Fredas, 12th Hearthfire, 4E 201
Tsubaki and Rigmor chatted all morning, and a friendship was formed.
After a hearty morning meal and soaking in the sauna, we were ready for the day.
Tsubaki left us to attend to her duties.
I told Rigmor, “We shall Recall to a Mark I left at Septimus’ excavation.”
“Ahh, what is a Mark?”
“If I don’t know a place well enough to teleport there, I place a Mark. The spell I use to teleport to the Mark is called Recall.”
“Oh, and if you visit somewhere a few times, you don’t need the Mark.”
“You got it!”
“Maybe I could be a mage?”
“I think you would enjoy Fireballs way too much.”
“I know a particular general who could do with a few Fireballs up his backside!”
“We will send Aedriath to The Void sooner than later.”
“I hope my Night Terrors die with him!”
“So do I, my dear Rigmor.”
“Well then, let’s get the day started.”
“We are going from the warmth of this house to the icefields.”
I cast Recall, and we were instantly outside in the freezing wind.
Rigmor said, “F…f…f…freezing!”
“You were going to say the F word.”
“Ladies such as I do not say the F word! They get their batman to do it for them.”
“Fuck, it is freezing!”
“Well done! Keep it up, and I may even feed you today.”
We entered the excavation, and Rigmor whispered, “Did I ever tell you that I hate caves?”
“I am sure it is on the list I made.”
“The long list of things you hate.”
“I hope you are on there.”
“Who is talking?”
“That is Master Mage Septimus Signus. Listen to him.”
Rigmor listened, and I had to laugh as her forehead creased. She was trying desperately to understand his ramblings, which hadn’t changed since I last visited him.
Septimus said, “Dig, Dwemer, in the beyond. I’ll know your lost unknown and rise to your depths. When the top-level was built, no more could be placed. It was and is the maximal apex.”
We made our way to Septimus, and I don’t think he recognised me.
I said, “Champion of Lord Mora, I used the round object for tuning and gained access to Black Reach. Then we found Mzark’s Tower and the transcription machine within. With it, I focused the knowings of the Elder Scroll onto the cube until it brimmed with the glow. The lore is now laid upon the cube!”
Septimus’ eyes widened as he demanded, “Give it to me! Quickly!”
As soon as Septimus saw the lexicon, he snatched it from me.
Septimus did not have the means to read the information in the lexicon. The Dwemer created machines to transcribe them and other machines to interpret them. Therefore, it is evident that he was parroting information placed into his mind by Hermaeus Mora.
He said, “Extraordinary. I see it now. The sealing structure interlocks in the tiniest fractals. Dwemer blood can loosen the hooks, but none alive remain to bear it. A panoply of their brethren could gather to form a facsimile. A trick. Something they didn’t anticipate, no, not even them. The blood of Altmer, Bosmer, Dunmer, Falmer, and Orsimer. The elves still living will provide the key.”
“You want to combine the blood of Mer species to trick a Blood Seal.”
“Yes! Bear you hence this extractor. It will drink the fresh blood of elves. Come when its set is complete.”
From his bag, Septimus retrieved a complex contraption made from Dwemer metal. Nobody knows how to work Dwemer metal, and the cave has no equipment, even if he did.
I told Septimus, “We shall return shortly, for I already have blood samples from those Mer species. But why just those, Champion of Mora? Surely Chimer would be better than Dunmer? Snow Elf must be better than Falmer. What about Maormer, Ayleid and Sinistral?”
As expected, I received a blank look and no reply. Septimus is a puppet who only repeats what Hermaeus Mora planted.
As Septimus wandered away, something at the exit tunnel caught my eye.
One of Hermaeus Mora’s avatars had appeared. This one was called The Wretched Abyss.
I told Rigmor, “Hermaeus Mora wants to talk to me. Do not engage with him, for that invites him into your mind. Just stand back and listen.”
Rigmor looked up at Mora, shuddered, and said, “Ah…okay.”
I approached Hermaeus Mora and stood a few feet from him.
I felt him probe my mind’s defences, tentatively at first and then with power, anger, and intent.
I said, “Lord Mora, you cannot penetrate my mind’s barriers.”
In a slow drawl, he replied, “Come closer. Bask in my presence?”
“There is nothing to bask in. You are just another avatar of another Daedric Prince.”
“I am the guardian of the unseen and knower of the unknown. I have been watching you, mortal. You are most impressive.”
“Prove it! List the places I have been in the last week.”
“Your continuing aid to Septimus renders him increasingly obsolete. He has served me well, but his time is nearing its end. Once that infernal lockbox is opened, he will have exhausted his usefulness to me. When that time comes, you shall take his place as my emissary. What say you?”
“Be warned. Many have thought as you do. I have broken them all. You shall not evade me forever.”
“Oh, cut the crap! You lie to me yet think I would trust you. You have no idea who I am, where I have been or what I have been doing. You have no power here. I have far better sources of information than you, and I do not deal with liars. You will never break me, for my morals are stronger than any temptation you dangle before me!”
“Go forth. Do the biddings of Septimus, for he is working my will in your plane.”
“A plane in which you have no power. That is why you needed the aid of a mediocre mage. I will gather the blood and open the Dwemer Lockbox to prevent you from obtaining its contents. Feel free to stop me if you can.”
Mora growled, and his avatar vanished.
Rigmor followed me outside.
I looked at the blood extractor and was impressed with its quality.
Rigmor seemed worried.
She asked, “Is it wise to antagonise a Daedric Prince like that?”
“Hermaeus Mora is one of the worst liars and deniers.”
“He refuses to acknowledge mortal free will. He thinks he can manipulate any person into doing what he desires. As for antagonising him, what is he going to do? He has no power in Mundus that can harm me. If I ever visit Apocrypha, Mora’s plane in Oblivion, he would not harm me if I am not actively seeking to harm him. I will always be a potential source of knowledge to him.
“What about the mad mage? Was he telling lies as well?”
“Septimus is a mindless puppet. He had no way of reading the information in the lexicon. The extractor, the device he gave me, is the work of an expert in Dwemer metal. There is nobody alive with the required skills. Also, there is nothing inside that cave to melt the Dwemer metal or make the device. Tell me, Rigmor, why would he already have the device since he didn’t know it was required till he ‘read’ the lexicon?”
“Hermaeus Mora must have already known how to open the Dwemer Lockbox.”
“Yes, but Mora needed somebody with my skills to accomplish the last part.”
“The collecting of the blood.”
“Yep. But I don’t have to collect blood samples as I already have them.”
“That is weird. Why have samples of blood?”
“Blood is sometimes used as a reagent. Also, it is sometimes necessary to test alchemical formulas on different blood types.”
“Okay, not weird, but icky!”
“I will transport us to The Safe House, make the blood concoction and then return here.”
“Will Hermaeus Mora make another appearance?”
“Absolutely. Mora has more lies to tell!”
We teleported into The Safe House.
Then we made our way to the workroom.
On a shelf was a box with the needed blood samples.
I used the needles on The Extractor to suck the blood from the sealed bottles. Then I poured the mixed blood into a vial.
Rigmor asked, “Is that it? How does it work?”
“You smear the combined blood on your palm and press it against the Dwemer Lockbox. In theory, that should be enough to fool a basic Blood Seal. It would not be enough to fool a complex Blood Seal, like those designed to test for Saint Alessia’s bloodline.”
