed us that Rose was visiting a friend in Riverwood.
We waited and apprehended her, but she proved most unhelpful in our investigations. Therefore, she has been brought to Fort Black for a friendly chat. I will deal with her tomorrow once I have rested.
7th Hearthfire, 4E 201
Rose has gone. She promised one of our torturers a special favour for extra rations. Once he opened the cell, she broke his neck and escaped through the outlet.
General Aedriath arrived and briefed me on the next phase of the plan. It shouldn’t be long before the Citadel is again in Mer hands. He has instructed me to continue the research and has sent some bounty hunters. Supposedly they are some of the best available. All I see is filthy Orc scum. Their leader informed us a woman matching Rose’s description was seen crossing the border into Cyrodiil. I have given them wanted posters of the Nordling girl with specific instructions to bring her to me so I can have her impaled on a spit and personally…very slowly, roast her alive.”
Rigmor growled, “That lying piece of shit! They never captured me!”
“It is pretty sad when you lie in your journal. It was your father’s sword you dumped to get away?”
“Yeah, that was a difficult decision.”
“So was leaping off a cliff.”
“Survival instinct, huh?”
“Yes, you certainly have plenty of that!”
“Rose has escaped, so his bullshit doesn’t matter. Even that crap about roasting me alive. I feel like kicking his corpse and asking who is still breathing!”
“He didn’t mention how I chased him out of Riverwood after Whiterun Guards killed his lieutenant. The people of Riverwood had some very inventive names for him.”
“That would have been amusing.”
“Jovon said he was a seer! Well, he didn’t see us coming, did he?”
“I never got a chance to thank Rose. It’s good to know she is okay, at least for now. So, what about you? How are you feeling?”
“Rose had plans, and I gave her some gems that would have allowed her to realise them. But she can still head for the Gold Coast as planned, and perhaps things will turn out for her. Maybe one day you will meet her again and be able to thank her. I am sure she will think about the young woman she helped rescue from certain death.”
“Did you like her…yanno?”
“Like her how, Rigmor? She is a compassionate and caring woman, and I admire her for that. But I never thought of her romantically, and I would never bed a woman I just met if that is what you are implying.”
“No…I…ah…well, some men do!”
“Some of us don’t! Anyway, did you find anything?”
“Yes, I found this letter but can’t read it. Some words are familiar. Wasn’t Tamrielic derived from Altmeri, the early form of Aldmeris?”
“Yes, and you must have read a lot to learn that fact!”
“Baa’Ren-Dar knew I loved to read and would bring back books from his journeys. Can you translate it?”
I quickly read the letter to myself, then told Rigmor my translation,
“To High Justiciar Joror, New Order of Alinor.
The Order is waiting to hear of your progress concerning the three targets. They must be eliminated to move to the second phase of the plan, and I do not have to impress on you the importance of the task. Once the seeds of discord are sewn, that fat Emperor will have no option but to move his army north to crush the Stormcloaks. Then we can take control of the situation here on the Isle and complete the third phase.
Can I assume you will employ only the best bounty hunters and assassins to accomplish this task? Expense is not an issue, and they must be eliminated at all costs.
You must march on Solitude yourself if you want to keep the last target alive as your plaything. Do with her what you will.
I will be relying on you, Joror, to keep that army occupied as soon as it becomes apparent it was a ruse. We can then take what belongs to us by birthright. Failure is not an option.
Long Live New Alinor!
General Tilar Aedriath.”
I told Rigmor, “They are so arrogant they don’t even use code! I don’t mind, as it will be their undoing.”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think there is a danger to The Empire, and His Imperial Majesty needs to know as soon as possible.”
“It mentions three targets but not who they are. What in Talos’ name is going on?”
“The Dominion did not win after four years of The Great War. They might have if they kept going, but they didn’t, as other provinces of The Dominion were threatening to rebel. This New Order of Alinor wants to sow discord and then invade. Two of the targets should be easy to guess.”
