Morndas, 8th Hearthfire 4E 201
After eating our fill, we walked over to Ren, and I summoned Hashire.
Rigmor’s jaw dropped.
She exclaimed, “He really is a unicorn!”
“Yes, and he shouldn’t look like one.”
Hashire asked telepathically, “Who is the lady?”
“Yes, Hashire. We must be careful what we say around her, but you can try communicating.”
- Hashire: Hello, Rigmor. I am Hashire, and it is a tremendous pleasure to meet you.
- Rigmor: Oh, you can speak into my mind like Meeko. Except, I don’t feel the need to repeat what you are saying.
- Wulf: That’s because Hashire can change his inner voice. He uses his Tamrielic inner voice so your subconscious doesn’t have to interpret it. And you don’t have to talk at all using your mouth.
- Rigmor: Hello, Hashire. Can you hear me?
- Hashire: Yes, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: It is also a tremendous pleasure for me to meet you.
- Wulf: We will see how long that pleasure lasts. Hashire’s sense of humour is terrible!
- Hashire: At least I have one!
- Wulf: Please change into a Fjord Quarter Horse with an Imperial saddle. Lord Hircine has many devotees who would trap you for their master.
Hashire changed as requested.
- Wulf: Rigmor, please introduce Ren to Hashire. Remember to speak to Ren with your mouth!
- Rigmor: Duh!
- Hashire: Wulf thinks others are incapable of cognitive thought.
- Rigmor: Huh?
- Hashire: He thinks others are dumb.
- Rigmor: That’s because he is a stuck-up noble!
- Wulf: Your father was knighted, Rigmor. That makes you a genuine lady, not just a pretend one.
- Rigmor: Yes, but the knighthood and family crest was removed. We are no longer in The Book of Lists.
- Wulf: Once a stuck-up noble, always a stuck-up noble!
As Rigmor introduced Ren to Hashire, I walked over to Sorella, who had been trying to get my attention.
“Is that a unicorn?”
“Yes, and his name is Hashire. Like Meeko, you can talk to him if you want to. He understands every word.”
Just as Rigmor finished introducing Ren to Hashire, Celestine and my housecarls came over to say hello.
I let them chat together without an unwanted male barbarian interloper.
While the ladies were chinwagging, I checked on Hashire and Ren.
“Well, Hashire, what do you think of Ren?”
“He adores Rigmor and will try teleporting if it pleases her. He seems to be a courageous individual. He says he tracked Rigmor from the Thalmor embassy in Bruma to here. That is impressive.”
“Wow, a horse that loves its rider! Who would have thought that possible?”
“You forget that I am not a horse. And who says I don’t love you?”
“Yes, that was impressive tracking by Ren. Rigmor rejects the idea of riding any other horse.”
“Yet you will leap on whatever nag, or dragon, is nearby. Or teleport while leaving his friends to languish.”
“You live on a magical island, dine on dozens of different grasses and enjoy the company of many horses. How terrible it must be for you!”
“Why do you destroy a good whine with logic and facts?”
“Olette accuses me of the same.”
“Ren looks forward to riding with Rigmor, so make sure you give him the opportunity!”
“And, of course, your concern is for Ren. You wouldn’t care if I never rode you again.”
“Don’t make me bite you.”
“I think I will talk to a rock. It has to be more riveting.”
“My condolences to the rock.”
Fifteen minutes later, Rigmor said goodbye to Angi, Sorella, Meeko, Ren and Hashire.
Rigmor asked, “What must I do for this teleport thingy?”
“Nothing. We will briefly be in the darkest dark and coldest cold. Then we shall be in my house in Riften.”
“Oh, I see where the coolest pun comes into it. Remind me when to laugh.”
I cast the spell, and a second later, we swapped the bright sunlight of Angi’s camp for the relative darkness of Honeyside.
Rigmor turned and said, “That was, all puns aside, pretty cool, Dragonbum!”
“The best bit is we didn’t have to bribe any guards, so we have more to spend on booze! That’s if we don’t get robbed. Did you know Riften is a den of thieves and is unlike any other city?”
“It is rude to pick on somebodies naivety!”
“Rude but fun!”
“I hope Baa’Ren-Dar isn’t too mad I took so long to get here.”
“Sorry, Baa’Ren-Dar, but I almost died and took a few days to get better. Then we attacked Fort Black to rescue a friend and uncovered a sinister plot.”
“Good point. If Baa’Ren-Dar does grumble, I will tell him to get stuffed.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar, yava zuubka!”
“Even though I lived with him for years, my Ta’agra is terrible.”
“Oh, it means ‘get fucked.’ You can use ‘kenabi dat,’ which means ‘stick it’ if you want to be more ladylike.”
“It must come in handy to swear in multiple languages.”
“It’s a hobby of mine.”
“Breezehome is a nice house, but I can show you around later. I am unsure as to how Riften looks after the dragons attacked it. Khao, one of my friends, said the damage was mainly superficial as mages put out the fires quickly. One building was badly damaged, the boarding house and a few people died there.”
“Okay then, show me Riften, my batman!”
We exited to a Riften blanketed by early morning fog.
Rigmor asked, “Which way to the market?”
I pointed, and she walked quickly until she could see the market. To my relief, there was little evidence of the dragon attack.
Rigmor excitedly asked, “Can we check out the market? I heard they have all sorts of stuff!”
“They certainly do. I purchased some green stuff from there once, and there is a wonderful selection of yellow stuff!”
“I am going to bite you!”
“We will talk to Baa’Ren-Dar, hand over all the shit to him so he can worry about it, and then spend the rest of the day browsing the market.”
“Good plan, my Guardian!”
I bowed and said, “I serve to live. I mean, I live to serve.”
Rigmor smiled then told me, “Yanno, I met a woman once who was wearing the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. She told me the only place to get one is Riften Market. She told me one of the vendors has exclusive import rights from Morrowind and that they are available in many different colours.”
“Let me guess. Does Lady Ramsbottom want a red one?”
“Hmm…I was thinking more like bright green with purple polka dots.”
“Let’s walk past the market to The Bee and Barb. That way, I can quickly assess the damage from the dragon attack.”
We crossed a bridge that led to the market then Rigmor suddenly stopped. Her cheerful mood of seconds before was gone.
“Is there something wrong, Rigmor?”
“I’m so stupid, I forgot myself… I…”
“Forgot yourself? I don’t understand.”
“Wulf, look at me. Look at me! The last thing I want to do is make a dress look ugly. Come on, let’s go see Baa’Ren-Dar.”
I didn’t contradict Rigmor with platitudes. Instead, I planned to prove her wrong. I would purchase a red dress and present it to her when the opportunity arises. She will then wear it and realise she made the dress more beautiful than it was. I hoped Baa’Ren-Dar would allow me to slip out and purchase the dress. It could be hidden in my Journal Case till needed.
As we continued towards the inn, Rigmor’s mood swung again, and she cheerfully said, “Haha, Guardian. See the canal? You don’t see that every day! How cool is that?”
Rigmor was looking forward to meeting her friend. I was a bit nervous. What if Baa’Ren-Dar took charge of guarding Rigmor, and I found myself redundant?
As we walked past Marise, I asked her, “Do you need any Ice Wraith Teeth, Marise?”
“No, Thane Welkynd. I took your advice and organised a regular delivery with the Khajiiti caravan.”
“Did you lose anything in the dragon attack?”
“A bit of stock, but considering others lost loved ones, I am one of the lucky ones.”
When we entered The Bee and Barb, Rigmor ran to an elderly Khajiiti wearing the robes of an Azura devotee.
She hugged him and then exclaimed, “It’s so good to see you, Baa’Ren-Dar!
“Well met, Rigmor! This one sees you have brought along a friend?”
Rigmor looked my way and told Baa’Ren-Dar, “This is Wulf, my Guardian.”
“That one is a famous guardian indeed! Khajiit’s legs are weary. Let us sit.”
I was delighted to hear Baa’Ren-Dar speak in the third person! Khajiiti have a strong sense of clan. They concern themselves with the welfare and feelings of the whole, not the individual. When they say, ‘this one,’ they politely point out that personal thoughts and opinions are being expressed rather than the entire clan’s. Most Man and Mer scholars ignore the reason and disdain Khajiiti intelligence.
Jalamar, an elderly Nord, said, “This table is free, Thane Welkynd. Thank you for taking care of Alduin.”
“You are welcome, Jalamar.”
We sat, and things became a lot more complicated.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Khajiit hopes that Lord Welkynd is taking good care of you.
- Rigmor: Oh, he has his moments.
- Wulf: Please, Emissary, call me Wulf.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Then that one must address Khajiiti as Baa’Ren.
- Rigmor: Is there any news on my mother’s ring?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Actually, yes! A member of the Thieves Guild in Riften acquired it in the Grey Quarter Ghetto inside Windhelm. It was sold to him by a Dunmer who had been a kitchen servant at the Thalmor Embassy in Haafingar. Khajiit suggests you both lay low here while this one arranges for a meeting to loosen his tongue with coins.
- Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar, there’s something you need to see. Show him, Wulf.
I handed Baa’Ren-Dar the map, journal, and letters we had found in Fort Black. The emissary spent a few minutes reading them. Eventually, he spoke again, and there was worry in his voice.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: So, it has all come to pass! Khajiit had suspicions all along. The New Order of Alinor are well known in Aldmeri circles. They are a shadowy clandestine organisation of Altmer extremists. Rumours are just seeds upon the wind, but here now is the hard evidence.
- Wulf: Only many conspirators with lots of money could accomplish this detailed planning and organisation. How did The New Order get so large that it now threatens the Aldmeri Dominion and The Empire?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: What does Wulf think the answer to that conundrum might be?
- Wulf: I believe the Aldmeri Dominion know of The New Order’s plans and will let them run their course. The Dominion will hope much damage is done to Skyrim and The Empire. They will not allow The New Order to conquer the Imperial City but will intervene and pretend to be our saviours. Plausible Deniability will be their diplomatic policy.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Wulf should be an emissary!
- Wulf: I couldn’t stand being knee-deep in, excuse the language, bullshit all the time.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one is used to the smell.
- Wulf: The New Order’s plan cannot succeed as described. There must be more resources or allies we are yet to discover. Even if we hadn’t found those documents, His Imperial Majesty wouldn’t have been fooled.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Khajiit agrees, and we must discover the remaining secrets. Did anyone see you take these documents?
- Rigmor: Don’t worry, there are no witnesses. We slew them all!
- Wulf: We killed dozens of people when retrieving those documents. Please tell me the slaughter was worth it.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, they may save many lives. However, even if you left no witnesses, we must be cautious! We must keep this to ourselves until I investigate the revelations in these documents.
- Wulf: Though Elsweyr is part of the Aldmeri Dominion, I do not question your desire to squash this New Order. But surely His Imperial Majesty needs to know about this immediately?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, that is true. Therefore Khajiit must shorten his stay in Skyrim and travel to Cyrodiil and Elsweyr immediately. This task will take all of this one’s skills and friends in high diplomatic circles to get to the bottom of it and know what to do next. You two can do nothing about this conspiracy until this one has spoken to his contacts.
- Wulf: That amount of travel could take weeks, if not months.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Khajiit has the means for fast travelling.