“Hermaeus Mora probably thinks you must kill one of each type of Mer to collect the blood.”
“Yes, because he has no idea about who I am or what resources I have.”
“Are all Daedric Princes big fat liars?”
“They all lie. However, if you get an agreement from a Daedric Prince, it is sacrosanct. They will keep the bargain made. You have to be sure you have worded the agreement properly. Hermaeus Mora trades knowledge. Septimus opened his mind to Hermaeus Mora to receive knowledge. However, that allowed Mora to eliminate the free will of the mage. He has murdered and spread plagues for his master.”
“What do you think is in the Dwemer Lockbox?”
“Septimus thinks it contains the Heart of Lorkhan. I don’t think so because The Nerevarine disposed of that. Plus, it would be too powerful an artefact to give to a mortal mage. I don’t know what is in there.”
“Take a guess.”
“An endless barrel of mead.”
“Cool! No way would I let Lord Mora have that!”
Less than half an hour after leaving, we returned to Septimus’ excavation.
We went to Septimus, who stared at me with no recognition.
I held out the vial of mixed blood and said, “He is the blood mixture!”
Septimus took the vial from me and replied, “I can almost… hear them. I feel their life energy.”
He poured the mixture on his hand and then held it against the Dwemer Lockbox.
It slowly opened, creating a metal tunnel to its central chamber.
Septimus ran as he was eager to see what was uncovered.
I told Rigmor, “Come on, I sense no great dweomer or Magicka.”
Rigmor followed me at a more sedate pace than Septimus.
The elderly mage stared at a pedestal upon which lay a book. It was not Lorkhan’s Heart.
Septimus was confused, for he believed the lies of his master. He lamented, “What is this… it’s… it’s just a book?!”
I replied, “The cover is made of mortal skins. It is the Oghma Infinium. How it ended up in a Dwemer Lockbox is a mystery.”
In an ecstatic voice, Septimus declared, “The world beyond burns in my mind. It’s marvellous….”
Septimus floated into the air.
Rigmor screamed as the mage disintegrated when falling to the ground.
Only a pile of ash remained.
I told Rigmor, “Hermaeus Mora has claimed Septimus’ soul. He could only kill him this way because the mage had let him inside his soul.”
“Mora is a tentacled turd!”
“Yeah, I don’t think I will invite him to my house for a meal and talk.”
“What is that book?”
“It is called the Oghma Infinium. Lord Xarxes wrote it from information provided by Mora. It can make its reader smarter, stronger, or sneakier, but it would not benefit me. Once read, it returns to Hermaeus Mora.”
I placed the Oghma Infinium into my Journal Case.
Rigmor said, “The Tentacled Turd is blocking our exit. I won’t try to speak to him, but please, try and be more polite this time.”
I laughed as I climbed the stairs and stood before Mora.
“Ahh, my champion.”
“Call me what you want but know I will never serve you.”
“Now you have my Oghma Infinium. It contains the knowledge of the ages as revealed to Xarxes, my loyal servant. For hundreds of years, it’s been shut away from the world. Septimus was a useful tool for unleashing it. Now it is in your hands. Let us work wonders together…”
“Xarxes was a loyal servant to Auri-El and used you. And I told you, Lord Mora, that I will never serve you.”
“Who do you think brought Septimus here? Who do you think protected you on your journey to open the box and release my knowledge into this world?”
“Millions of mortal mages, including me, can control a mortal as you did with Septimus. That is no great feat of power! As for protecting me, that is just another lie. As we established earlier, you don’t even know who I am or where I have been, and you have no power in Mundus.”
“Your free will is an illusion. Whether you acknowledge me or not is your own business. But I will be in your mind.”
“Where is the Oghma Infinium now, Lord Mora? You can’t detect it, can you? How did it end up in this Dwemer Lockbox? It seems another mortal used their free will to lock it away as I have. I chose to do that as I chose not to read it. But it is in Aetherius, so if I did read it, your dweomer would fail, and it would remain there. You will never be able to use it to bribe another mortal.”
Mora remained silent.
I continued, “You lied to Septimus because the pathetic knowledge within the Oghma Infinium was not worth his soul. He would have rejected you if that was your only offer. But Lorkhan’s Heart was irresistible to him, and so a bargain was struck based on your lies. As for being inside my mind, you could not breach its barriers. You have no lingering presence in my conscious or subconscious.”
Mora’s avatar faded away, and we exited the lockbox.
I asked, “Well, was I more polite this time?”
“You didn’t call him Tentacled Turd. So, I suppose you were polite enough.”
“I want the Oghma Infinium placed in my museum’s Aetherius pocket plane. It is a more secure place than my Journal Case. Therefore, we will head to my museum and then Riften.”
When we exited, Rigmor pointed and asked, “Is that The College of Winterhold?”
“Yes, it is. We will visit there when we get the chance.”
“Do they have a lot of books?”
“They have dozens of bookshelves forty feet high. Every shelf is crammed with books, a fraction of their collection.”
“You might have to drag me out of there!”
“Let’s get out of this cold! When we visit Riften, we will teleport directly into Mara’s Temple.”
We teleported into the museum and soon found Auryen.
“Good morning, Head Librarian Auryen.”
“Good morning to you, Guildmaster.”
“Here, put this somewhere safe.”
I handed Oghma Infinium to Auryen and watched his eyes grow wide.
He said, “Could it be? The binding looks authentic. Perhaps it is.”
“Yes, Auryen, it is the Oghma Infinium. It will be stored on the pocket plane we share with The College of Winterhold. Nobody is allowed to touch it until I can study it. That means nobody, including a certain Orsimer librarian.”
“I assume there is an interesting tale behind its acquisition?”
“It was inside a Dwemer Lockbox. Hermaeus Mora manipulated Master Mage Septimus Signus so that the lockbox could be opened.”
“I assume things didn’t turn out well for Septimus.”
“Mora killed him and tried to manipulate me. Mora is another Daedric Prince that has a champion they dislike.”
“That is a pity. Septimus’ tomes on Elder Scrolls were excellent. Did Lord Mora name you as his champion?”
“Celestine dropped by earlier, and I gave her a rare book about Miraak called ‘The Guardian and The Traitor.’ I have another copy for the museum, if you want to read it.”
Auryen handed me the book. Which I quickly read to myself.
“One of the more intriguing legends found on the island of Solstheim is the story of a mythical figure whose name is long forgotten but whom time remembers as ‘The Traitor.’
Certain that this myth is rooted in history, I set out to learn what I could and perhaps piece together a presumptive account of the events that gave rise to the legend.
The tale is remembered best by the shamans of The Skaal, that unique tribe of Nords whose culture evolved along an entirely divergent path from that of their brethren in Skyrim.
I spoke at length to the shaman of Skaal Village, a wise and hospitable man named Breigr Winter-Moon. He described an age long ago when dragons ruled over the entire world and were worshipped as gods by mortals. Presiding over this cult of dragon-worshippers were the Dragon Priests, powerful mages who could speak the dragon language and call upon the power of The Thu’um, or The Voice.
According to the legend, one such Dragon Priest was seduced by a dark spirit named Herma-Mora, an unmistakable analogue for the Daedric prince Hermaeus Mora. Lured by promises of power, this treacherous priest secretly plotted against his dragon master.