“By the gods! Do you think…The Queen?”
“She is the possible Queen, Rigmor. Elisif hasn’t been chosen by moot, which won’t happen until the civil war is ended. Pro-Empire citizens regard her as the natural successor to her husband, and yes, she would be one of the three targets.”
“And one of the other targets would be General Tullius.”
“Yes, that is the most obvious conclusion. We would need more information to figure out the third.”
“How would they get away with it?”
“They would frame Ulfric Stormcloak. But that is such an obvious ruse that I doubt Mede would fall for it in the first place. They expect him to realise at some stage. However, the citizens might believe the ruse and demand that he takes action. Pressure from The Elder Council, who always side with the populist view, would force Mede’s hand.”
“But why go to all this trouble? Why not just invade and be done with it?”
“They wouldn’t have the numbers. As I said, The Empire resisted the entire Dominion for four years. Think about it, Rigmor. This General Tilar Aedriath has spelt it out in his letter. Why do they want Mede to move his army north?”
“They hope the Northern invasion force will keep Mede’s army in Skyrim, and Cyrodiil will be unprotected.”
“It is a stupid plan. Mede would use a few Legions at the most and leave far more behind to defend Cyrodiil. Legions would pour down from High Rock. They think that simply capturing the White-Gold Tower would win the war. It was captured during The Great War, and The Empire kept fighting! Plus, you can’t just march into The Imperial Capital. A single Legion could hold off a force many times bigger for months. There must be more to it. Something that we are unaware of that bolsters their chances.”
“We had better get back to Angi’s.”
“Not until we have searched the rest of Fort Black. There may be prisoners I will not leave behind, plus your father’s sword is here and should be in your hands, not theirs! Let’s take that map and see if this key I found gets us into the dungeons.”
I took another good look at the map.
“Rigmor, this does not make sense. Something stinks, and we must sit and think about it when we return to Angi’s.”
I folded the map and put it in my journal case with Joror’s journal and Aedriath’s letter.
The key I retrieved from the Justiciar unlocked the other exit from the room.
We made our way downstairs to a cage door.
I told Rigmor, “There are enemies a few rooms ahead.”
Rigmor mumbled, “I got a bad feeling about this.”
An Alik’r warrior had been tortured to death. They didn’t even bother removing his armour.
Heat-Vision told me enemies were in the next room and down some stairs.
I rushed into the room, killing a Legion torturer and Thalmor soldier with Unrelenting Force.
Many Thalmor rushed up the stairs and were also killed by The Voice.
At the next door, I told Rigmor, “I think the cells are next. I can see four enemies. One must be a mage because there is also an Atronach. I cannot risk using Unrelenting Force because it will travel further than I can see with Heat Vision, and there could be live prisoners further in.”
Rigmor grinned and said, “Hack and slash is more fun!”
I kicked open the door. We rushed the enemy, and they soon lay dead.
In the room with the Thalmor mage, I found a note. I translated it for Rigmor.
“Dungeon Master’s Notes (Fort Black)
The prisoners, as I suspected, knew nothing of our operations here at Fort Black. Malik set about his work with skilful zeal, and if the bandit miners knew of anything, they would have talked.
Even the Alik’r fool who appeared at the gate looking for some Redguard woman proved not to be a spy.
The replica artefacts are now locked away, and work on them has ceased altogether.
We will move to a new secret location very soon, as a newfound commodity is proving much more worthy of our hard work to strengthen military hardware.
Sadly, the huntress, Rose, has disappeared. I placed the loot we took from her in the chest with the heirlooms.
Even though it pains me, Joror has ordered the disposal of the orphaned girl. I will make sure Severus gives her a quick and clean death. It’s the kindest thing I can do.”
Rigmor’s rage was instantaneous. We have that in common!
“They killed a little girl after torturing and murdering her parents. What kind of fucking deprived animals are they?”