- Wulf: Not the Moon Gates, as their destinations are useless to you. I detect no Magicka reserves, so you are not a mage. I think you are using Dwemer portals. You have a relic, a Ring of Recall or similar, which takes you to a portal room. From there, a portal with a selector, or multiple portals, allows you to teleport to many destinations around Tamriel.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Wulf would not be surprised if Khajiit kept his secrets.
- Wulf: No, I would not and respect such precautions.
- Rigmor: Wulf is an expert on keeping secrets. But I shall drag them out of him, one by one.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one wishes Rigmor well in her endeavour. However, Khajiit does not think Wulf can be easily persuaded with pouting and pleas. Alas, this one had no defence against such ruthlessness.
- Rigmor: We shall see.
- Wulf: How do we contact you?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: That is not easy, so Khajiit will find a way to contact you.
- Wulf: Do you want us to visit the Dunmer in Windhelm?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, but be very careful. Rigmor is now officially a wanted criminal by the Thalmor in Empire-controlled areas.
- Wulf: She has been for some time, Baa’Ren-Dar! There is much that has happened to Rigmor because of that fact.
- Rigmor: Wulf, Baa’Ren-Dar has enough worries.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: If Rigmor has been in danger, this one would like to hear the tale.
- Wulf: Do you know of Angi?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, she nursed Rigmor back to health after being hurt.
- Wulf: While escaping a Thalmor hunting party near Riverwood, Rigmor jumped from a cliff into a tree and was severely injured. The combined effort of Master Restoration spells and the healing skills of a woman called Rose, plus Rigmor’s stubbiness, saved her from death. Rigmor is still recovering. It was eerily similar to what Angi did for her.
- Rigmor: We went to Fort Black mainly to rescue Rose. The Thalmor had captured her and taken her there for interrogation. She had already escaped by the time we arrived.
- Wulf: We recovered the artefacts, Rigmor’s heirlooms, while there.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: This one is pleased Rigmor was in such good hands and that Rose escaped. Thank you for telling me this, Wulf.
- Rigmor: The bounty on my head, dead or alive, is fifteen thousand gold coins! People tell me they have never seen such a high bounty.
- Wulf: That enormous reward has attracted some of the best bounty hunters. It seems excessive for what Rigmor tells me she has done. I suspect there is more to it than the embassy deaths.
Baa’Ren-Dar looked at Rigmor, and his voice was grim.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: My child, they have sent none other than their best Thalmor General to Skyrim to track you down! That is why I came here in person to warn you.
- Wulf: Would it be General Aedriath? His name is all over The New Order documents that I have read.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, Wulf, it is General Aedriath. That one has an elite force of a hundred troops at his disposal, setting up camps and checkpoints as we speak. So, you will need to avoid them and travel diligently.
A memory intruded upon the moment. When I travelled the ether and watched Rigmor being whipped, I concentrated on her and took no notice of the conversations from others in the room. However, I must have subconsciously stored them.
When Baa’Ren-Dar said General Aedriath, his accent triggered the memory.
Baa’Ren-Dar stood beside a Justiciar who seemed proud to display Rigmor as a prized hunting trophy. The Emissary had growled, “This is not needed. It is undignified, General Aedriath!”
Rigmor had never shown any recognition of the name when I read documents to her or just now when Baa’Ren-Dar said it.
I put those thoughts aside and concentrated on the current conversation.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Rigmor, Aedriath will pursue you with extreme prejudice, and when they find out what has happened at Fort Black, he will stop at nothing to find you.
- Wulf: Fort Black was last night, and it may be a few days before he hears of it. However, I doubt that will make a difference in the effort to hunt Rigmor. They are already trying as hard as they can.
- Rigmor: But why, Baa’Ren-Dar? I avenged those who harmed my family, but why send these men? Why is there such a large reward? Why give me such special attention?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: They fear you, Rigmor. They fear you because of who your father was.
- Rigmor: My father is dead! They got their revenge and would do well to leave me be if they knew what’s good for them!
- Baa’Ren-Dar: My dear, sweet child! Have you not seen past the venire of subterfuge? Would the Thalmor extradite your father and execute him for revenge? To know you’re enemy, you must first walk in their shoes.
Rigmor was confused, and she had every right to be. Bar’Ren-Dar was assuming Rigmor had knowledge she didn’t possess. Baa’Ren-Dar is knee-deep in the bullshit, the political games, and the machinations of governments, and Rigmor is not. It was apparent in the years Rigmor lived with him that he never told her why her family was torn apart.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Has your hatred of the Thalmor blinded you from the truth?
- Rigmor: I… I don’t understand! What…?”
- Wulf: Baa’Ren-Dar! Dat vaba baso vakovo kestu iko jer raba baqu thzina. It is easy to appear wise after you have found the truth. Rigmor is not blinded from the truth, for it has not been shown to her. That is your fault, for she lived with you for years!
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Wulf is correct, Rigmor, and this one apologises for his manners. Khajiit should have told you these things.
- Rigmor: That is the past. Please, Baa’Ren-Dar, explain why they have done this to my family, my father.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Your father’s crest on the battlefield was worth five thousand men. Just mentioning the ‘Sons of Talos’ on the field would ensure disarray and even cause whole battalions to rout.
- Wulf: I have told Rigmor how her father is highly regarded amongst those who study The Art of War.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: It was not revenge, Rigmor. They needed your father out of the picture, or this plot would be for nought.
- Wulf: It would not just be the New Order who would have desired this. A second Great War is almost inevitable. The Thalmor would have wanted Ragnar removed, for he would be a rallying point, much like Tiber Septim and other Nord heroes. Now they are wary of his daughter.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: That is so. Rigmor, after Bruma, they now fear you and what you might become.
- Rigmor: Fear me? Why would they do that? I’m just a young girl!
- Baa’Ren-Dar: A young girl who single-handedly slew an entire company of Thalmor soldiers.
- Wulf: AN ENTIRE COMPANY! And that was before she found her father’s sword!
- Rigmor: I didn’t want you to think badly of me, Wulf, so I played down the numbers.
- Wulf: But now you know I kill many. I am surprised, Rigmor, not appalled.
- Rigmor: Yes, we are killers when needed, you and I.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: You are both far more than killers!
- Wulf: Sorry, Emissary, please, continue.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Such a feat is not to be ignored. Especially when the young girl in question was raised, taught, and trained by her father, the ‘Beast of Hammerfell.’
- Wulf: Is Rigmor the third target on that list?
- Baa’Ren-Dar: Yes, Rigmor is one of the ‘top-level’ targets.
- Wulf: The New Order wants to frame The Stormcloaks. Therefore, we deduced the other two targets are General Tullius and Jarl Elisif.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: That is also this one’s conclusion.
- Wulf: To think Rigmor is given the same strategic value, the same target on her back, as those two is difficult to accept calmly. It is ridiculous, as she has no field experience as a commander. However, Rigmor is now in far more danger than I thought.
- Baa’Ren-Dar: That is why this one is pleased Rigmor has The Dragonborn to help keep her from harm.
Rigmor looked at me, and those eyes penetrated my defences once again.
Rigmor said, “Yeah, I know, right!”
I quickly looked away.
Rigmor is putting great faith in me, and I can see the love is there. However, I am but one man. My Dragonblood and Dragonsoul will not stop an arrow piercing my heart, and if I were cornered by half a dozen Swordmasters, I would perish. Rigmor needs more than this Dragonborn to keep her safe!
When I looked up again, Rigmor’s face was pale as realisation struck. I am used to being a target, but it is new to her.
I said, “Rigmor, all this must be an unpleasant revelation.”
“I…I’m sorry, but I must be alone for a while. I need some time to take all this in.”
“We understand, Rigmor.”
Rigmor walked to the bar, sat on a stool, and ordered a mead. The first mead was quickly followed by a second. She seemed content to sip it while she thought.
The elderly Khajiiti also looked at Rigmor, and I saw great sadness in his eyes.
I was about to go to Rigmor when Baa’Ren-Dar said, “Let her be, for now, Wulf. Rigmor will be fine.”
“Rigmor has been hiding her demons from me, Baa’Ren.”
“To tell is to relive the horror. Rigmor will tell you then you may wish to have remained ignorant.”
I turned to Baa’Ren-Dar when he said, “It gladdens my heart to know the premonition was right.”
“A premonition? Let me guess, a seer of Azura?”
“This one has travelled these provinces for many years. As a provincial emissary, my duty is to ensure every angle is covered. This one was approached during an annual ball by the prominent soothsayer, Kaza’Zhid from Corinthe. That one would have kittens if referred to as a seer!”
“Fancy names do not change how foresight works. But I digress. What was this premonition?”
“That one told Khajiit that his Nordling child was destined for greatness. That Rigmor would meet a ‘guardian’ sent by the gods. That one said, ‘A Dragonborn shall hail from Helgen on the day of the dragons.’”
“Well, that is accurate in parts. Others have known I was The Dragonborn of prophecy for decades, but I only revealed that to Skyrim’s leaders when Alduin attacked Helgen. As given by The Nine, my title is Champion of The Divines. They sent me to Skyrim to deal with Alduin, but that is only part of my task. My responsibility is the protection of all mortals, regardless of race or religion.”
“Yet that one has taken time from protecting all mortals to aid Rigmor?”
“Tilar Aedriath is the one who orchestrated Rigmor’s whipping the night you rescued her. You said to him, ‘This is not needed. It is undignified, General Aedriath!’”
Baa’Ren-Dar’s eyes widened.
I continued, “When it seemed Rigmor was not going to beg for mercy and allow the brute with the horse crop to kill her, she cried out, ‘No more! Please! No more!’”
Baa’Ren-Dar was about to say something, but I put my hand up to silence him and continued with the revelation I had yet to share with Rigmor.
“When you carried Rigmor to the trapdoor, you said, ‘The nightmare is over, Rigmor. This one shall take you to his home, and you will be safe. Nobody will ever hurt you again.’”
I lowered my hand, and Baa’Ren-Dar asked, “How does that one know these things? Did a seer tell you?”
“No, Baa’Ren, I was there in spirit form. I had travelled ethereally in response to the distress of a young girl whose name I did not even know. I pledged to that young girl I would be her Guardian when I could. I am keeping that pledge, for it was an oath, even if Rigmor doesn’t know I made it and when.”
“Did the young Rigmor know your spirit was there?”
“Yes, but she could not see me or hear me. I communicated telepathically. I pleaded for her to beg and ask for mercy. If she didn’t listen to me, she would have died, Baa’Ren. But that connection to Rigmor told me much, and I must be careful, for my duty is to be her Guardian.”
“That one has a bond with Rigmor and is scared that love may result.”
“What I just told you sounds like gods forced us upon each other. However, that is not the case, and my connection to Rigmor baffles The Nine. There is much about me that Rigmor is yet to discover and needs to do so slowly. She needs to understand who I am, and then she may accept what I am. I fear that simply revealing some things would make her wary of me. You said, ‘To tell is to relive the horror.’ Perhaps as she recounts the horror, she will realise she was not alone.”
“The Greybeards summoned you. Therefore, this one thinks The Dragonborn would be capable of recruiting many more to fight beside him than Rigmor could. What The Greybeards named Wulf is one of those secrets. Perhaps The New Order has the wrong third target?”