The Traitor’s plot was discovered by one of his contemporaries, another Dragon Priest whom legend named The Guardian. The two fought a mighty battle that lasted for days, each hurling terrible arcane energies, and Thu’um Shouts at the other.
So great and terrible were the forces unleashed in this contest that Solstheim was torn apart from the mainland of Skyrim. Here, the myth clearly descends into the realm of pure fantasy.
The Guardian, whom the legend presents as a paragon of loyalty and nobility, finally defeats the despicable Traitor, who seems to represent all that is corrupt and evil in men. Their epic duel is clearly representative of a greater struggle between good and evil. Perhaps it is this timeless quality that has kept the tale alive for so long.
Unlike many similar myths, the tale of The Guardian and The Traitor does not feature a suitably heroic ending. Herma-Mora snatches The Traitor away just as The Guardian is about to strike the killing blow.
The dragons appoint The Guardian ruler of Solstheim, but not before he is compelled to swear an oath of vigilance to watch for The Traitor’s return. His reign is, by all accounts, a time of peace and prosperity for the island’s people, and he is remembered as a wise and just leader.
No further mention is made of the Traitor, but neither is he thought to be dead. The legend ends on a cautionary note that the people of Solstheim, the heirs of The Guardian, must remain wary, lest the dark influence of Herma-Mora, or even the Traitor himself, return someday.
Although no physical clues exist now on Solstheim to suggest the presence of the dragon cult, it is hardly difficult to believe that it might once have flourished here. Perhaps some hidden tomb still waits to be discovered that will tell the truth of the tale.
There are other tantalising clues, though perhaps these connections strain the bonds of credibility. For example, is it possible that the Skaal deity, the All-Maker, is some distant echo of mighty Alduin, the World-Eater of the ancient Nord pantheon?
Perhaps not, but one thing is certain: Solstheim’s history is riddled with unanswered questions. Perhaps future generations will pull aside the veils of mystery and reveal the truth about the origins of the Skaal and the identities of The Guardian and The Traitor.”
I handed the book back and said, “Miraak has been Mora’s guest for forty-five centuries.”
“Yes, but if Mora named you champion, he must have had a falling out with Miraak.”
“I will send some people to Solstheim to see what is happening there. I have much to contemplate regarding Miraak. For now, other things take priority. Divine blessings, Auryen.”
“Take care, Guildmaster.”
I asked, “Are you ready, Rigmor?”
We teleported into Riften’s Temple of Mara, which startled some pilgrims.
I was about to explain to them who I was when Lady Mara did it for me.
Mara’s voice, which sounded like each individual’s mother, said, “Wulf and Rigmor, please approach.”
The stunned pilgrims sat and watched as we approached Mara’s statue.
- Mara: As you know, Dragonchild, we can only see things on Mundus when they are close to our altars and avatars. I greatly desired to see you as a pair, and now I have.
- Wulf: Curiosity, Lady Mara? My heart is warmed to see my gods still have that quality.
- Mara: You look stunned, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Not all mortals are used to gods speaking to them, Lady Mara.
- Wulf: Now you have seen us together. What are your thoughts?
- Mara: The bond between your parents is powerful, Wulf. However, I have rarely seen the likes that exist between you two.
- Rigmor: Priestess Freir said that other gods, not The Nine, may also show interest in me.
- Mara: That is true. I think there is something unique about you, Rigmor, but I cannot say what. However, as a pair, your strength lies in your love and other beings will notice that. Depending on their predilections, they will consider it a blessing or a curse.
- Wulf: I think Lady Azura is one of those other gods.
- Rigmor: What? Why didn’t you tell me?
- Wulf: I forgot. I came to that conclusion just before I fell asleep last night. The Black Diamonds are hers.
- Mara: We have little to do with those entities and cannot see into their realm. However, one of her devotees is waiting to see you both.
- Rigmor: Baa’Ren-Dar.
- Mara: Yes, he also prays to Mother Cat regularly and is an impressive individual.
- Wulf: Priestess Frier thought it essential to remember how strong our love is. Do you know why, Lady Mara?
- Mara: All I may say is this. There are testing times ahead, and perhaps only the strength of your love will allow the outcomes you and The Nine desire.
- Wulf: That, Rigmor, is the only answer I will get.
- Rigmor: Wulf explained to me why The Nine have to be careful.
- Mara: Forewarning is not always helpful and can often lead to the outcome you try to avoid.
- Rigmor: Lady Mara, why do you sound like my mother?
- Mara: If you ask Wulf, he will say I sound like his mother. If a mortal doesn’t know their mother’s voice, I will sound like the kindest female they know. It is how I willed it to be.
- Rigmor: Have you encountered other entwined souls?
- Mara: Wulf might not know this, but his parents’ souls are entwined.
- Wulf: I suspected but did not know for sure.
- Rigmor: And their love was strong enough to do what was needed to have a son.
- Mara: Others are listening, for I wanted the pilgrims to be rewarded for their faith. Therefore, all I will say is this. The strength of their love allowed for the impossible to be. Yet their bond is not as strong as what you share with Wulf. You will ask how I measure such a thing as love. I cannot tell you, for it is intuitive and a sense I have developed.
- Rigmor: Gobblygook and metaphysics.
- Mara: That is correct. I am glad Wulf did not put you to sleep when discussing those things.
- Rigmor: It must be proof of how strong our bond is.
Lady Mara laughed, and it was as if my mother laughed, and tears came unbidden to my eyes.
- Mara: Dragonchild, your mother’s will is strong. Have faith that she will prevail.
- Wulf: But there is no guarantee.
- Mara: No, but that is true for most things.
- Wulf: Even Father has doubts about the outcome, Lady Mara.
- Mara: Baa’Ren-Dar awaits you in the back room.
Lady Mara’s presence faded.
A voice called, “Lord Welkynd, can I please talk to you? It is urgent.”
I walked over to a Khajiiti priestess.
I asked, “Can I help you, Priestess Ahnasari?”
“During the recent dragon attack on Riften, Governess Kishirra was killed.”
“Oh, I did not know that. Kishirra was a kind soul and a credit to the Khajiiti race. Is Constance Michel the governess now?”
“Unfortunately, no. Mavin Black-Briar intervened with the Jarl’s decision making and one of her cronies, an elderly Nord called Grelod, was made governess. She is unsuited to the position and is miserly and cruel. I do not want to bias your opinion further, but I ask that you visit and see how the orphanage is being run.”
“Okay, Priestess, I will visit the orphanage soon.”
“That was the first time I heard Lady Mara’s voice. It has filled me with wonder, and I am sure the pilgrims will discuss it for years.”
“Blessings of The Nine, Priestess.”
We went to the back room, where Baa’Ren-Dar sat at a small table. He stared ahead but then looked to the doorway as if he sensed our presence.
Rigmor whispered, “Wulf.”
I turned to face her.
She said, “I am suddenly feeling tired and dizzy and need to rest.”
Priestess Ahnasari, who had been trailing us, explained, “Rigmor, you may use the bed in the room behind Emissary Baa’Ren-Dar.”
As Rigmor walked past Baa’Ren, she told him, “Hello, Baa’Ren. We are here, and Wulf will talk to you. I have to rest.”
Baa’Ren looked at me, and I shrugged.
I followed Rigmor into the room and watched her settle on the bed.
When I left the room, I closed the door behind me.