“The Thalmor, I can understand, for this is their norm. However, the turncoat Imperials have me baffled. But we can’t let anger control us, Rigmor. We have to think straight!”
“And it happens again.”
“What happened again?”
“You being near me and calming me. I would be screaming and breaking things if you were not here. You are going to have to explain it to me soon, Wulf. Otherwise, I might think you are deliberately controlling my emotions, which is not something I would accept, ever!”
“Rigmor, I swear on The Divines and all I hold dear that I am not controlling your emotions and never would. I don’t know how this happens or why.”
“It works both ways, doesn’t it?”
“And you have a lot of things to worry about other than me. Does this calm help you?”
“It allows me to put things in perspective. To gather my thoughts and not react to pure emotions.”
“Have you experienced this with any other person?”
“You know what it is all about, don’t you?”
“I have been told an unproven theory. But look around, Rigmor. We are in the middle of an enemy fort, and I don’t want to discuss this further while here!”
“Okay, but we will discuss it soon.”
“Yes, Lady Ramsbottom.”
I retrieved Rose’s bag of gems and other items from the chest.
I inspected Ragnar’s sword. It had been made using Akaviri Steel-Folding techniques. That made the steel more robust than average. That is why I can block much heavier weapons with my katana without my sword breaking or shattering. A Daedric dweomer kept Ragnar’s sword sharp, but it could still do with some honing. It was a fine weapon, but I had no idea why The Thalmor thought it remarkable. The replica was not bad, but any first-year Akaviri blacksmith apprentice could have made a better one.
I handed Ragnar’s sword to Rigmor and said, “A master Sparksmith made your father’s sword, but it is no better than a good Akaviri weapon. It has some minor Daedric dweomer to keep it sharp, but it is far inferior to the sword I gave you. If I hone it and put my dweomer on it, it will be slightly better than the one I gave you. I shall do that for you so you can wield it again.”
“I can’t carry two swords!”
“Not a problem. Watch.”
Rigmor passed me her father’s sword, then watched in fascination as I placed it and the replica into my Journal Case.
I told her, “My Journal Case is a gift from the Psijic Order and is fourth dimensional. That means it is bigger on the inside than the outside, like your stomach.”
“Your armour is also inside.”
“But my armour is much wider than that case’s opening.”
I leant into my Journal Case. Its opening expanded so I could do so. I stood holding Rigmor’s chest plate, then returned it.
Rigmor exclaimed, “That is so cool!”
I explained, “Daedric, when applied to weapons and armour, signifies the metal used to make them and nothing sinister. Daedric ore can only be mined in Oblivion and, as far as I know, can only be smelted there. So, your father’s sword is Daedric, as is this amulet.”
I inspected the amulet and said, “The Amulet of Talos is beautiful but has no special properties. It has some minor dweomer, a fraction of the strength of what I placed on the armour you are wearing. But I would wear it proudly if I were you, as it meant something to your father. However, it needs a new chain. I will repair it for you while I work on your father’s sword.”
“The Thalmor made up that story about the amulet being Daedric to discredit my father and Talos!”
“Yes. How could Talos be Divine if Daedric relics with his blessing existed? According to the White-Gold Concordat, it is illegal to have the amulet, yet they found it hidden in the house of Ragnar, the war criminal.”
“They are the same thing. Duh!”
“If they have spent years trying to replicate these items, they are stupider than I thought possible. The Akaviri produce thousands of similar weapons each week. A Master of Alteration can enchant the weapons with similar properties of perpetual sharpness as I have on my sword and yours. The Steel-Folding is also obsolete if you heat steel to a high enough temperature to remove imperfections. Two hundred years ago, it was the best steel. Today it is not. The Akaviri still do Steel-Folding out of tradition. Also, their ores are not as good a quality as on this continent. The technique does not apply to armour, so I have no idea what these morons were trying to achieve. The Akaviri have armour stronger than most steel armour made from wood! The New Order would have been better off spending coin on ebony.”