“I would rather rally the people of The Empire to defend their homes and loved ones. That is why they should fight, not because I asked them to.”
“Khajiit must advise Wulf of extra danger. The summoning by The Greybeards has started much speculation. Emperor Titus Mede II has not named an heir, and many political groups now plot to put their preferred puppet on The Ruby Throne. Anybody seen as a legitimate alternative with possible Divine approval will be seen as an obstacle.”
“I am aware of that, Baa’Ren. Even if I never covet The Ruby Thone and His Imperial Majesty doesn’t name me heir, I will be seen as a rival. That is one of the reasons I kept my identity secret. I expect different people will hire assassins for various reasons. Me being a possible candidate for The Ruby Throne is just another reason on a long list of reasons. When I travel, I am at the most vulnerable. Even then, it would be a random encounter, not a planned attack threatening me.”
“And The Nine, perhaps Lady Mara, have not helped that one with the Rigmor conundrum?”
“No, Baa’Ren-Dar. They watch but have no answers. That is often their way. However, I see your robes and must advise that Azura is not omnipotent, even if she pretends to be.”
“Yes, but do not tell her that!”
“Haha, Lady Azura can show her teeth on occasion.”
“It is a wise path that one has chosen with Rigmor. This one wishes for a good outcome.”
“So do I, Baa’Ren-Dar, for the last thing I want is for Rigmor to be hurt in any way.”
“Khajiit has many ears and eyes in Skyrim, as it is this one’s duty to be aware of politics. That one has not been quiet in the months since his arrival and has done many good things. Now Khajiit understands why. The Dragonborn has pursued his task of protecting mortals with money and a sword. Khajiit much admires such devotion to duty.”
“It is my duty, Baa’Ren, but also my pleasure. From an early age, the gifts of charity and compassion were taught through examples. They are part of me. Are Ri’saad and his caravans some of your eyes and ears?”
“Yes, and so was a young girl named Olette. This one believes she is living with Wulf.”
“After her mother died, I offered Olette a home. It was only a matter of time before she sold the wrong information and was murdered.”
“That is good, for Olette was living dangerously. As Wulf surmised, Ri’saad and his companions are valuable eyes and ears. But those Khajiiti can’t tell me where Wulf and Dragonguard live. This one knows of all your properties, but that one and his friends are rarely seen at those places.”
“As I said, any assassin who hunts me must rely on luck, for they will never find my home.”
“Ri’saad told of your fondness for Khajiiti.”
“I have found them to be the most honest and honourable of people.”
“Please take care of Rigmor, Wulf. These are dark days, and you must keep one step ahead. Aedriath is a very dangerous foe, a master of deception. Do not underestimate him.”
“I will do my best, Baa’Ren-Dar. The Divines did not send me to Skyrim without some skills. However, I am yet to realise the full potential of my Thu’um. Still, Rigmor and I have proven formidable and very robust. We work together extremely well, and our sum exceeds its parts. Plus, I have exceptionally talented allies to assist. Some who guard Angi as we speak.”
“Why does that one not travel with more guards?”
“The honest answer should be known to a Khajiiti emissary who is as smart as that one.”
“That one wants to spend time alone with Rigmor to sort through the conundrum.”
“Correct. If I thought that increased the danger to Rigmor, I would not do so.”
“May I ask a favour, Baa’Ren-Dar?”
“This one is curious as to what this favour may entail!”
“I never let Rigmor out of my sight, but I need to do something out of hers.”
“This one advises red or none at all.”
“Rigmor has mentioned the dresses from Morrowind?”
“Many times, and always with hints of Riften Market. Rigmor thinks this one would know what to buy a young Nordling. That is not an area of Khajiit’s expertise.”
“I will be as quick as I can.”
“If Rigmor asks, I will inform her you had an urgent call of nature.”
“I doubt she will notice. She has that stare-into-infinity thing going.”
“Yes, a habit since she was a cub.”
I rushed outside and went straight to Brand-Shei. He was the major importer of Morrowind goods in Riften.
“Good morning, Brand-Shei. Did you lose much to the dragon attack?”
“No, and I thank the civil war. Many of us started using fireproof chests when the chance of an Imperial attack became real. We are quite mystified why our Jarl supports Ulfric. But she does, so we traders, being paranoid, prepared for the inevitable. Nobody believes Ulfric will win.”
“I have it on authority that you stock a popular style of dress from Morrowind.”
“I sell many styles, but one, in particular, has grown in popularity the last year or so. What colour?”
“Ahh, she is 5’6’, small bosom, waste about this big.”
Brand-Shei laughed as I mentally pictured Rigmor and displayed her waist width with my hands.
He said, “I must check my stock, but I think I have one to fit. Can you wait five minutes?”
When Brand-Shei rushed off, I visited some of the other stores.
All the merchants were surprised at the minor damage to the market once the flames were doused. New awnings, a few new planks of wood here and there and voila, the market was as good as new.
Brand-Shei soon returned with the dress. He looked shocked when I didn’t argue about the price and handed him a ruby worth a bit more. I paid too much but didn’t have the time to haggle.
I carefully placed the dress into my Journal Case as I returned to The Bee and Barb.
It looked like Rigmor was up to her third mead when I made my way to Baa’Ren-Dar.
I sat and said, “Mission accomplished.”
“Good. It will make Rigmor smile.”
“I hope so.”
“Khajiit advises you to try and get well-rested before travelling to Windhelm.”
“We will do what we can, Baa’Ren-Dar, but bounty hunters and The Thalmor will have snitches hoping to earn a few coins. A moving target is harder to hit. When we reach Windhelm, where do we find the Dunmer, and what is his name?”
“His name is Tendril Sethri. Try the New Gnisis Cornerclub in the Gray Quarter.”
“I do not like Windhelm, and I doubt Rigmor will be enamoured.”
“This one knows she won’t.”
“Good luck on your travels, Baa’Ren-Dar. Be assured that I would give my life to protect Rigmor.”
“Of that, Khajiit has no doubt, but he fears his child may do the same for you. Azura’s blessings on you and Rigmor.”
“Blessing of The Divines to you.”
I watched the formidable Khajiit exit. He would make a better ruler than most currently sitting on the thrones.
Three Argonian moved from the shadows and stood, staring at Rigmor. Nubaree, a young Argonian mage, had moved close to Rigmor. She helped us during the dragon attack and wants to attend The College of Winterhold.
I moved to Rigmor and whispered, “Three Argonian bounty hunters are behind you. They must be idiots to think they can do something in the middle of The Bee and Barb.”
Rigmor whispered back, “Yes, Nubaree warned me. Don’t make too much of a mess, Wulf.”
I turned and approached the leader of the idiots, who said, “Step away from the girl, friend!”
“Are we friends? Oh, I remember. Aren’t you called Shit-For-Brains?”
“We only want the head. You can keep the rest.”
“And who do you think the woman, not girl, is?”
“We think she is Rigmor, but if we are wrong, we will apologise to her corpse.”
“She doesn’t look like the posters at all!”
“But she is travelling with you, The Dragonborn, as our Thalmor friends suggested.”
I used my Thu’um and said, “THESE THREE IDIOTS THINK THEY CAN MURDER A YOUNG WOMAN FOR A THALMOR BOUNTY.”
Everybody in The Bee and Barb soon told them they would defend the young woman from The Thalmor and scum such as they.
I said, “WATCH WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEBODY THREATENS A PERSON UNDER MY PROTECTION!”
Shit-For-Brains said, “Die, fool!”
He was a dual wielder. Before he unsheathed his weapons, I Shouted Slow Time and unsheathed my sword.
I then cut all three bounty hunters down and was sheathing my sword before Shit-For-Brains had finished falling.
I was wise enough not to say anything until the Shout effect had finished.
Every patron talked about how I moved so quickly that I was a blur and killed three assailants in a split second. The story would be retold and embellished, adding to my reputation as some powerful being sent to fight evil.
I searched Shit-For-Brains, and he had a wanted poster. I held it up to Rigmor, who just shook her head. Like me, she can’t believe idiots would try to harm her inside a crowded inn.
Nubaree came over and said, “That was amazing, Lord Welkynd!”
“I am glad nobody got hurt. Now, why are you not at The College of Winterhold yet?”
“I was going to go the day the dragons attacked. I stayed to help with the clean-up.”
“Well, go soon as they take apprentices in batches. You will quickly rise to Master Mage, but you must enrol!”
“I will leave tomorrow unless more dragons attack, but that is unlikely, isn’t it?”
“Most dragons didn’t want to fight. I doubt any do after Alduin’s defeat. Now, I had better see to the young woman and our famously grumpy innkeeper.”
I approached Keerava and said, “I apologise for attracting such unsavoury guests.”
“Are you kidding, Thane Welkynd? Do you know how many meads I will sell as everybody crowds inside here and shouts drinks to get fifty variations on what just happened? Talen-Jei will dispose of the corpses and clean up the blood while I stand here piling up the coins! What a wonderful day!”
I approached Rigmor and said, “Come on, you need a rest.”
“No, Wulf. I need to go to Windhelm and see that thief. Before that, I want to sit, talk, and calm my nerves.”
“I have a favourite spot just outside the south gates, next to the lake.”
“That sounds ideal.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
When we exited, Maven Black-Briar barged past Rigmor, who said, “Hey, watch it, lady.”
Maven replied, “Shut up, peasant trash!”
Rigmor saw my face and tried to grab my arm. Too late!
I tapped Maven on the shoulder.
She turned and snarled, “I presume you are bothering me for a good reason.”
“Who am I, Maven?”
“The Dragonborn and Alduin is gone, so you are irrelevant.”
“And you think you are so important that common courtesy is not required?”
“Yes, of course, I am important! Nothing gets done without my approval in this city. I have the Jarl’s ear and the guards in my pocket. Anyone makes trouble for me, and I pay a visit to The Thieves Guild. Make me angry, and I contact The Dark Brotherhood. You’d do well remembering that next time you make such a stupid observation.”
I stuck my middle finger in Maven’s face and said, “Am I supposed to be scared of a wrinkly old hag? Somebody who is so depraved that one of her sons is also her grandson. Do you have any idea how rich I am? I will buy one of your rivals, pour money into it and watch you go broke. How about that?”
Several observers started to laugh.
She snarled, “You will regret that no matter how much the contract costs!”
I tutted and replied, “This was too easy, Maven. Have you forgotten that I am a Thane of Riften? Let’s test our relative popularity, noble rank and how many guards are in your pocket, shall we.”
I used my Thu’um and said, “GUARDS, MAVEN BLACK-BRIAR JUST THREATENED A THANE OF RIFTEN IN FRONT OF WITNESSES. SHE IS TO BE ARRESTED AND JAILED FOR A MONTH.”
A guard came to arrest Maven, who made a run for it. When the guard grabbed her, she attacked him with a knife and magic.
She just managed to graze the guard before I paralysed her.
As I attended to the injured guard, several other guards lifted the still-paralysed Maven and carted her off to the prison, accompanied by the crowd’s cheers.
A laughing Rigmor followed me out the south gate.
I pointed and said, “Just over there is a bench where I sometimes sit and relax.”
Rigmor laughed and ran, saying, “Well, hurry up then!”
I strolled over and sat next to her.