I then sat at the table with Baa’Ren.
Before I could say anything, Priestess Ahnasari said, “Let me clear our lunch from the table.”
She picked up two bowls of food and then left the room.
Baa’Ren-Dar looked tired and sad when he asked, “Why is Rigmor avoiding Khajiit? Is their anger at this one’s mistake about Aedriath?”
“No, Baa’Ren. I have an idea of what is happening. Rather than speak for Rigmor, I will ensure she talks to you before we depart.”
“Khajiit would feel better if that was so. Were Dragonborn and Rigmor successful with their task?”
“Yes. Yngol will talk to Ulfric. Casius will talk to General Tullius and start preparations. I think the truce will happen.”
“Did Dragonborn have trouble with Yngol?”
“I don’t know if my status as Dragonborn or Rigmor’s presence was the deciding factor. I found it difficult to keep my feelings about Ulfric concealed.”
“It is part of the diplomacy business and can be difficult.”
“Rigmor heard about some of Ragnar’s time in The Great War and Hammerfell. I think she better understands why he never spoke about it.”
“Khajiit has never been in a large battle.”
“And I hope you never have to experience one. Did you find the location of Diamond Ridge Mine?”
“This one has spoken to someone living at Shor’s Stone mining village. He has seen this mine we seek. It is high up on the border of Skyrim and High Rock. The journey to it is perilous, so be warned.”
“Can you please mark it on my map?”
Baa’Ren-Dar marked my map and then returned it to me.
I looked at the map and commented, “That is not far from a camp we visited the other day. Did the miner mention anything else?”
“That one said the mine is closely guarded and that someone wants to keep its location a secret. He doesn’t know why.”
“I don’t think they want to keep its location a secret. That is impossible since people like the miner have seen and know of it. Their activities within the mine, not its location, are a secret. The New Order were brutal in its efforts to keep what they were doing at Fort Black a secret. They tortured and murdered to do so and with the flimsiest of suspicions. I suspect they may be even more paranoid at the mine. We will probably encounter many guards and soldiers.”
“Make sure you take enough supplies with you. It is unpopulated territory.”
“I am a mage, Baa’Ren-Dar, so supplies are never an issue. Lady Kynareth has placed Pillars around Skyrim that I can teleport to. There is one close that will leave a relatively short walk from it to the mine.”
“Take good care of Rigmor. If you do find Sigunn there….”
“Rigmor’s reactions could be severe, depending on her mother’s state. Like always, I will look after her.”
Rigmor’s said from the bedroom, “Hey, I can hear you, ya know!”
I replied, “Then Baa’Ren-Dar and I will move elsewhere to talk behind your back.”
Rigmor laughed, then said, “Good, but I want a full report later, Dragonbum!”
Baa’Ren-Dar laughed then suggested, “Dragonborn might walk and talk with Khajiit?”
“Let us find a pew, Baa’Ren. I will not leave Rigmor alone, even inside Mother Cat’s temple.”
The temple had been packed earlier. Now it was eerily deserted.
I sat next to Baa’Ren-Dar. He looked worried.
“What is it, Baa’Ren?”
“How is Rigmor holding up?”
“Rigmor is doing well, but I still worry about future meetings with Aedriath, and there is some fatigue from her injury and healing.”
“Dragonborn mentioned an emergency in Solitude and that you told Jarl Elisif of the possible invasion. May Khajiit ask what that emergency was?”
“Some necromancers tried to summon and bind Potema’s soul a while ago. I interrupted the ceremony and prevented the binding, but Potema’s soul fled and was free in Mundus. Like many powerful necromancers, she had arranged for a refuge to which her soul could flee. It was in the Solitude catacombs.”
“That one’s hiding place was discovered?”
“Potema let people know where it was. She wanted to recruit me and knew I would come to investigate. She overestimated her powers and underestimated mine. Rigmor and several friends accompanied me into the catacombs, and we fought many undead, including Draugr and vampires, before reaching Potema. Then we defeated her most powerful minions, and I sent Potema back to The Void. A Priest of Arkay performed some rights over Potema’s remains, and she will never be summoned again.”
“Rigmor helped you fight the undead, including Potema?”
“Yes. I still have duties as Champion of The Divines, and Rigmor has helped me with some of them. Today she helped me thwart Hermaeus Mora. It was an important lesson for her. She saw how Daedric Princes can lie and manipulate.”
“Khajiit could never imagine Rigmor facing Hermaeus Mora.”
“She saw his avatar, The Wretched Abyss, and heard him talking to me. Rigmor is brave, Baa’Ren, and a fine warrior. I have no doubt she would have aided me against Alduin.”
“This one should tell you about the other side of Rigmor, the child inside.”
“I have recognised it is still there. I wish all adults kept part of their child inside. Please, go ahead.”
“Rigmor would sit on the veranda of my house in Torval for hours, taking in the view. Sometimes she would write poetry or sing songs she had written. She loved to pick flowers in the garden. It wasn’t always easy, but seeing her grow into a young woman was always a joy.”
“How long was she enslaved?”
“About six months.”
“I wonder how many times they beat her?”
“Rigmor does not know and only remembers a couple of them.”
“I have fought beside many warriors and have never seen a better exponent of the greatsword.”
“Ragnar taught her all he could. Then this one paid for expensive tutors to teach more skills at Rigmor’s request.”
“Please, tell me more about the younger Rigmor.”
“Rigmor had the most beautiful hair and loved dressing up, and Khajiit would send for the best dresses coin could buy. Imported from all over Nirn.”
“But not those Morrowind dresses?”
“No, it seems there is a special arrangement with the market in Riften.”
“Did she only like red dresses?”
“Rigmor enjoyed dresses of many colours, but she especially liked them in red.”
“Then something has changed Baa’Ren-Dar. I offered to buy her a red dress from Morrowind at the market, but she declined. She thought she was too ugly to wear one.”
“Yet, you decided to purchase one with Khajiit’s help.”
“Yes. I did not think Rigmor would listen if I argued with her. I thought if I bought her a dress and she agreed to wear it, she would realise she was wrong and is beautiful.”
“Good strategy, Dragonborn. When Rigmor came of age…she changed.”
“The Thalmor and New Order would still have hunted her down if she was a dainty young noblewoman. Rigmor knew she could not stay in Torval forever and needed to find her mother. I believe the skills and determination she developed saved her life.”
“Dragonborn… there is a place this one knows of, not far from Ivarstead. It’s a little overlook and a camp Khajiit passed by in his travels. The mountain flowers grow in abundance. The view from the overlook… you can see down into the valley to the coast. Rigmor would love this place, and it would make her very happy.”
“When we went to Fort Black, we climbed a rickety old structure during a blizzard to look over a valley. I promised I would take her to the summit of The Throat of The World one day. Rigmor shows great delight in flowers, so I have no doubt she would like this lookout. Please, mark it on my map.”
Once more, Baa’Ren took my map and marked it. Then he handed it back to me.
Baa’Ren bent over, and his voice wavered as he asked, “Would you make this old Khajiit happy and take her there? Who knows what the gods have in store for you both? Who knows if they plan to take her away from me? Let her find peace, if only for a short time.”