“What about the copy of the sword?”
“I will keep it for my collection. It has no place in my museum.”
“What else did you get out of that chest?”
“The bags of gems I gave Rose. I will keep them, hoping to return them to Rose one day.”
I placed the amulets and bag of gems into my Journal Case.
I then told Rigmor, “There are several cells here. I want to see if they did kill the girl.”
“Oh, I will wait at the end. I don’t want to see the child’s body!”
I looked in the cell where I had cut down an Imperial torturer.
I assumed the two dead adults were the child’s parents.
Rigmor yelled, “Wulf!”
I ran to Rigmor and saw what she had found. A child was curled up on some furs. I quickly checked with Heat-Vision, and the child was alive.
Rigmor pleaded, “There’s a little girl in there!”
“Calm down, Rigmor. The girl is alive, and we don’t want to frighten her.”
“Please, get her out! Hurry up!”
I knew what memories the scene invoked in Rigmor as it did in me. A little girl was locked in a cell, alone in the dark.
Jovon’s key opened the cell as it had every other door.
The door’s hinges squealed as I pushed it open.
The girl stood and faced me, her fear evident and heart-rending.
With a quiver, she pleaded, “Please, have mercy, I beg you!”
My heart lurched. My hatred for The Thalmor increased, which I thought was impossible. A child should never have to beg for mercy!
“Oh, little one, you have nothing to fear from us. We are not going to hurt you.”
“I swear on The Divines. Is your name Sorella?”
“That is a pretty name. I am Wulf, and the lady is Rigmor.”
“Have you seen my parents? The bad guys brought us here.”
“I’m afraid your parents are gone. But you must be brave and come with us, okay?”
I turned to Rigmor and whispered, “Angi wouldn’t turn away an orphan, would she?”
“Never. We’ll take Sorella there. And how did you know her name?”
“The mountaineer’s journal. They thought Sorella and her parents died in an accident.”
“Yeah, I remember now.”
“I found her parents in a cell with an Imperial torturer.”
“That is so sad.”
I turned back to Sorella.
“We are going to take you with us to Angi’s. She is one of the good guys.”
“I know her. She is a crazy lady!”
“Angi only pretends to be crazy to keep away nosey people. But she is nice and will take good care of you till we sort things out. Okay?”
“Okay. But what about the bad guys?”
“Rigmor and I got rid of them. They won’t bother you again.”
“We need to go. Are you ready?”
“Yes, I think so. The bad guys use a nearby tunnel, and I saw a lady in prison rags also use it. So, I think we can use it to get out of here. This way!”
“That lady is called Rose, and she got away.”
“Come on then, Sorella, lead the way but don’t run too fast for us old people!”
Sorella sprinted past us. They might have intended to kill her, but they kept her healthy.
We exited to a long, narrow valley. I know that along that valley is the hidden entrance to Aurane.
I turned to Sorella and said, “You must stay near Rigmor. If there are any bad guys, I will deal with them, and Rigmor will guard you.”
Sorella breathed in deeply and sighed.
I asked, “Is it good to smell fresh air again, Sorella?”
“Yeah, it was a bit pongy in there.”
“I don’t think bad guys have baths or even change their undergarments.”
Further on, I whispered, “Everybody, stop and be very quiet.”
A camp had come into view. I used Zoom Vision and Heat Vision to see who it was.
Rigmor asked, “Who are they?”
“Orsimer Bounty Hunters. I assume they are the ones mentioned in the Justiciar’s journal.”
“I wonder what they are doing out here?”
“Waiting for their fifteen thousand Septim bounty to make an appearance. The Orsimer probably guessed you would visit Fort Black but come from the Cyrodiil side.”
“Oh. Well, what are we going to do?”
“You are going to stay here and keep Sorella safe. I will give our friends a visit. It will not turn out well for them if they are hostile.”
“How many are there?”