I explained, “I like to come here early in the morning when the mist is thick on the water. The mist dissipates quickly as the sun rises and warms the water.”
“Yes, it is a nice spot despite the occasional dead Skeever floating by.”
“Maven will be out of jail in hours, even after attacking a guard. She is a crook, and the Jarl is too stupid to realise she is being played.”
“That escalated quickly.”
“Maven is the type of person holding Skyrim, and The Empire, back. She was stupid to threaten me with The Thieves Guild. They wouldn’t harm a fly. As for The Dark Brotherhood, they have already sent assassins and are on my list of institutions to eliminate.”
“I heard what that bounty hunter said. He was willing to kill me because I was with The Dragonborn.”
“Well, I am distinctive in this armour, and a snitch did give The Thalmor my description. He saw us taking you to the boat. The same snitch got Rose captured.”
“Oh, I would love to get my hands on him.”
“I chopped his head off.”
“Oh, of course, you did. I have never seen somebody lop off so many heads!”
“You said you wanted to talk about something.”
“Yanno, it’s really weird coming here, to Skyrim, I mean. I never got to see my homeland.”
“Well, here it is in all its glory. Just ignore the sewer outlet over there.”
“Haha. But seriously, Skyrim is such a beautiful place. I’m glad I came here to see it for myself.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar claimed you are the third target. I think we both found that alarming. Are you okay? You seem a bit gloomy, and I believe that is the cause.”
“Yeah…I guess I’m okay. I try to put on a brave face, but really, deep down, I’m feeling a little scared right now. It’s all a bit too much sometimes.”
“The reason they victimised your father and family. The hatred The Thalmor have for you. It can’t be easy to accept these things?”
“I never asked for this. Sometimes I find it hard to imagine I was once a little girl, you know. I was just a normal, happy little girl playing with all the other kids. Then they took it all away. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what to do.”
“What could you have done? No matter how brave or strong, there was nothing you could have done against a squad of Thalmor thugs. Nothing!”
“My mom told me it would be okay. But it wasn’t okay! They took her, and I was…I….”
I had to look away, but it was too late.
“Are you crying? It is not the first time I have seen you do so.”
“I’m sorry, but I can feel your pain, Rigmor. Our connection does other things, I think.”
“No, don’t blame gobblygook. You are genuinely upset at what I am telling you. But I have seen tears appear out of nowhere when we aren’t even talking.”
Still looking away, I asked, “What is your mother’s name, Rigmor?”
“Sigunn! Her name is Sigunn.”
“I will not make a flippant remark and say not to worry and that we will find her. But we shall try, Rigmor. We shall try!”
She said, “Wulf, we are heading north to Windhelm, right? We can hole up in the wilderness of Eastmarch. I heard it’s pretty lawless, yanno, giants, mammoths and…stuff.”
“Oh no, I have heard that stuff can gum you to death!”
“Are you going to be a smart-arse or listen?”
“My ears are all yours.”
“Anyway, despite the wildlife and the threat of stuff, it sounds like a perfect place to rest so we can catch our breath.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar implied that you can do impressive pleading.”
“Wulf, can we visit the hot springs, please? PLEASE!”
“You forgot to bat your eyelids, but yeah, why not. There is a Merethic palaeontologist there that I am supposed to talk to, so hopefully, we see her.”
“Do you know what fossils are?”
“Yeah, something dies, gets covered in mud and rots away, leaving an indent of its body.”
“A palaeontologist studies fossils to learn about early flora and fauna. A Merethic palaeontologist is an expert on fossils from the Merethic period. I want to display fossils in my museum, so I hope Darnette Lauven, the palaeontologist, would be interested.”
“When people aren’t trying to collect my head, I want to see your museum.”
“And I would like to show it to you.”
“How are we getting to the hot springs?”
“I know you want to ride Ren, so this is my plan. I will teleport us to a small village called Kynesgrove. From there, we shall walk to the hot springs. Then, when you are ready, we shall summon our mounts and ride to Windhelm.”
“I thought you would be exhausted by now.”
“Well, I’m not, so let’s get going, slowpoke!”
“Stand. It is not a good idea to teleport when sitting.”
“That would be funny, appearing out of nowhere and falling on your arse. I mean, posterior.”
“You haven’t had much chance to act like a lady.”
“Well, you haven’t taken me anywhere posh yet.”
When we appeared in Kynesgrove, I told Rigmor, “Some people are fighting a Draman. We need to help them!”
The Draman saw me coming and fled.
It wasn’t fast enough to get away, and I cut it down
I walked over to an Argonian merchant.
“Merchant Gishei, I am glad you and your guards survived.”
“What was that thing, Lord Welkynd?”
“It was a Draman, a type of Daedra. They appeared in Skyrim at the same time as Alduin.”
“It ran from you. Why is that?”
“I am The Dragonborn. Draman believe that they are land-bound dragons. It is not the first one to run from me in fear.”
“Thank you for your assistance.”
We continued towards the hot springs. On the way, we passed a large Stormcloak military camp.
Rigmor looked at me and said, “It is easy to tell which side you support in the civil war.”
“Ulfric is a murdering, blaspheming traitor who needs to die.”
“I can see the anger, Wulf. Let’s keep going, and maybe, when we are not next to hundreds of Stormcloaks, you can tell me why you hate him so much.”
A research station came into view. I said to Rigmor, “That is the palaeontologist.”
We climbed to the research station, and I introduced ourselves.
- Wulf: Excuse me, but do I have the pleasure of speaking to Professor Darnette Lauven?
- Dar: Indeed, that is me. However, my friends call me Darnie or Dar for short.
- Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd, and my lovely companion is Lady Iva Ramsbottom.
- Rigmor: Iva?
- Wulf: Sorry if I have offended milady by using your short name. Let me make amends.
- Rigmor: You better!
- Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd, and my lovely companion is Lady Ivanitchy Ramsbottom.
I had to work hard to keep a straight face when Rigmor gave me a death stare.
- Dar: I am pleased to meet you both.
- Wulf: Are there many fossils in this area?
- Dar: Yes, there are some excellent fossil beds around here. The thermal pools cause a constantly changing landscape, meaning new ones surface regularly.
- Wulf: Do you work for a museum?
- Dar: I work for The Gwylim University in High Rock, and we’re cataloguing any fossils we can find from all over Tamriel.
- Wulf: Do you display the fossils you find?
- Dar: Well, we hoped to find a place that was interested and large enough to showcase our growing collection.
- Rigmor: Fortunately, we happen to know somebody with an extensive museum. Does it have space for Dar’s fossils, Wulf?
- Wulf: Yes, we have ample space.
- Dar: Which Museum?
- Wulf: The Dragonborn Gallery in Solitude. We are talking about quite an extensive area that could be dedicated to fossils.
- Dar: So, what would be the rent?
- Wulf: None, zero, zilch. You tell us how to display the fossils, write what you want on the plaques, and Nirn’s best fossil collection is on display.
- Dar: I would have to consult with my colleagues. One should be visiting in the next week or so.
- Wulf: If you can, visit the museum and speak to Auryen, the Chief Librarian. He can get things happening while I am busy elsewhere. Just mention me, Lord Welkynd.
- Dar: And the fossils remain the property of the university?
- Wulf: Yes. However, we can purchase all or part of what is on display if you desire.
- Dar: Speak to Auryen. Mention Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: Yep, that’s it.
- Dar: Would you happen to be The Dragonborn?
- Wulf: Yes, I am.
- Dar: I have been too worried to explore around the thermal pools with dragons flying overhead. I see an occasional one intent on hunting mammoths and so on. Is it safe for me to continue my research and fossil gathering?
- Wulf: You are brave to be here without guards. The dragons will no longer be a threat, but plenty of other dangers exist.
- Rigmor: You should have a couple of guards with you.
- Dar: Yes, you are right. I think I will arrange that while visiting Solitude.
- Wulf: When we have some spare time, Lady Ramsbottom and I would love to help you sift through mud and dirt, looking for fossils. Isn’t that right, milady?
- Rigmor: I couldn’t think of anything more riveting.
- Dar: That’s the spirit! You are welcome to join me whenever I am out here.
Almost opposite Dar’s research was a small camp. It was for those who wished to bathe in the hot springs. There were tents with furs you could place bedrolls upon and a campfire. Somebody must have just vacated the camp as the campfire was alight.
Rigmor turned to me and said, “I have heard about these hot springs. People bathe in them all the time.”
“Yes, but you have to be careful when choosing which pool of water to bathe in. This camp looks to be a popular spot. Therefore, I assume the nearby water will not boil you alive or emit poisonous fumes.”
“The water is meant to have rejuvenating properties. Hey, you never know, they might help with my back…yanno, the scars.”
“Then our time here will be well spent. I shall sit here and face the other way till you tell me. Then I can turn and watch your things and ensure you are safe.”
“Yeah, right! Make sure they’re the only things you’re watching!”
“If you don’t trust me, Rigmor, let us continue onto Windhelm.”
“I’m only joking!”
“If you bathe just beyond that clump of reeds, only the mammoths and giants will be able to see you.”
“Right, turning my back. Let me know when I can watch your things without seeing your things.”
I could hear Rigmor undressing and placing her armour and weapons in a pile. The amount of passing traffic surprised me, including pilgrims, traders and a Stormcloak patrol. It was a bustling road. One thing we don’t have to worry about this close to Windhelm is Thalmor.
After twenty minutes, Rigmor said, “You can turn around now.”
I did so and watched Rigmor stroll into the water with a deliberate wiggle of her hips.
One part of my brain said, “Be a gentleman and turn back around.”
The other part said, “Look at that hip movement!”
I decided to watch the hips, just in case something jumped out and attacked Rigmor.
Rigmor giggled and asked, “Are you watching my things carefully, Wulf?”
Rigmor laughed and once again stole part of my heart.
Rigmor went further out than I was comfortable with. But she was enjoying herself, so I did not call her back.
She moved closer to the clump of reeds and sat.
I briefly used Zoom Vision, and even through the reeds, my eyes were drawn to her scars.
I stopped using Zoom Vision and contemplated what Celestine had said. It seems the scars are now part of Rigmor’s identity and cannot be healed. I wondered what it would take for that not to be the case so that I could heal them for her.
After about fifteen minutes, Rigmor said, “Coming out now!”
I quickly turned around and listened as Rigmor left the hot spring, dried herself before the fire, and dressed.
Thirty minutes later, I heard Rigmor approach. I turned around, and she sat next to me.
I asked, “Did the water help with your scars?”
“Yeah, better than I thought it would.”
“It’s quite nice here.”
“I think the giants and mammoths might put off tourists.”
“Giants are generally docile unless you threaten their mammoths or cows. The Stormcloaks enslave giants and make them fight for them.”
“How can they justify that?”
“Ulfric says jump, they jump. Blindly obeying somebody allows you to convince yourself it was they and not you that made bad things happen.”
“I was only obeying orders!”
“Yep, that sad excuse.”
“You and Celestine are healers. What did you think of my scars?”
“I wanted to strangle the people who inflicted them.”
“They are quite something, right? Courtesy of my stay in Haven.”
I had assumed all of Rigmor’s scars came from her stay with The Thalmor. I knew little of her ordeal except for the tiny part I glimpsed.