“That is not far from Ivarstead, and she will enjoy the horse ride. There is a waterfall and river near there that reminds me of my childhood home in Roscrea. I have wanted to travel more with Rigmor, but there are so many bounty hunters and bandits it is too hazardous. Therefore, I teleport her as close as possible to our destinations. However, when we travel, Rigmor lightens my heart with the beauty she sees in the world. That is miraculous after the darkness she has seen and experienced. You saw at Angi’s that she is enveloped in a special peace because of my presence. I find peace in hers. I will take Rigmor to this lookout because she will like it, making us both smile. I will take her there because her father asked me to, and I want to make him smile too.”
“Thank you, Dragonborn. This one knows you have feelings for each other. Although Rigmor can be strong, she can also be fragile. Would it be impertinent for this old Khajiit to ask what you plan to do about these feelings?”
“If we remove the danger of The New Order and find Sigunn, then maybe Rigmor can return to a normal life. She can look forward to long hair and fine dresses once more. She will never be safe with me. I doubt she could ever have a normal life with me. Rigmor says she will accept the chaos and danger of my life, but that is easier to say than do.”
“Confusion is dangerous. One way or the other, this must be resolved.”
“If it were that easy, we would have done so. New things appear each day that change the equation. For instance, I know I must travel to Solstheim soon. It is complex, Baa’Ren-Dar.”
“Khajiit heard Mother Cat speak to Dragonborn and Rigmor.”
“It is good that Rigmor heard a god full of compassion. They are not all like Hermaeus Mora.”
“It was wise advice that was given. Your love is strong.”
“You wear the robes of Lady Azura and use her seers. She is involved in this, Baa’Ren, and you know it. The mine we are travelling to has something to do with Azura. You are worried, but I shall tell you the advice I give others. Prophecy and foresight provide clues to possible outcomes. I have seen a future involving Rigmor and me that is beautiful and desirable. I will do what is needed to make that happen.”
Baa’Ren smiled and said, “Riften is such a beautiful city, don’t you think? The gods guide you and keep you from harm.”
I laughed and replied, “I constantly and voluntarily place myself in danger on their behalf. But the Ten Commands of the Nine Divines do guide me, Baa’Ren. And I think a particular Priestess of Mara makes this an even more beautiful city. Am I right?”
“Priestess Ahnasari knows how to soothe Khajiit’s worries. That is all I shall say on the matter.”
The expert worry smoother was praying as we returned to Rigmor. I am impressed the aged Khajiiti still woos the ladies!
When I saw Rigmor waiting at the table, I whispered to Baa’Ren, “Sit and talk to her.”
Baa’Ren sat, and I stood back while they talked.
Baa’Ren asked, “Is Rigmor angry with Khajiit about keeping the secret about Aedriath?”
“No, don’t think that, Baa’Ren-Dar. You did what you thought best for me, as always.”
“But Khajiit was wrong.”
“As Wulf says, even gods make mistakes.”
“Then why has Rigmor avoided Khajiit?”
“I feel I am not in control anymore, Baa’Ren. My family and I have been dragged into chaos, not of our choosing. I want a normal life and thought I could return to Torval with Mum and have that. But circumstance had made that unlikely. Additionally, I have seen you in a different role, which changed my perspective on my time in Torval.”
“Khajiit understands. You have never seen this one perform his duties. You see a different Baa’Ren and so foreign from the one at home in Torval. That one wants a normal life, and Khajiit provided that in Torval for four years. It was real, Rigmor, but this one always feared the past would make normal life difficult. That was confirmed when you expressed the desire to learn more swordcraft.”
“I knew you would expect Wulf and I to continue helping against The New Order. I know why you had that expectation, but I did not want to hear you drag us deeper into the chaos. You were my one anchor in normalcy.”
“And you thought Khajiit would be requesting Wulf’s aid again?”
“Well, that did not occur. But Khajiit thinks we will all be reacting to circumstances from now on. There will be no need to ask for assistance, as all involved will do what is required.”
“I am sorry if my rudeness upset you, Baa’Ren. You know that I love you dearly.”
“Khajiit understands. That one knows I also love her dearly, even though she named her horse after this one.”
“You knew that?”
“Yes, of course. But Khajiit needs to know, does Ren refer to the whole horse or just the rear end?”
Both of them laughed, and I smiled.
Baa’Ren stood and said, “Khajiit has more trips to make. This one hopes to see Rigmor and Wulf soon.”
He hugged Rigmor and left as I replaced him at the table.
I asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Tired. Very tired.”
“I can see that. You need a good eight hours of rest.”
“What did Baa’Ren-Day have to say.”
“He has marked Diamond Ridge Mine on my map. The mine is not far past the camp we tracked Aedriath to. Kynareth has a pillar near where we found Mr Bear. I can teleport to the pillar, and then we shall walk to the mine.”
“Thank goodness! I was worried he would say he could not find it, but why are we walking and not riding?”
“Hashire is silent. Normal horses, like Ren, are not. I want to take a small group with us and use stealth to approach the mine and infiltrate it.”
“Okay, who will come with us?”
“I want another Restoration mage with us, so I shall ask Celestine. I also want my Khajiiti friend, Inigo, to accompany us.”
“I have not met Inigo, but you and others have mentioned him many times.”
“He is unique, and I have no doubt you will enjoy his company. You haven’t met him as he has been staying at one of my houses with Ko’rassa, a Khajiiti Dragonguard. They were childhood sweethearts who went their separate ways. I hope they have rekindled that love, as they both need it.”
“So, where is my report? What did you discuss behind my back?”
“When we moved to a pew, you were facing us, so we weren’t behind your back.”
“Ha de haha. Very funny. I am not too tired to kick you under the table!”
“Bar’Ren is worried about you. He is scared for his child’s physical and emotional safety.”
“What do you mean emotional safety?”
“If we find Sigunn, what will be her condition? And before you get angry, it is a reasonable concern.”
“I understand. Baa’Ren must think the place is dangerous, and if we find Mum and they have hurt her…I don’t know how I would cope.”
“Whatever we find, I will be with you.”
“No matter what we find at Diamond Ridge, it’s finally ending. Whether Mum is alive or not, I can at least find closure and maybe get on with my life.”
“What would you do?”
“I don’t know. If Mum is alive, go back to Torval, maybe? At least we would be safe there. If not Torval, maybe find somewhere else that is peaceful? I mean, you would be with me, right? We’ve done just about everything we can to help with the conspiracy. If there is a war, let the armies sort it out.”
“Rigmor, you know I can’t walk away. I have to defend the people of Skyrim. I have to wade into battle and kill because that is the only way to ensure less killing! I must deal with this other Dragonborn in Solstheim. Who knows what shit I have to face in the future. If you have changed your mind about being with me, I will take you where you want to call home. But I have to come back here.”
“No! Oh my, I am sorry. It was a stupid thing to say! You will save lives by staying involved. I understand that. Please, don’t think I would leave you, Wulf.”
“I have plenty of friends to fight beside me now and in the future. However, I know there will be great darkness in my life. I will see and deal with evil in all its forms. I will kill and add to my library of death. Without you to help balance me, I would become something else.”
“You have said you fought in battles. Is that the darkness you worry about?”
“War is upsetting, but I can understand it. The darkness that I fear is a family who owned a tavern and was butchered for no discernible reason. Multiply that many times over. Senseless slaughter in the name of greed or because some god told them to.”
“Wulf, I want to marry and have children. I could never do that with another. We don’t know the future, but can we fit that in? I think we can! I would be the wife of a soldier fighting a war for all of us. You will undoubtedly have estates to run, and I could use skills not involving a sword.”