“You can’t take on seven Orsimer by yourself!”
“Rigmor, if I were sure they were bad guys, I would kill them from here in seconds. Instead, I will approach and kill them in seconds if they attack. The odds are not in their favour.”
I used Night Vision and walked towards the Orsimer camp with weapons sheathed. Being Orsimer, they should be able to see me.
One of them noticed me and yelled, and then they attacked. There was no dialogue which was rather rude of them.
Unrelenting Force ripped through them.
I Blinked into the centre of the camp and disposed of the groggy survivors.
All seven died in less than ten seconds.
I used my Thu’um and said, “RIGMOR AND SORELLA, IT IS SAFE NOW.”
As they approached, I searched the Orsimer leader’s corpse. As expected, he had a wanted poster.
I handed Rigmor the wanted poster.
“Rigmor, it was you they were after.”
“Well, that’s no surprise.”
“We were fortunate and saw them before they saw us. There will be many bands of bounty hunters like them.”
“Well, you are my Guardian, right?”
“We won’t always be lucky, and I won’t always be able to take them on alone.”
“Don’t get overconfident, and don’t underestimate the enemy we face.”
“Do I look bothered to you? I can take care of myself!”
“Is that right? So, you didn’t need Baa’Ren-Dar to rescue you? And you didn’t need Angi to find you and spend days, if not weeks caring for you. Tell me you didn’t need Rose, Celestine, and me to rescue you and get you healthy. You have been doing a poor job of caring for yourself, but others have done that for you. They will do it even if you want to spit in their faces and show zero respect for their efforts!”
“You have something to live for but are yet to tell me what it is. That is obvious from your will to survive enslavement and your recent injuries. I am here to help you achieve whatever you are aiming for. This bitterness is not you, Rigmor. Find where it comes from and discard it.”
“I can absorb this cycle of abuse and then an apology. Others may not. Let’s get Sorella away from here.”
I told Sorella, “There are no more bad guys in the way. We will walk along a few mountain trails in Cyrodiil, another country, and then come back into Skyrim. If you get tired, let us know. Okay?”
Knowing the other way to approach Fort Black would have been good. It was a bit more of a walk but not too strenuous. Less killing would have been needed.
Rigmor did not say a word on the way to Angi’s and kept some distance. I knew why.
I chatted with Sorella but had to watch for danger simultaneously.
Sorella was eight years of age and had never lived in a home. She was always on the move with her parents and living in tents.
What I needed to do was figure out my next step. What do I do with the information we gathered?
Hours later, we were almost at Angi’s when Sorella spotted Meeko.
“Wow! That is a big dog!”
“His name is Meeko, and he loves children.”
“No, to play with and cuddle. Meeko is the smartest dog ever and a great listener. So talk to him if you ever feel sad or mad or glad. He will understand.”
“He was my dog when I was your age. I mean every word I said.”
When we got close to Angi’s shack, Rigmor gave me another of her scary stares. I wonder if she practices in front of a mirror.
I told Sorella, “Angi will help care for you for now. You will be safe here, okay?”
“Why don’t you introduce yourself to Angi when she comes outside? She isn’t crazy, I promise.”
I knocked on Angi’s doorframe and waited for her permission to enter.
When I did, she was busy making a stew.
Angi asked, “Is Rigmor okay?”
“Yes, she is back safe and sound. We rescued a little girl called Sorella from the Thalmor. She is eight years of age and newly orphaned. We wondered if she could stay here until we can find her a home?”
“Oh! Yes, certainly.”
“Would you like to come and meet her?”
Angi followed me outside.
I watched Angi’s face, and she smiled when Sorella approached.
“Hi, Angi. I’m Sorella.”
“Oh, hi! Oh, you’re sweet…um!”
“This place looks cool, like a real home.”
“How can I argue with that? Don’t worry, Sorella. I’ll take good care of you.”
Angi showed Sorella around.
Rigmor said, “Please, Wulf, come and sit by the fire.”