I asked, “Have you ever been able to sleep on your back?”
“You must have noticed I only ever sleep on my side. So no, I cannot sleep on my back.”
“You wouldn’t stay on your back when unconscious.”
“Yeah, that irritated Angi when she was trying to fix me.”
“Would you like somebody to heal your scars?”
“Maybe one day. At the moment, they are part of my motivation.”
And there was my answer. The scars are an integral part of Rigmor at the moment!
I said, “They are a badge of honour, Rigmor. They demonstrate that no matter the brutality inflicted, you survived. You were stronger than them.”
“I knew you would understand.”
“The scars are deep, and the lashes came close to your spine. The blood loss would have been extreme. They almost killed you, Rigmor.”
“There must have been someone looking after me. A guardian angel or something.”
“What is a guardian angel?”
“A spirit that protects you from harm.”
“I have never heard of that term. However, I am certain no god or other supernatural being saved your life, Rigmor. You survived because you wanted to! The healing Rose, Celestine and I did on you would have failed if you did not have a strong will to live.”
“Yeah, Angi said the same thing when I finally awoke at her place.”
“Are you ready to tell me who beat you and why?”
“No, but I promise I will tell you about it sometime.”
“I understand. As Baa’Ren-Dar said, ‘To tell is to relive the horror. Rigmor will tell you then you may wish to have remained ignorant.’”
“That is similar to what you said about soldiers not wanting to discuss their experiences. What else did you two discuss about me?”
“Only the usual things a protective father would ask of a huge barbarian travelling the countryside with his daughter.”
“No, he trusts me, Rigmor. He knows I only have your well-being in mind.”
“Well, what did he tell you while I guzzled mead?”
“A soothsayer, really just a seer of Azura, told Baa’Ren-Dar, that you would meet a guardian sent by the gods. That guardian was The Dragonborn, who came from Helgen the day he met you. That is wrong because I was nowhere near Helgen that day. However, I kept my identity a secret until the day Alduin destroyed Helgen.”
“So that is why Baa’Ren-Dar knew who you are! But you told me gods did not arrange for our meeting.”
“They didn’t arrange our meeting. And Baa’Ren-Dar knew who I was because that was his job. He has spies all over Skyrim and knew quite a bit about me. After all, I am one of the most famous people in Skyrim. I was sent to Skyrim by The Nine to deal with Alduin.”
“So, the premonition was sort of right.”
“That is how many of the premonitions of seers are worded. Very rarely do they give precise details. And premonitions, prophecies, and destinies are all possible outcomes but are not guaranteed. That is important to remember when dealing with them.”
“Your prophecy came true.”
“My prophecy was written in the future. It listed events that had already happened.”
“That is major gobblygook! If you are genuinely interested, I will explain over a mead, or two, or three, one day.”
“Is that all the seer had to say?”
“No, and this is why you must remember what I told you.”
“Come on, Wulf. What did he say?”
“He said that you are destined for greatness.”
“What? I am an eighteen-year-old Nord woman who can swing a sword, sometimes hit things with an arrow, and swill ale and mead like a champion. How can that be turned into ‘greatness’?”
“Rigmor, how long is a piece of rope?”
“How am I supposed to answer that?”
“You can’t, as you have no context of what type of rope and its possible length. Similarly, without knowing the definition of ‘greatness,’ we have no idea what it may entail. You might become Sweetroll eating champion of Bruma.”
“Mead-guzzling champion of Cyrodiil?”
“Bottom-wiggling champion of Skyrim!”
“At least I kept my undies on.”
“The giant who was watching you was very disappointed.”
“Haha. Baa’Ren-Dar explained that seers speak to Azura, and she gathers all their visions together. Because Azura has access to many of them and she is a god, they make sense to her.”
“Yes, the foresight of seers can be confusing for them. They see something but have no context to enable any understanding. They might not even know if a vision is of the past, present, or future. They rely on Lady Azura to, hopefully, make sense of what they saw.”
“But the outcome is not guaranteed, is it.”
“No, as I said before, a premonition is only a possible outcome.”
Rigmor’s mood changed. She stared into infinity, and I let her return to me when she wanted.
After a few seconds, she looked at me and said, “You know, she used to travel to The Imperial City sometimes to get things we didn’t have in Bruma.”
“You mother, Sigunn?”
“Yes, and I would beg her to take me with her so I could get out of my sword and combat training. She couldn’t say no and would make up any old rubbish excuse, and my father lapped it up. Hahaha! He knew she was lying and gave us ‘that look’! Haha! But he loved her so much, and she had him in the palm of her hand.
We would go shopping and listen to the bards and minstrels playing in the streets. Sometimes I would go and sit in the library and read everything I could get my hands on for hours and hours ‘til mum came to get me.”
“They are wonderful memories, Rigmor. Special memories that nobody can take from you.”
“The Imperial City is warmer than Bruma, so we could finally take off our fur coats for once, and I remember I would look up and let the sunshine warm my face.
I would try on some linen dresses, and mum would buy me a special treat.
Oh! The summer in Cyrodiil is so green and timeless! How I miss all that.”
“Ah, Rigmor. If only I could find a way to return what you have lost.”
“Wulf, I just need to know, you know. If she is still alive!”
“Well, we are taking the next step to finding out.”
Years of being rightfully paranoid have sharpened my senses. I stood and turned abruptly. An Orsimer in steel armour was approaching. He halted when I stared at him.
I told Rigmor, “If he is not a bounty hunter, I’ll eat my hat.”
“You don’t have a hat.”
“I’ll buy one and then eat it.”
“Go and see what he wants, idiot!”
“Play the snob. Maybe we can convince him that your head is not worth collecting.”
I approached and stood before the Orsimer. He looked intimidated by my size but started his stupid speel anyway.
- Tibbs: Hello! Hey there, I seem to be a bit lost and wonder if you could help me.
- Wulf: Windhelm is that way, and Riften is that way. It is a straight road to both, so it is somewhat hard to get lost.
- Tibbs: Oh, ah, the names Tubuku or Mr Tibbs if you like. Sorry for the inconvenience, but you see, my sister’s daughter hasn’t been too well, and it’s her birthday.
- Wulf: Your niece. Your sister’s daughter is your niece, Mr Tibbs.
- Rigmor: Can you hurry up and get rid of the peasant? I need my feet washed.
- Tibbs: Oh, hey there, little lady. How about helping out poor Mr Tibbs’ niece?
- Wulf: What kind of help? Hurry it up. Milady’s feet await!
- Tibbs: Oh, hahaha. I am embarrassed as I seem to have lost my way. I hoped to bump into someone. Are you hunting and fishing in these parts or just travelling through them?
- Wulf: We hunt Thalmor, bounty hunters, bandits and bad actors who call themselves Mr Tibbs.
- Tibbs: Oh!
- Wulf: If you are looking for Rigmor of Bruma, you are in the wrong place.
- Tibbs: We saw the little lady bathing. That is her.
- Wulf: Your friends are too far away to save you. I would think twice before touching your weapon.
Mr Tibbs yelled, “IT’S HER BOYS! COME ON. WE’RE GONNA BE RICH!”
As Mr Tibbs drew his axe, I noticed Merchant Gishei and her guards. They must have been selling things at the Stormcloak camp.
I yelled, “Don’t get involved, Merchant Gishei. This fight is not your problem!”
I then blocked Mr Tibbs’ axe and beheaded him.
I saw the other bounty hunters coming down the hill and Blinked to them.
I then proceeded to cut four of them down. Meanwhile, Rigmor took down another two with her bow.
I searched Mr Tibbs, and he had a wanted poster.
Rigmor stood next to me as Dar ran to us.
- Dar: Are you okay, Lady Ramsbottom?
- Rigmor: I don’t have a scratch, Dar.
- Dar: You feathered a couple. They were damn good shots from that distance!
- Rigmor: Yes, I have had some good coaching from experts.
- Dar: As for you, Lord Welkynd. You decapitated them all after moving faster than I thought possible.
- Wulf: I have trained in many disciplines to aid my role as Dragonborn.
As we talked, a woman came from behind nearby bushes, a hammer at the ready. She was staring at me as if I was her target.
I said to Dar, “Don’t move. There is a woman behind you. I am her target, but she may attack you if you move.”
Rigmor hit the woman with a couple of arrows, but still, she came towards me.
With surprising speed, Rigmor drew her sword and beat the woman back.
Then she almost sliced her in two with a mighty swing.
I said, “It’s okay, Dar. Lady Ramsbottom took care of the woman.”
Dar turned around and gasped.
- Dar: You are the one The Thalmor want so bad, aren’t you, Rigmor of Bruma.
- Rigmor: Yes, I am Rigmor of Bruma. Did The Thalmor give you a wanted poster as well?
- Dar: Yes, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw Thalmor in this Hold. Ulfric’s idiots would not hesitate to cut them down.
- Wulf: I don’t think this attacker was after Rigmor.
Merchant Gishei inspected the body and handed me a note from The Dark Brotherhood.
I read it aloud.
“As instructed, you are to eliminate Lord Welkynd by any means necessary. The Black Sacrament has been performed. Our client wants the poor fool dead.
We have already received payment for the contract. Failure is not an option.
I laughed and commented, “At least she wasn’t wearing one of their uniforms. How stupid is it when assassins announce their presence with a uniform? You can keep what you find on the body, Merchant Gishei. We have an appointment elsewhere.”
I summoned Hashire.
- Hashire: Hey, look, a headless corpse. Why am I not surprised?
- Rigmor: There are a few more up the hill a bit.
- Hashire: That woman is almost cleaved in two. Wulf’s katana doesn’t do that much damage, so I assume that was you, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Yep.
- Wulf: We are riding to Windhelm, so please summon Ren.
- Hashire: Okay.
There were gasps when Hashire appeared from the ether. The gasps were repeated when Ren also appeared from the ether.
As Merchant Gishei, her guards and Dar whispered excitedly about what they were witnessing, Rigmor and I mounted without another word.
We passed a few people heading the other way.
The Stormcloak camp came into sight, and I fought hard to suppress my anger.
We passed the remains of a trade caravan. It was destroyed by a dragon days before. I wondered if the nearby Stormcloaks hid or tackled the dragon.
Windhelm came into view, and Rigmor rode closer to me. I felt the mysterious calmness remove my anger.
I asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“Ahh…some of the cities in Cyrodiil are beautiful. I can’t say the same for Windhelm.”
“It is even worse inside.”
A bit further along the road, a mage with prepared spells stood and approached. She had been crouching in some long grass.
I sighed and charged towards her.
She cast an Ice Spear spell which was useless against Hashire’s invisible ward.
I then cut her down.
I searched the corpse, and there was nothing to tell me who she was.
- Rigmor: Another assassin?
- Wulf: It seems so, but she doesn’t have a writ on her.
- Hashire: You seem to have made many friends in Skyrim, Wulf.
- Wulf: I wonder how much Lord Hircine would pay for a unicorn?
- Rigmor: I saw some sharp ice thingies head for Hashire. They smashed into something invisible.
- Hashire: I have a magical shield, called a ward, that protects me and my rider against Destruction spells.
- Wulf: The Ice Spears wouldn’t have harmed me, but I like it when mages look startled just before I cut them down. It makes replaying their death more entertaining.