“There are too many unknowns, Rigmor. At the moment, we are getting dragged along by circumstances. The chaos you mentioned to Baa’Ren could be never-ending. Perhaps we may get time to think this through, but now we must concentrate on staying alive.”
“Are we going to check the orphanage?”
“Yes, as there is nothing more precious than children. Governess Kishirra was full of compassion and love, and her death saddens me. Her assistant, Constance Michel, is also full of compassion and love. She would make an excellent governess, but Maven has intervened. She will only do that if there is profit in it.”
“She would stoop so low as to make a few septims from orphans?”
“I think a lot of money could be made from orphans. They would sell well to certain individuals, and not just slavers.”
“Maven Black-Briar has had children with her children. She has paid for assassinations. She is capable of any crime imaginable.”
We exited the temple and headed for Honourhall Orphanage.
On the way, I stopped to pat a dog.
“Hello, Thal. I am glad to see you survived the dragon attack.”
Thal wagged his tail, and we continued.
We entered the orphanage. It was dimly lit, and I used Night Vision.
Constance was standing in the shadows. She was always impeccably dressed when I met her but now wore rags. I knew the children’s names, as I had spoken to each of them before.
Grelod was addressing the children, and my temper soon rose.
- Grelod: Those who shirk their duties will get an extra beating. Do I make myself clear?
- Samuel: Yes, Grelod.
- Runa: Yes, Grelod.
- Hroar: Yes, Grelod.
- Francois: Yes, Grelod.
- Grelod: And one more thing! I will hear no more talk of adoptions! None of you riff-raff is getting adopted. Nobody needs you, and nobody wants you. That, my darlings, is why you’re here. That is why you’ll always be here until you come of age and get thrown into that wide, horrible world. Now, what do you all say?
- Samuel: We love you, Grelod and thank you for your kindness.
- Runa: We love you, Grelod and thank you for your kindness.
- Hroar: We love you, Grelod and thank you for your kindness.
- Francois: We love you, Grelod and thank you for your kindness.
- Grelod: That’s better. Now scurry off, my little guttersnipes.
Rigmor turned me around as she could see how angry I was.
She said, “Wulf, do not make a scene before the children. Gather some more information and have Grelod removed.”
“How can you beat any child? It is the laziest form of discipline and teaches them nothing. They grow up thinking violence is a legitimate solution to a problem. To beat an orphan is unforgivable!”
“Her words are just as damaging. Children that need love and affection don’t need hate and vitriol.”
“Okay, I will speak to Constance.”
I approached Constance, who quickly looked around to ensure Grelod wasn’t watching. Francois stood near her, stirring some watery gruel.
- Constance: You really shouldn’t be in here, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: I am a Thane of Riften and am legally allowed to inspect these premises.
- Constance: My only concern is for the children. The poor darlings have no one else.
- Wulf: I am sorry Governess Kishirra was killed in the dragon attack. We tried our hardest to minimise deaths, but too many good people died that night.
- Constance: If it weren’t for you and your friends, there would be no Riften.
- Rigmor: Is Grelod always like that?
- Constance: Sadly, yes. Even the townsfolk have taken to calling her ‘Grelod the Kind.’ Her very existence has become something of a running joke. Grelod runs this orphanage the way she does because she’s old, set in her ways, and doesn’t know any better. These children need love and comfort. I try… But… I’m sorry, you should go. The children aren’t up for adoption, and it’s cruel to get their hopes up. Besides, Grelod hates… visitors.
- Wulf: As I said, I have a legal right to inspect premises whose upkeep is paid for by the city.
- Rigmor: We were asked to check on the orphanage by one of the priestesses.
- Wulf: Francois, what do you think of Grelod?
- Francois: Miss Grelod is… well, she’s a terrible old crone. No person could be that cruel. I think she’s part Hagraven. She only lets us out in the yard once, and that is in the morning when foggy and cold. And she stands there watching us. As I said, she is a Hagraven.
- Wulf: Does she beat you?
- Francois: All the time! She has a list as long as her arm of things that earn a beating. She has been even worse since Aventus ran away.
- Wulf: Who is Aventus?
- Francois: Aventus Aretino. He was sent here when his mother died, but he recently ran away.
- Wulf: What can you tell me about Aventus, Constance?
- Constance: His father was an Imperial Soldier killed a few years ago when defending a small town in High Rock from Reachmen. His mother recently died from consumption. His parents owned a house in Windhelm, which Juventus inherited. However, Jarl Ulfric did not allow him to live there and sent Aventus here. He arrived the same day as Grelod and was very outspoken about her methods.
- Rigmor: Did Grelod target him more than the other children?
- Constance: Yes.
- Wulf: You tried to excuse Grelod for her behaviour. There is no excuse! She may have grown up believing corporal punishment is acceptable, but that is not tolerated under Imperial Law, and despite Ulfric’s efforts, Riften is still part of The Empire. Raising your hand to any child is punishable by a prison sentence. But even if it were not against the law, hitting an orphan for minor infractions is reprehensible.
- Rigmor: Why are you wearing rags, Constance?
- Francois: Because Constance spends nearly all her wages to help us orphans. We wouldn’t have nice clothes if not for her. We would all be in rags without shoes. Constance sneaks in extra food for us as well. That is why Constance doesn’t have nice clothes!
- Wulf: Go about your regular duties, Constance, while we inspect the property.
We opened the door to what should have been the privy and washroom.
The privies had been removed and replaced by buckets. There were no washbasins.
Rigmor gasped when she saw the shackles, then declared, “Do something about this, Wulf, or I swear on Talos I will kill the bitch!”
While staring in disbelief at the shackles, we heard Grelod talking to Constance.
“Listen, Constance, it takes two things to be a good teacher. The first is extra beatings. The second is a firm wooden stick for rapping knuckles. Understand?”
“But I… I think these children need love and comfort. I….”
“No! Put an end to that nonsense, or I will. One word to the Jarl from me, and you will be removed. I would then hire somebody more amiable to my methods.”
“Good, now let’s discuss some current problems. Samuel is becoming a problem and fancies himself as a ‘leader’ to the other children. Put an end to the nonsense, or I will.
“Please, just let me deal with it. It’s not a problem.”
“Hroar’s crying is keeping me up at night. I’ll give you one chance to talk the tears out of him, or he’s getting the belt.”
“I’ll handle it. There is no need to blow things out of proportion.”
“Seven septims are missing from my purse. I know it was Runa. You get those coins back, or by Stendarr, I’ll see her rot in the dungeon. No, I will get the truth out of her myself.”
“Now, I really must get back to the wine. After all, it tires me to teach you, girl.”
Grelod then yelled, “RUNA! COME HERE THIS INSTANT!”
I struggled to control my temper.
Rigmor said, “Runa has run into Grelod’s room. She looks terrified!”
As I approached the room, Runa’s sobs echoed.
Grelod told the terrified child, “Turn your back, thief, while I decide if the switch or the belt is to be used.”
I walked over, and Grelod looked at me with contempt. She said, “What do you want? You have no business being in here!”
I replied, “I am Lord Welkynd, a Thane of Riften. I am legally here to inspect this orphanage. You are fired, Grelod. Not only that, you will be jailed for abusing these children.”