Rigmor looked sad. I had to change her mood!
I asked, “Did you see the look on Angi’s face when she saw Sorella?”
“Yeah, she cracked a smile. Looking after that little girl will do her good.”
“Perhaps Sorella can be a nice, polite replacement daughter. After all, the older one tends to scratch and bite.”
Rigmor smiled. Mission accomplished.
She asked, “Did you notice I deliberately walked ahead of you?”
“You wanted to stay out of our happy zone.”
“You will have to come up with a better name than that!”
“When we got here, you were still mad and gave me a death stare.”
“Remaining grumpy for so long was an impressive feat of endurance!”
“I kept thinking about what The Thalmor did to other people and me, the turncoats, and many other things that kept the temper going. But I couldn’t think of a way forward.”
“Now I can speak calmly and think things through.”
“Okay, so what is the plan?”
“I told you that Baa’Ren-Dar sent me a note.”
“Yes, saying he had information about your mother’s ring.”
“Yeah, he’s staying at the Bee and Barb, one of Riften’s taverns. He said I should enter through the south gate when I arrive, as he has paid off those guards.”
“Paid them off?”
“Didn’t you know that Khajiiti aren’t usually allowed in the cities? They can set up camps outside, though.”
“Is that so?”
“Baa’Ren also mentioned they’ve been shaking people down as they arrive.”
“Riften is not like a normal city. The place is a den of thieves, so watch your purse. Baa’Ren knows a lot of people. It goes with his job as emissary.”
“That would explain the Dar honorific. He would be Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar of Pelletine.”
“Yep. Have you ever been to Riften before?”
“A few times.”
“Well, that’s okay then. You know what I am on about. I don’t want to cause any unwanted attention.”
I couldn’t hold it in anymore and burst out laughing. It was unfair to let Rigmor ramble on, but it was amusing.
When Rigmor’s smile vanished, so did my amusement.
“I am sorry, Rigmor. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. But what you just said is a load of bollocks.”
“Bull testicles. It means bullshit.”
“Well, why not say bullshit?”
“I am a Thane of Riften and have a house there. I have visited it, and all the other cities in Skyrim, many times since I arrived just over four months ago. The only city that actively prevents Khajiiti from entering is Windhelm. Riften has many Khajiiti residents.”
“As for the shakedowns, they stopped after my first visit when I put my sword to a guard’s throat.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar might have paid guards not to snitch about his arrival. As an emissary, he would be up to his waste in diplomatic bullshit and espionage.”
“Okay, I can see why you found my naivety amusing, but you are still an arsehole.”
“Guilty as charged. Now, we need Celestine in on this conversation. I will summon her.”
I walked away a bit and summoned Celestine.
I explained to her, “There is an imminent danger of invasion.”
“You kept saying there was more than just murders behind the bounty for Rigmor.”
“I don’t know where Rigmor fits in all of it. Please, sit with us, and I will give you the details.”
Celestine sat between Rigmor and me. Thirty minutes later, she knew as much about the situation as me.
- Celestine: Wulf, if you approach General Tullius, Jarl Elisif or any other senior official, you will get dragged into the military or political side and lose all freedom of movement. You could not help Rigmor if she had other leads about her mother.
- Wulf: I agree. There will need to be investigations made by people with the right resources, and I am not interested in doing their footwork for them. Do you know of Baa’Ren-Dar?
- Celestine: He was famous in diplomatic circles before and during The Great War. If I remember, he was not keen on Elsweyr being part of The Dominion.
- Rigmor: I think we should hand this stuff to Baa’Ren-Dar. As Celestine said, Baa’Ren-Dar is not a friend of The Dominion. Elsweyr is part of The Dominion, but like Valenwood, most people don’t want it to be. The Thalmor look down on Khajiiti religion and tradition and treat them as inferior.
- Wulf: How well known amongst The Empire leaders is Baa’Ren-Dar?