- Hashire: Wulf, you are being incredibly morbid at the moment.
- Wulf: Sorry, but endless killing and passing that Stormcloak camp has not made me Sir Jolly.
- Rigmor: We thought we could stop at the hot spring and relax. Instead, all we have had is drama. I am sorry, Wulf, it was a silly idea to stop there.
- Wulf: Cobblers! I knew there would be many bounty hunters and thought we might encounter some. The assassins are not a surprise. A long list of people and gods would want me dead. We will learn some lessons from today and do things differently.
- Rigmor: Does that mean no more horse rides or stopping to admire the scenery?
- Wulf: On the contrary, we will take our time when travelling. I will ask one of my dragon friends to act as a scout. They would have warned against Mr Tibbs and the assassins long before we saw them. When we are at a place like the hot springs, Hashire can warn us of others approaching. We shall change our appearance regularly. That means a different wig and armour for you for tomorrow, and I will use another set of armour that disguises me.
- Rigmor: By the way, what does ‘cobblers’ mean?
- Wulf: The same as ‘bollocks.’
- Rigmor: Yes, of course. What a silly question.
- Hashire: Have you met any of Wulf’s dragon allies?
- Rigmor: No, I have never seen a dragon up close.
- Hashire: They are all lovely except Nahfahlaar.
- Wulf: Hashire doesn’t like Nahfahlaar because that dragon is the only being with a bigger ego.
- Hashire: He calls me Lunch and sometimes discusses how unicorns taste different from horses.
- Rigmor: Haha, that is funny!
- Wulf: It seems Rigmor is immune to your self-pity.
- Hashire: And I thought she must be nice because Ren likes her. But then again, she did have his balls cut off.
- Rigmor: Excuse me, Ren was gelded before I brought him!
- Wulf: Come on, Rigmor, we need to see this Sethri fellow.
We managed to ride the last few miles without having to kill somebody!
We dismounted, and I told Hashire, “Take Ren to the island. I am sure he would prefer it to this cold.”
“Behave yourself in there, Wulf. You are not at war with Ulfric yet.”
Just then, a snowstorm hit.
Hashire vanished, and a few seconds later, so did Ren.
I asked Rigmor, “Are you ready for the beauty of Windhelm?”
“You have been here before and not caused problems.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t easy.”
“Hashire seemed concerned, so let us make sure you understand. You are not to attack any Stormcloaks while we are in the city!”
“Can I call them names?”
“Can I poke my tongue out at them?”
“Can I imagine I am poking my tongue out at them?”
“I suppose that might be okay.”
“You are generous, Milady.”
“Why do I feel you will find strife as soon as we enter?”
“I have no idea. Maybe it is your low opinion of this humble servant who is but dung on your shoe.”
We entered Windhelm and immediately witnessed pure, mindless racism. Two Nords were harassing a Dunmer woman called Suvaris Atheron. She helped me set up some warehouses when I arrived in Skyrim.
Rigmor grabbed my arm, but there was no way I could stand by and let this continue. I walked up to the trio.
- Rolff: You come here where you’re not wanted, you eat our food, you pollute our city with your stink, and you refuse to help The Stormcloaks.
- Suvaris: But we haven’t chosen a side because it is not our fight.
- Angrenor: Hey, Rolff, maybe these grey skins don’t help in the war because they’re Imperial spies!
- Suvaris: Imperial spies? You can’t be serious!
- Rolff: Maybe Angrenor and I will visit you tonight, little spy. We got ways of finding out what you really are.
- Wulf: I advise you both to stop harassing Suvaris.
- Rolff: Why? Are you a Dark Elf lover?
- Wulf: Angrenor, you once fought for The Empire when Dunmer were our allies. Now you stand next to a nobody who has never worn a uniform and harass a valued citizen of Skyrim. You are better than this, despite your mistreatment by Ulfric!
- Angrenor: And what would you know about me?
- Wulf: You are Angrenor Once-Honoured, a hero of The Empire who chose to fight for Ulfric. You became a hero to The Stormcloaks and distinguished yourself in battles against former comrades. Ulfric used you for his propaganda and boasted how Empire heroes could become Stormcloak heroes. Then you were severely injured while saving Stormcloak comrades from certain death. Once you were no longer useful to Ulfric, you were discarded like a broken sword. Now you use that as an excuse to be a town drunk. You are better than this, Angrenor. Don’t let Ulfric determine your worth.
- Angrenor: How do you know this, stranger?
- Wulf: I know about you, Angrenor because Suvaris told me your story. She felt sorry for you, yet here you are, harassing her beside a coward.
- Rolff: How dare you!
- Wulf: Do you think you can hide behind your brother, Rolff? Why are you not a Stormcloak like Galmar? Instead of facing armed enemies, you choose to harass innocent civilians. Yes, you are a coward! Do you even know who Suvaris works for?
- Rolff: Other stinking elves in The Grey Quarter!
- Wulf: Torbjorn Shatter-Shield employs Suvaris and other Dunmer as well as Argonian. He pays them the same wages as his Nord employees. Like Angrenor, Torbjorn is also a veteran of The Great War. Is he a spy as well?
- Rolff: He could be if he loves elves so much.
- Wulf: The Companions in Whiterun have not taken sides. Either has the College of Winterhold or The Vigilants of Stendarr. So, using your logic, they are all spies as well! Why don’t you stand outside Jorrvaskr and harass them?
- Rolff: Get out of our city! You are a filthy piece of trash!
- Suvaris: What an idiot!
- Wulf: Do you have a backbone, Rolff?
- Rolff: Don’t you think I can take you? One hundred septims say I can punch you back to where you came from.
- Wulf: You want to have a fistfight? Okay, but only if you promise not to cry when you lose.
- Rolff: All right. Fists only and none of that magic stuff, either. Let’s go!
Angrenor made himself scarce while Rolff took up a fighting stance.
I stepped forward and hit him in the kidneys and then the stomach, winding him.
Whilst Rolff was gasping on the ground, I talked to Suvaris.
“If guards want to make trouble, it is best you not be here, Suvaris.”
“I think Angrenor finally realised who you are. Perhaps he might change his ways now.”
“One day, I will step through those gates to kill Ulfric. It would be best for Angrenor to re-evaluate his alliances.”
“The Stormcloaks took a beating from the recent dragon attack.”
“It is a pity they died ignorant of who Ulfric is.”
“Thank you for your help, Lord Welkynd.”
“You are welcome.”
Suvaris headed home as I confronted Rolff.
“Listen close, Rolff Stone-Fist. When I visit Windhelm, I will ask the Grey-Quarter people about you. If I find you have continued to harass people with your moronic racist bullshit, it will lead to a beating of the likes you could not imagine. Do you understand?”
“And if your brother wants to make an issue of this, he can formally challenge me to a duel to the death. My name is Lord Welkynd, and I am The Dragonborn. Can you remember that?”
“Yes. Can you remember who I am if your brother wants to avenge you?”
“Good. Have a pleasant evening, Rolff Stone-Fist. Oh, and don’t worry about pissing blood. It will stop in a day or two, maybe.”
Rolff limped away, groaning and holding his stomach. I looked around, and several guards had witnessed the encounter but did not approach me.
I turned to Rigmor, who was staring at me with her mouth open.
I asked, “Yes, Lady Ramsbottom? Is there a problem?”
“I did not poke my tongue out at him or kill him, and he isn’t a Stormcloak anyway.”
“Who is he?”
“Rolff is the brother of Galmar Stone-Fist. Galmar is Ulfric’s housecarl and second in charge of The Stormcloaks.”
“How far into Windhelm are we? Twenty or thirty feet, maybe. And you end up beating the shit out of Galmar’s brother.”
“Tell me it wasn’t justified, Rigmor. Tell me I should have ignored the whole thing.”
“I can’t because you were right to do what you did. But sometimes, Wulf, don’t you think that trouble has an uncanny way of finding its way to you?”
“I can’t help it if I’m popular.”
“Argh! Lead the way, my Guardian, and don’t get us lost in this cesspool of a city. What a dump! I already hate this place!”
“I don’t have one of your wonderful maps to guide me, so I can’t promise we won’t get lost.”
“So, not all Nords here are racist?”
“Torbjorn Shatter-Shield only paid Dunmer and Argonian a fair wage after I threatened to use other warehouses for my shipments. There are reasonable Nords in Windhelm, but he is not one of them.”
A tattered banner informed us we were entering the Grey Quarter.
I knew precisely where we were going and took the shortest route there. The city did not seem alive as neither Argonian nor Khajiiti walked its streets. I didn’t want to stay a minute longer than needed.
We had no problem locating The New Gnisis Cornerclub, even though it wasn’t new or in a corner.
Rigmor asked, “Is that a Netch?”
“Yes, a young one. An adult Netch is much larger than that.”
“How do they float like that?”
“They have bladders full of gas inside them.”
“How do they go higher or lower?”
“They go lower by releasing gas. Pffffffffffft!”
“That is why they are popular pets with the Dunmer. They can blame silent but smelly farts on the Netch.”
“Sometimes, I don’t know whether to believe you.”
We entered the tavern.
It was full of people but deadly quiet. It was eerie and not natural!
Rigmor whispered, “You can start a brawl if you want. Anything to prove these people aren’t dead.”
I walked over to the barkeep.
He looked at me with disdain and said, “Oh, splendid, another Nord!”
I stared at him and growled, “What is your name?”
All heads turned our way.
“Well, Ambarys, I am not a Nord. Nor am I Argonian, Breton, Dunmer, Altmer, Imperial, Khajiit, Orsimer, Redguard or Bosmer. Nor am I a combination of any of those. What race I am, you would never guess, and it is irrelevant. What I am is a person who hates racists. I just beat up Rolff, a Nord, for being a racist. I will not hesitate to beat the shit out of you, a Dunmer, for being a racist. So, would you like to try again?”
A Dunmer lady next to me said, “Ah…Ambarys. He is The Dragonborn.”
Gasps, quickly followed by the usual silence, punctuated that announcement.
I noticed a familiar figure lurking in the background when I looked at the Dunmer lady.
Ambarys stood up and said, “Welcome! Take a seat and make yourself at home. I think I have a clean mug around here somewhere.”
“Ambarys, it is a lovely establishment you have. I wonder if a Tendril Sethri is also enjoying this riveting atmosphere full of laughter and joy?”
The barkeep pointed to a nondescript Dunmer.
I decided to attend to Malborn first and walked up to him.
I said, “My brave compatriot, I thought you would be hiding under a rock somewhere. What are you doing here?”
“I am trying to stay alive. I think my time’s running out, though. I’m pretty sure The Thalmor know where I am. Maybe you can help me. You know, by way of making amends for getting me into this mess.”
“I did not force you to help. You wanted a chance to hurt The Thalmor after what they did to your family. I killed a few dozen and saved your life. You should be buying me a drink or two.”
“Yes, you’re right, and you’d be saving my life again. I know I probably seem ungrateful… I’ve just been so scared and expect a knife at my throat any minute.”
“Do you think they have sent assassins?”
“Yes! So, will you help me?”
“Yes, of course, I will. What makes you think The Thalmor have sent assassins.”