“Why, how dare you! I will not be intimidated in my orphanage! Get out! Get out this instant!”
“It is not your orphanage. You were an employee, and now you aren’t.”
“You don’t scare me!”
Rigmor escorted Runa out of the room while I looked around.
A painting of a summoned Daedra was not appropriate.
Neither was the skull of a deer.
Rigmor returned and stood close to Grelod while I checked on Runa.
“Hello, Runa, I am Lord Welkynd.”
“I know you. You gave Olette a home and helped fight the dragons.”
“Yes, that’s me. Tell me, did you take money from Grelod’s purse?”
“No. But if I did, it would be to buy food as we are not being fed properly. Governess Kishirra made sure we had three meals a day. And we had baths and wash basins and proper privies.”
“Does Grelod beat you often?”
“Yes, and since Aventus ran away, the beatings have doubled!”
“Things will get better, I promise. Grelod will soon be gone.”
Just then, I heard Grelod yelling.
I rushed over and was surprised to see Constance standing her ground and a shocked look on Grelod’s face.
- Constance: Yes, Grelod, I took the money from your purse, so keep your filthy hands away from Runa! The money was not yours, so I was not stealing. You watered down the milk again this week, enabling you to pocket those septims!
- Grelod: If it were up to you, the gutter snipes would all be fat and lazy!
- Constance: If it were up to you, they would die of starvation or disease!
- Grelod: You can say goodbye to them as you are dismissed!
- Wulf: You can’t dismiss Constance, as you are no longer the governess.
- Rigmor: Wulf removed you from the position.
- Wulf: Constance Michel, would you like to be the governess?
- Constance: Can you do that?
- Wulf: Yes, as Thane, I can do that. As a private citizen, I will donate funds to improve the orphanage. I already own several orphanages. Perhaps I can also purchase this one after the civil war ends.
- Constance: Where are your other orphanages?
- Wulf: Markarth, Solitude and a large one that will hold over two hundred children is being constructed near Whiterun. I also have orphans living with me.
- Grelod: It seems you have an unhealthy liking for children. Do you prefer little boys or little girls?
- Rigmor: Wulf, hurry up and have this creature dragged to jail.
- Wulf: Constance, can you keep Grelod in this room till I return with her prison escort?
- Constance: Yes, Lord Welkynd.
- Grelod: Cowardly Constance is supposed to keep me detained? You must be as stupid as you look.
- Constance: Grelod, I put up with you for the children’s sake. I am no coward, and if you try and leave this room, I will punch your lights out! After I close the door, of course. The children might enjoy the spectacle, but they have experienced enough violence.
- Rigmor: Constance, I recommend a punch to the tummy first. Then an uppercut when Grelod is bent over wheezing.
- Constance: Can I pretend she tried to escape?
- Rigmor: We shall close the door on the way out.
We moved away from Grelod’s room, and I quickly wrote a dismissal removing Grelod from the governess position. I wrote another promoting Constance to that position. I then wrote an arrest and detainment order for Grelod.
When we exited the orphanage, Maven Black-Briar walked by.
I said, “Grelod is about to be imprisoned. I wonder if she will have something interesting to tell us about you, Maven. How much were you hoping to sell each child for?”
Maven stared at me with hate but didn’t say a word.
Riften’s guard numbers were still low after the dragon attack. However, the nearest one was not far from the orphanage.
I asked, “Guardsman, do you recognise me?”
“Uh, you are Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn, and one of our Thanes.”
“What is your name?”
“Guard Stikon, Grelod has been beating and starving the children in Honourhall Orphanage. She has also been keeping funds meant for the running of the orphanage. She is to be placed under arrest and jailed. She will be held in custody until such a time as I can visit and interrogate her. Is this clear?”
“Yes, Thane Welkynd.”
“Here are my written orders. There are also two notes to be handed to Jarl Law-Giver.”
I handed the documents to the guard, and then we rushed to the orphanage.
Francois yelled, “CONSTANCE, THE GUARD IS HERE!”
Constance exited Grelod’s room, and the arrest proceeded.
- Stikon: Grelod, you are under arrest for mistreating children and stealing.
- Grelod: Get out! Get out this instant! I will not be intimidated within my orphanage. How dare you!
- Stikon: Ahh, it was never your orphanage, and I have the paperwork for your arrest.
- Grelod: You’re a worthless piece of gutter trash. You’re nothing! That’s all you Riften people are. Nothing!
- Stikon: Lord Welkynd is The Dragonborn. Are you accusing him of being nothing? If I were the poorest, pox-riddled beggar, I would still be worth more than a thieving child abuser!
- Wulf: Grelod, it is over. You are under arrest.
- Grelod: Let me get my belt, and I will teach you not to talk to me that way!
- Stikon: What do you say, Dragonborn? Is Grelod the scariest dragon you have faced?
- Wulf: Let’s hurry this up, as I am tempted to thrash Grelod like she did the children. There are manacles where she detained them. She makes them use buckets as privies and doesn’t provide washbasins. She feeds them once a day and waters down their milk.
- Stikon: She will be lucky to survive in prison if that becomes general knowledge.
- Wulf: If she has any dirt on Maven Black-Briar, she will be lucky to survive a night in prison.
- Grelod: I demand extra protection!
- Wulf: Oh, do you have information that Maven would worry about?
- Grelod: No…no…ah…the stories about my treatment of the children may cause problems.
- Wulf: What I don’t understand is this. Shouldn’t they have been maintained in pristine health if the children were to be sold to slavers or brothels?
- Grelod: I…ah…um…
- Wulf: Notice, Guard Stikon, how Grelod has not vehemently denied my supposition.
- Stikon: If proof of that were found, Grelod would be lynched.
- Wulf: I am coming over to tie your hands, Grelod. You must have heard I paralysed Maven with a spell the other day. I will do the same to you if you struggle.
A look of defeat crossed Grelod’s face as she surrendered.
I bound her hands, and then she was escorted between the sneering children, several of whom directed kicks at her shins.
After Grelod exited with Guard Stikon, we approached Constance.
I handed her a heavy bag of septims and a bag of gems. She looked stunned.
- Wulf: Sell the gems to the Khajiiti Caravan. Tell them Lord Welkynd recommended them. They will give you the best and fairest prices. Use the money to get baths, washbasins, and privies reinstalled. Feed the children, and for Kynareth’s sake, buy yourself some clothes. Get books and toys as well.
- Constance: If we get more children, I made need an assistant.
- Rigmor: There is guaranteed to be more children, thanks to Ulfric.
- Wulf: Ulfric will lose this war, and a better Jarl will be installed. Until then, I can only act as a private donator. I am sure I will be able to purchase the orphanage later. Till then, do what you can with the money.
- Constance: I am worried about Aventus. He was going to make his way to Windhelm and stay in his home. It would be a treacherous trip there.
- Wulf: Children can be very resourceful. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he hired a carriage to take him there. However, the support for the poor in that city is none existent. He cannot eat the house! I will ask a colleague to check on his welfare.
- Constance: Thank you, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: Thank you for being here for the children. It took courage and commitment. The children may need some spiritual help after their ordeal. Do not hesitate to ask for that from The Temple of Mara.
- Constance: I will.
As Constance attended to the children, I spoke to Rigmor.
“The trip to Black Diamond Mine is long, and we shall make it first thing tomorrow morning. I do not want to travel in unfamiliar territory at night.”