- Rigmor: He is very well known. Baa’Ren has the ear of Emperor Titus Mede II and The Elder Council. He is trusted, Wulf, and I am asking you to trust my judgement. Baa’Ren-Dar will know what to do and get it done!
- Wulf: I trust Baa’Ren-Dar, and your judgement, Rigmor. He rescued you at significant risk to himself. He wouldn’t be on the friendliest terms with The Thalmor after that.
- Celestine: There is no possibility, zero, that the Thalmor do not know everything about this ‘New Order.’ They have the most extensive intelligence network on Nirn!
- Wulf: The Thalmor will sit back, see what damage The New Order do, and either deny they knew about them or take advantage of any success. Plausible Denial is the term used.
- Rigmor: Wulf didn’t think the invasion would work from the very start.
- Celestine: The plan can’t work! Not without something to add to the forces they might land. Mede would only have to commit a fraction of available troops to crush The Stormcloaks even if he fell for their ruse. The only reason he hasn’t done that so far is to maintain stability in some areas. The bigger the New Order’s armies, the more likely Thalmor leaders know about them. They would have to field a colossal army even to siege The Imperial City.
- Wulf: We don’t know what makes them so confident, and that will be a priority for others to find out. One thing we know for sure is the threat to Elisif and Tullius is real. Something has to be done quickly to ensure their safety. We shall hand the materials to Baa’Ren-Dar. That will wash our hands of the problem for now, and I can help Rigmor. Hopefully, the emissary has the contacts to get things done quickly.
- Celestine: I agree. That seems the logical step.
- Wulf: Rigmor, you have been going nonstop since yesterday morning. So I will teleport us to Riften, and we will meet with Baa’Ren-Dar. But no matter what he says, you will rest before we go elsewhere.
- Rigmor: So much for seeing Skyrim’s countryside.
- Wulf: Whatever Baa’Ren-Dar puts in motion, it will take days before we have any further involvement with the New Order problem. That is, if we have any further involvement at all! We may still be able to potter around and see some of Skyrim.
- Rigmor: I would like to ride Ren, my horse. He tracked me to Angi’s from Bruma! But that wish is impossible if he is here and we are in Riften.
- Wulf: You shouldn’t declare things as impossible, Rigmor. You forget my weirdness.
- Celestine: Hashire will solve that problem.
- Rigmor: Hashire?
- Celestine: One of Wulf’s unicorns.
- Wulf: I don’t own them. They are my friends. The other one is called Sune.
- Rigmor: Is there any hope for me, Celestine? I am sitting here and calmly accepting that Wulf knows unicorns.
- Celestine: They live on an island thousands of miles out at sea.
- Rigmor: Okay, and how does that solve my Ren issue? I will not ride another horse!
- Wulf: Hashire will make friends with Ren. When I summon Hashire, he will summon Ren.
- Celestine: Ren will accept the summons because he trusts Hashire.
- Wulf: When I get some spare time, I will place a dweomer on Ren’s harness and give you a device to summon him.
- Rigmor: Cool!
- Celestine: Ren must be a brave and loyal mount to find you in Skyrim.
- Rigmor: He is those things, even if he is a bit rotund and plain looking.
- Wulf: Celestine, did you speak to Vayu?
- Celestine: Yes, he will ask Auryen about The New Order. I will tell Vayu the new information later.
- Wulf: Okay, Rigmor, let’s have something to eat. We leave in an hour.
- Rigmor: I have never teleported before.
- Wulf: It will be the coolest thing ever!
- Celestine: When Rigmor understands that pun, I will not blame her if she punches you.
- Rigmor: Can I meet the other ladies before we go?
- Wulf: Yes, of course.
As Celestine headed off to her camp, Angi and Sorella appeared with bowls of stew and newly baked bread for Rigmor and me.
I laughed as Angi threw a roll of warm bread to Meeko. It seems he is no longer a mangy mutt.