“There might be only one. I was trying to get to Morrowind. The Dunmer don’t care much for The Thalmor, and I figured I’d be safe there. As safe as anywhere, that is. But a Khajiiti is hanging around the main gate and mingling with the caravan. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me. I’m sure he’s a Thalmor assassin waiting for me to leave so he can follow me and kill me in a lonely place.”
“I know the people who travel in the caravans. I will check him out for you. In the meantime, stay here. There is safety in numbers.”
As Malborn walked away, I turned to Rigmor
“Who is that Wood Elf?”
“He helped me infiltrate the Dominion embassy. Now he thinks there are assassins after him and that one is hiding amongst the Khajiiti caravan. I will visit them later and see if that is the case.”
I noticed a vacant seat next to Tendril Sethri. I sat down while Rigmor stood to his right.
I asked, “Excuse me, are you Tendril Sethri?”
“Who wants to know?”
“You heard who I was. But to remind you, I am Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn. The young, well-armed and armoured woman is Lady Ramsbottom. We are wondering if you can help us?”
“Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. It depends. What do you want?”
“A friend of mine acquired a gold wedding ring and said it came from you.”
“Rings, trinkets, they come and go. You’ll need to be more specific.”
“This particular ring was liberated from a Thalmor embassy.”
“Ahh, yes, I remember that ring. It was one of many items I took as payment for services rendered. You see, I worked there temporarily as a kitchen servant. Unfortunately, I made the broth too rich one night by adding some seared Skeever meat with the vegetables. Hahahaha!”
“Not very fresh Skeever meat, I assume?”
“The Thalmor spent two days racing each other to the latrines. Serves them right, arrogant fools!”
“Could you still see them? I thought they vanished if you removed all the shit from a Thalmor.”
“Not keen on them either? They told me I was lucky not to lose my head. Obviously, they were no connoisseurs of fine cuisine, eh?”
“They are uncultured, witless sheep shaggers.”
“You know them well! Anyway, a shipment of crates arrived from Solitude that afternoon. They contained fine clothes, jewellery, shoes, ornaments and even piles of rags. But what I found most disturbing were the chains and shackles.”
Rigmor gasped, but she let me do the talking.
“And what do you think those chains and shackles signified?”
“I believe the items were from slavers. Payment to the Thalmor to ignore illegal mining operations.”
“Inside The Empire?”
“Yes, right under stupid Imperial noses!”
“Many criminals are taking advantage of the civil war and the lack of Imperial patrols. Is there a way we could locate the ring’s owner?”
“Hmm! There was something, but it will cost you the price of helping me get out of this rathole and back home.”
I pulled out my gem bag and found a good quality ruby worth several hundred septims, even if sold to a fence.
I handed the ruby to Sethri, who looked at it expertly. He knew its value and smiled as he pocketed it.
Sethri continued, “Now then, where was I? Ah yes! I was rifling through the clothing pockets, as you do, when I noticed a list. My heart skipped a beat when I realised the list contained the names of the poor wretches the belongings had come from and where they had been sent. Pirates and enslavers had taken men, women, and even children from the provinces. That is the Thalmor for you, with their usual bureaucratic thoroughness for fine details. Filthy dogs!”
“I love it when the bad guys leave clues for me to follow. Do you know where the crates were destined?”
“Northwatch Harbour. I grabbed what I could and hightailed it out of there. The person you seek is likely on that slaver’s list. It will tell you where they have been taken to.”
“You seem knowledgeable, so I have no doubt you can tell us where Northwatch Harbour is located.”
“It just so happens I can. It is located in a ravine on the High Rock border. I knew a person who worked there as a skivvy. The Thalmor would send him to take food and mead to hired mercs and bandits guarding a secret entrance to the harbour.”
“An entrance on the mainland?”
“Yes, and it can be tricky to spot. Hand me a map, and I can mark it for you.”
I gave Sethri my map and never-ending quill, which he admired with interest and not greed in his eyes. He marked the map and then handed back my items.
Sethri continued, “Head to the border with High Rock and the location I just marked. Then make your way down a path to the right, and you will see the ruins of an old Imperial fort. There will be a disused well in the undergrowth. That leads to tunnels that will take you right to the harbour. Be careful, as they might still be guarded.”
“Thank you, Sethri. Your information is just what we needed.”
“If it were me who got my hands on that list, I would make sure it was passed onto the authorities. This kind of abomination needs to be stopped.”
Rigmor growled, “Don’t worry. It will be stopped.”
Sethri looked at Rigmor and said, “I would love to see the Thalmor squirm out of this one. But I wish you all the best if you have a better solution. Good day to you.”
“Oh, Tendril Sethri, I have another question.”
“Why was a reasonably competent mage working in Thalmor kitchens? I doubt you needed the gem I gave you, as employing such a spy is not cheap.”
I left Sethri gaping like a fish out of water. Usually, a mage’s abilities are directly proportional to their Magicka reserve. Sethri is not quite to the level of most Master mages, but close enough that he didn’t have to make a living in a kitchen. Not everybody can measure Magicka reserves by sight, but the Psijics taught me how.
We left The Gnisis Corner club before the excitement got too much.
Rigmor asked, “Okay, what is the plan? Do you know where this place is?”
“Yes, it is situated on the northern coast of Haafingar.”
“Great! Let’s go find that list!”
“There is something you need to know before we do so. I need to be sure you will be okay with what we might face.”
“Why shouldn’t I be? Why are you concerned about how I feel? Has someone been talking behind my back?”
“I haven’t been out of your sight, Rigmor. So, tell me, who might have talked behind your back? Baa’Ren-Dar told me about the night he rescued you, and I thought that….”
“Thought what? Don’t you assume you know how I feel! Do you want to go on alone and leave me here in this dump?”
“Think, Rigmor, would I leave you alone for even a minute?”
“Hey! Why don’t you stay here, and I’ll visit that place and kill them all myself? I will get that stupid list!”
“You would not have made it through Fort Black without me. The harbour will be even more dangerous.”
“Hey! I don’t need no Dragonborn babysitting me! I can take care of myself!”
“We have had this discussion recently, and you cannot care for yourself!”
“Ever since I was fourteen, my life has been ripped apart! I have suffered alone. There was no one there for me. NO ONE!”
My heart ached to tell Rigmor that was not true and that I was there for her.
Instead, I said, “Look at me, your Guardian. You are no longer alone, Rigmor. But I find it hard to help you when so much is kept from me. How can I fully understand these mood swings without knowing what happened to you?”
“Hey, I have done it again, haven’t I? I’m sorry and cold and hungry. I am also exhausted. Can we find somewhere warm, have a meal, and maybe talk about what happened to me?”
“Of course, let us try that other tavern, Candlehearth Hall. It might be full of racists, but at least it will be livelier than The New Gnisis Corner Mausoleum.”
Rigmor laughed, and once again, her mood switched with remarkable speed.
I was pleasantly surprised when she threaded her arm through mine and leaned her head on me as we walked.
When we were halfway there, she said, “So that you know, I like having you around.”
I replied, “That’s good because you are stuck with me.”
I stood before Ysgramor’s statue and felt like melting it with Dragonfire.
Rigmor tugged on my arm and said, “Forget him. He is not here, but I am!”
I handed Silda the Unseen a bag full of Septims. I was surprised to see a Khajiiti next to her!
I told her, “That should keep you off the street for some time. Buy some furs, Silda!”
“Divines bless your heart, Lord Welkynd.”
Rigmor looked at me and whispered, “Softy! You are a big, armed, and armoured softy!”
We entered Candlehearth Hall and were greeted with the same cacophony present in every Skyrim tavern except for one.
I told Rigmor, “The tables are upstairs.”
Rigmor rushed upstairs and nabbed a recently vacated table.
When I joined her, a waitress cleared the table of empty bottles and trays.
I knew food was not Rigmor’s priority. She was finally ready to unburden herself. I wondered if I was the second person she told her story to. Baa’Ren-Dar is likely the only other confidant.
“Talk if you wish, Rigmor. I understand if you can’t.”
“I do need to talk about what happened back then. That need is greater now that I know it wasn’t just random. A lot of the memory is broken. I think it was just my way of dealing with it all.”
“I bet your memory of leaping into the tree to escape the hunting party is vague. Our minds blank out memories to protect us.”
“Yeah, it is like that. I was only a young girl, and it wasn’t long after my fourteenth birth year when they came for my dad.”
“As I told you, those who know the real story, Ragnar is highly revered.”
“Yeah! That’s quite something, right?”
“You said your father never talked about the Great War or his time in Hammerfell.”
“No! Never! He would get quite annoyed if I asked about that.”
“That is why I got mad at Baa’Ren-Dar. He thought you should have figured out why The Thalmor hate you, but most soldiers do not discuss their war experiences with their families. You probably know very little about what he did on the battlefield.”
“Not much at all.”
“Please, continue. I am procrastinating.”
“Because I know this will hurt you to recall.”
“I have to, Wulf, for the very reasons you said. You need to understand.”
“Okay, no more procrastination. My mother said it would make me go blind.”
“Anyway, Dad would always give me a sword too heavy to practice with, but he insisted, and when I got used to it, he would give me another heavier one. He would say, ‘Rigmor, you may not know it now, but I do this because I won’t always be there for you and your mom! You are the only child and must be as much a son as a daughter. You must be strong! You are a Nord!”
“I wonder if friends in high places warned him of Dominion plans? He loved you and Sigunn dearly and tried to prepare you for what he feared would happen.”
“I still hate myself, you know, for not being there for him. Some son I turned out to be, huh!”
“Once again, I will tell you and will keep telling you. There is nothing you could have done!”
“They were supposed to let us go! You know, after my father agreed to their terms. After that, they separated me from my mom. I haven’t seen her since then. I’ll never forgive The Empire for turning their backs on us.”
“Did your father confess to the charges?”
“Yes. He was told they would let us go and not be killed if he did.”
“When did The Thalmor start mistreating you? Before or after your father was tricked into accepting their terms?”
“At the embassy, they treated us well. It was after we were extradited it all went bad. They kept their promise to my father to keep us alive, but just barely. It became a living hell. As you know, I was enslaved.”
So now we come to the parts I knew would hurt Rigmor, and in turn, that would hurt me.
Rigmor continued, “I had no rights, no life. I had no hope, and I was scared. I remember asking myself repeatedly, why can’t I go home?”
Rigmor needed to do this. I would not ask her to stop, even if it opens old wounds.
Rigmor said, “I wouldn’t do what they wanted, so they beat me.”
“NO! The Stupid Bosmer, of course! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to….”
“Rigmor, never apologise to me for getting angry when talking about this. I understand.”
“I was sent to Valenwood to work on a farm. There was this Bosmer and his two sons. What arseholes they were! I remember a high-ranking Justiciar would visit to check on me occasionally. Of course, now it is all so clear, but then….”
“But then you did not know exactly why this happened.”
“He would tell them if they touched me… you know!”
“If they molested you?”
“Yes, that. The Justiciar said he would ‘have their disgusting, worthless heads removed and placed on spikes.’ So instead of molesting me, the slavers beat me instead.”
I could not fathom why a Justiciar would care if a prisoner was raped. Especially when he was content to watch her flogged to death.
I asked Rigmor, “Do you know this Justiciar’s name?”
“Nah! But the bastard had me flogged like a dog.”
“Why? Did they keep failing to break you?”
“Yeah, I almost snapped the slavemaster’s neck. Hahaha! They didn’t understand, but I was raised as a true Nord fighter! My dad always told me it was better to live one day as a warrior than a lifetime as a coward. It would be the last time they raised their hand against me.”
The beating did not explain the scars on her back. I knew who inflicted those. I braced myself and asked, “What happened then?”
“I was placed in Thalmor custody, where they flogged me with their whips, horse crops, and whatever they thought would inflict pain. They didn’t want to dirty their hands, they said. I remember the first whipping but not much after that…until…until I awoke in a clean, soft bed. I thought I was in Sovngarde at first, but then the pain.”
“And it was Baa’Ren-Dar that rescued you?”
“Yes, he risked everything to save me. I love him dearly, and he is like a father to me.”
“So, you repaid him by naming your horse after him!”
“Oh, my! Hahaha yeah! Don’t tell him, though! He’ll growl at me, hahaha!”
“I can’t imagine Baa’Ren-Dar growling!”
“Yeah! Didn’t you know Khajiiti’s growl when they get mad? Hahaha!”
I was in despair with Rigmor as she described her horror. Then she lifted us both out of that darkness with her laugh. I had fallen in love with this remarkable woman and did not know if that would lead to happiness or disaster.
“Oh my! Haha! I think I am done talking about that for now.”
“Thank you for sharing it with me, Rigmor.”
“Do you thank me, Wulf? I have been watching your eyes, and tears have been streaming. You have looked so sad the last few minutes and also frightened.”
“I cry because they hurt you, there was a terrible injustice, and you thought you were all alone.”
“I thought I had recalled all parts of the nightmare when I told Baa’Ren-Dar. However, I remembered more as I talked and looked into your eyes. Wulf, explain how and why you were there and what scares you.”
“No, you will hate me. You will not want to continue travelling with me. No….”
“You love me, Wulf. Do you deny it?”
“I cannot deny it, nor can I admit it!”
“You think loving me is wrong because we have only known each other for a few days. You think it is wrong because you promised to be my Guardian, and some ambiguous moral code says it is wrong. You fear I will be offended and not want you to be my Guardian.”
“Please, if I had known you would remember so quickly, I would not have pushed so hard. I have made a terrible mistake.”
“Yes, I was alone and afraid, and then you visited. I asked, ‘Will you always be my guardian?’”
I was staring ahead, not saying a word. I was trapped in an unravelling nightmare and knew no escape.
Rigmor continued, “You replied, ‘I can’t promise, but I will try. I will not stop out of choice. I hope that is good enough.’”
I whispered, “That was a pledge. An oath.”
“Do you think I am going to release you from that oath? Why would I do that, Wulf? You knew I was in trouble when I fell off the cliff and were there when Angi found me.”
“Yes, I was, but I don’t know how I knew you were hurt.”
“And you were there again when I jumped into the trees to escape the Thalmor.”
“Yes. But you called for me that time, and I knew where you were. So unlike the other times, I was physically there.”
‘I had also called for my Guardian when I fell off the cliff, but you don’t remember that.”
“No, I don’t.”
“From the moment I looked into your eyes when screaming about missing undies, I knew you, Wulf. I knew you in a way I have never known another person. Why is that?”
“Eyes are the mirrors of the soul.”
“Deep down, I remembered my Guardian. That is why I called out for you twice. But I never called for you the first time in that Thalmor cell. So why did you come to me, Wulf?”
“Lady Mara says we have Entwined Souls. Every Kalpa, our souls will seek each other amongst the billions of other souls. When the Entwined Souls are with each other, their sum exceeds their parts. They work together in ways mysterious to The Divines.”
“That is the coolest gobblygook ever!”
I remained silent, waiting for the dismissal that was sure to come.
Rigmor continued, “When the last whipping occurred, I was prepared to die. I wanted to die as a last act of defiance. You said, ‘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?’”
Tears flowed freely, and for the first time in my life, logic, knowledge, and Divine gifts provided no solution.
Rigmor whispered, “It was then that I realised I had three things to live for. Do you know what they were, Wulf?”
“I can guess two of the reasons. They are to find and rescue your mother and exact revenge. I am sorry, I don’t know the third.”
“Think, Wulf, what could have been the third thing worth living for?”
“I don’t know, Rigmor.”
“I wanted to live so I could meet my Guardian.”
I laughed bitterly and replied, “Well, here he is. I am sorry I am not what you hoped for.”
“You are bound to me by your oath. I have no intention of releasing you, Wulf Welkynd.”
“You have seen it in my eyes and tried to deny it because it doesn’t fit into that ambiguous moral code. I love you, Wulf Welkynd! If you use that logic that you go on about, you will realise that we have known each other for more than a few days. How many lifetimes over how many Kalpa have our souls been entwined?”
“But you don’t know this person who was shaped by unknown events!”
“I see a man who cares deeply for others. Handing a bag of coins to the beggar just then is one example. You have orphanages and orphans and speak kindly to people of all social statuses. You have not once shown anger towards my outbursts when others would soon tire of them. You risk your life and ask for nothing in return. Not admiration or riches or power. Whatever secrets remain cannot remove what I see in your actions and eyes. Accept this fact, Wulf. I love you and want you to continue being my Guardian.”
“I don’t know what to say or what to do, Rigmor.”
“I do. We continue, and I will let you reveal your secrets as we go and as you planned. But now you have the confidence they will not change how I feel. I cannot find anything as shocking as what we just discussed.”
“Do you want to bet a Sweetroll on that?”
“Ahh…no. Anyway, for now, we concentrate on finding Mum. Things will work out if we don’t force anything, Wulf.”
“You must have so many questions.”
“Yes, but they can wait. Before I threw a tantrum outside The New Gnisis Corner Mausoleum, you were worried about something Baa’Ren told you. What was it?”
“He didn’t tell me exactly, but I remembered something he said the day he watched you being whipped. Rigmor, the same person hunting you, is the Justiciar that placed you and visited you on that Valenwood Farm. He was the one who ordered your whipping in front of Baa’Ren-Dar. He is the one in charge of the hundred elite troops hunting you. He is General Tilar Aedriath.”
“I think Baa’Ren-Dar was afraid of what impact that information would have on you.”
“If we had met him without that information, I don’t know what would have happened. At least now I can try and prepare for that possible meeting.”
“You must rest overnight. I will prepare some different armour for you and a different wig. I will hone your father’s sword and Angi’s special bow for you. I will put a chain on the amulet so you can wear it. I will wear a special set of armour that disguises who I am. Then we shall travel by horse to that place and retrieve the list. It will be a long ride.”
“That sounds like a plan except for one major thing.”
“I am famished!”
“I shall cook a meal for you. After all, that is part of a batman’s duties.”
“My armour protects against poison, so I should be safe.”
“Haha. We need to see if there is an assassin after Malborn. I don’t want him to be another victim.”
“Tell me before we go anywhere, Wulf.”
“Tell you what?”
“What you have wanted to tell me for years. What your heart says is right, and fuck anybody who thinks otherwise. Three words, Wulf. You can do it!”
“I love you.”
“Wow, and the world hasn’t ended! I love you too, my silly, weird Dragonborn. Now stop dawdling!”
I knew the issue was unresolved as we headed to the Khajiiti caravan reserve. Rigmor may accept my unusual parentage when I tell her. However, I doubt she has thought about loving somebody who must continually risk their life. And today showed that I risk those around me. Assassins will always be hunting me. If my enemies can’t physically hurt me, they will hunt the ones I love.
The Khajiiti had packed up and were ready to move to the next city. They were all carrying torches, and the area was brighter than a sunny midday.
I recognised all the Khajiiti but one. I spoke to the Caravan Master, Ma’dran.
He said, “Greetings, Lord Welkynd. I can trade for gems if you want, but our goods are packed for our travels.”
“I believe an assassin for The Thalmor might be among you. There is only one Khajiiti I do not recognise.”
“Ah, you must mean J’datharr. He is not one of us and has been observing the entrance to Windhelm for days. His target is fortunate that Khajiiti are not allowed in Windhelm.”
“Do you mind if I remove the scum?”
“No, he is a Thalmor agent and, therefore, filth.”
Ma’dran gave a hand signal, which alerted the others that trouble was brewing. When I stood before J’datharr, he remained unaware that all the Khajiiti now suspect him, as their friend, Lord Welkynd, was trusted.
I stared at J’datharr, who became uneasy and finally said, “Move on, friend. I have nothing to sell today.”
“You sold your loyalty to The Thalmor and are a traitor to Elsweyr. Malborn is under my protection.”
“Ah… very good. I think we understand each other.”
J’datharr went to draw his sword.
The Khajiiti around him stepped away.
I stunned him with my shield.
As I killed J’datharr, several mages conjured spirit creatures. They were not needed.
On the assassin was a note I read aloud.
“Description of Target:
Bosmer male, goes by Malborn. Believed to be working for the Blades, so approach with caution.
He knows our procedures well. Therefore, he will be warier than usual. Malborn is not his real name. He’s now been identified as a survivor of a family of traitors. They were eliminated in an ‘accidental’ fire in Falinesti.
Do not risk him evading us. He’s likely trying to leave Skyrim. Make sure of your kill, and do not implicate us.”
I told the audience, “The note was written on Thalmor Embassy letterhead. That implicates them, don’t you think.”
The Khajiiti laughter was still heard when Rigmor and I were halfway to Windhelm’s gate.
We found Malborn sitting with all his friends at the bar. The Dunmer woman who told Ambarys I was The Dragonborn was singing my song.
I told Malborn, “The assassin is dead. It is safe to leave Windhelm.”
“That’s great news. I’d… I’d better go. Right now! Before they find me again. This is my chance.”
Malborn held out a bag of coins and said, “Thank you! Here, I stole a lot from the Thalmor over the years. You may as well have some of it.”
“No, Malborn, I do not accept payment for doing the right thing. I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for helping with the embassy.”
Rigmor asked, “Where to now?”
“To my Gallery Safehouse in Solitude. Nobody else lives there at the moment. Are you ready to teleport?”
We teleported into The Gallery Safehouse.
“Okay, Rigmor, I shall show you where you can bathe and change. I will prepare a meal while you are doing that.”
I showed Rigmor the spa and how to operate it.
We entered the main bedroom.
I said, “You will sleep in that bed. I have a comfy chair, not a horrible wooden one that I will place next to it. In that room there, you will find traditional clothes from Akavir suitable to wear and sleep in. I will be in the kitchen. If you need me, follow the charred smell.”
I made my mild version of Elsweyr Chowder. Rigmor was surprised as it is one of Baa’Ren-Dar’s favourite foods, and she enjoyed it.
We chatted but avoided anything profound that might lead to a long conversation. Rigmor was fatigued, and she had been pushing herself hard.
When Rigmor lay down, she fell asleep in seconds. I took the opportunity to write a couple of journal entries.
Then I let Rigmor’s rhythmic breathing lull me to sleep.
In Aetherius, The Nine consulted with The Jills. Another major Junction had appeared; as before, it was not predicted or understood.
That is not how things are supposed to be. All agreed it had something to do with Valdr Septim and that an event foreseen by the Psijic Order and Saint Alessia became more of a certainty.