“I am anxious to find Mum, but that is the sensible thing to do. So what is planned for the rest of the day?”
“What kind of surprise?”
“A surprising one!”
“Why did I bother asking?”
“That, my dear Rigmor, is one of life’s mysteries.”
“Okay, surprise me, but don’t get any weird ideas!”
“Damn, what will I do with the goat and pig lard now?”
I teleported us into Ivarstead.
Rigmor exclaimed, “Wow! Look at the size of that mountain!”
“I will take you to the summit when I get the chance. Can you see the dragons circling it?”
“Yep. So, we are not going there today?”
“No, but I assure you, the place we are going will be to your liking.”
“I still haven’t met a dragon.”
“I promise you will meet some soon.”
“Can I try summoning Ren? You put the dweomer on my amulet, and I haven’t used it.”
“Go ahead. Ren should accept the summons because he will know you are the summoner.”
Rigmor successfully summoned Ren and said, “Cool!”
I summoned Hashire and mounted.
- Hashire: I am not surprised you and Ren managed that, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: I believe it is due to that thing Wulf and I call Our Quiet. I think clearer and have more confidence when he is close to me.
- Hashire: You have a knack for things, Rigmor. Don’t attribute it all to the presence of whatshisname.
- Wulf: Hashire, we have just dealt with a despicable mortal who physically abused children.
- Hashire: Then I hope we are going somewhere peaceful.
- Wulf: As do I, Hashire.
Rigmor mounted Ren, and we rode slowly out of Ivarstead.
We briefly stopped at a waterfall.
- Wulf: What does this remind you of, Hashire?
- Hashire: The lake and river on Roscrea.
- Rigmor: Did you ever return to your childhood home?
- Wulf: No, I have never had the chance.
- Hashire: Anna is probably married with a tribe of children by now.
- Wulf: She is only the same age as me, Hashire.
- Hashire: Very few on that island are not married by twenty, except for the ugly ones like you.
- Rigmor: It is the same in the rural parts of Bruma. The well-to-do in the city and nobles tend to get married at an older age.
- Wulf: I wonder how many of the noble marriages are for love.
- Rigmor: Very few, I should think.
- Wulf: Dibella and Mara must get upset at that stupidity.
We rode a bit further, and then I heard fighting. I climbed a rock aboard Hashire and stared into the distance.
- Rigmor: What is wrong, Wulf?
- Wulf: Why can’t we enjoy a peaceful ride without drama?
- Hashire: Can’t you hear the battle, Rigmor?
- Rigmor: Now you mention it, yes, I can.
- Wulf: It looks like a couple of dozen Stormcloaks have encountered slightly fewer Legionnaires. We must help the Legionnaires.
- Rigmor: Yes, of course!
We galloped towards the skirmish, with Hashire easily outpacing the valiant Ren.
Rather than cross the river aboard Hashire, I leapt off.
Then I Blinked to the nearest Stormcloak, who I quickly cut down.
My Dance of Death spilt blood and gore where I hoped to enjoy Rigmor’s company in peace.
I quickly dispatched Ulfric’s troops.
Then I watched typical Legion efficiency as the platoon quickly formed a line and continued their patrol. I have no doubt they knew who I was, but none of them addressed me.
I quickly returned to Hashire and mounted.
- Rigmor: Wulf, I will understand if you want to forget this trip and head home.
- Wulf: No, Rigmor. I made a promise, and I intend to keep it.
- Hashire: This looks like the river near your cottage, Wulf.
- Wulf: It does, except for the headless bodies floating away.
- Rigmor: One day soon, we shall be able to have long rides in Skyrim without bandits or other nasties interfering.
- Wulf: I know, Rigmor. To have peace, you must kill. That was something my parents taught me. Let’s continue. We do not have far to go.
We crossed the river and headed inland.
Kynareth marked a goat, but I was tired of killing.
We crested a hill and found the camp Baa’Ren described.
I dismounted and turned to Rigmor.
She leapt off Ren and ran to me.
She eagerly asked, “What is this place?”
“This, my dear Rigmor, is a place Baa’Ren-Dar thinks you will like. It is sunny, so we can probably see The Sea of Ghosts from the observation platform.”
“We can relax, Rigmor. Hashire will let us know if anybody approaches.”
“So, no lost Orsimer with a sick niece?”
“No. So, we shall leave our weapons here. Let’s pretend nothing, and nobody is trying to harm us.”
“I would prefer it if you carry your sword. But I will leave my weapons.”
As we walked towards the observation platform, Rigmor exclaimed, “Look at all the red mountain flowers!”
“A place with your three favourite things. A view, red mountain flowers and me!”
“Yeah, right. Pfft.”
“The fire is lit, so somebody must have just left.”
We stood on the platform, and Rigmor was delighted by the view. She eagerly pointed out things and asked what some of them were.
After a few minutes, she asked, “There are so many places I have not visited. When will I get the chance, Wulf?”
“Soon. There are only two wars to deal with. Oh, and I may have to visit Solstheim.”
“Don’t spoil this with doom and gloom!”
“I want to do those things with you, Rigmor. More than anything, but no matter how I try and relax, reality drags me back.”
“Our Quiet helps, though, doesn’t it?”
“Very much so, and I am sorry for the doom and gloom. Perhaps another surprise might serve as an apology?”
“Turn around, and do not dare cheat.”
“Can I turn around only part way to keep looking at the view?”
“You have to promise me you will keep looking at the view till I tell you to turn around.”
“Okay, I promise.”
Rigmor turned enough so she could not see what I was doing.
I asked, “Do you want some clues?”
“If it amuses you.”
“I could just give this wonderful surprise to somebody else.”
“Okay, okay, give me the clues.”
“The first clue is: You will have to remove your clothes to enjoy it.”
“The second clue is: I have wanted to show it to you for ages.”
“I bet you have, you weirdo!”
“The Third and last clue is: It might be too big. It might be a tight fit. It will certainly give you pleasure!”
“That is disgusting! If you are naked or certain parts of your anatomy are showing, I will never speak to you again!”
I laughed loud while I retrieved the red dress from my Journal Case.
I knelt and held it out. Then I said, “You can turn around now.”
Rigmor turned around with an angry scowl that turned to amazement and a loud gasp.
“Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, my beloved, may I gift you this red dress from Morrowind.”
“The dress! You bought me that dress!”
“Yes, the first time we visited Riften, I snuck out of The Bee and Barb and purchased it. I hope you like it.”
“Wulf, it’s beautiful!”
‘It will be even more beautiful with a Rigmor inside it.”
“Should I try it on? Here?”
“You might give people below a shock if they looked up. Maybe you should put it on behind some bushes?”
“Hahaha. Don’t you try and sneak a peek!”
“Okay, but don’t undress well before the bushes and wiggle your hips.”
Rigmor giggled as she walked away, saying, “I am always giving you a hard time, aren’t I?”
Rigmor vanished behind some deep foliage.
Rigmor has become adept at removing her armour. I could hear only a bit of cursing as she fought with the various straps and buckles.
I asked, “Do you need help undressing?”
“Do you want to end up gelded like Ren?”
“I was only offering assistance like a gentleman.”
“Yeah, right. Pffft!”
After fifteen minutes of rustling, Rigmor announced, “Okay, here I come!”
I watched Rigmor emerge. She was barefooted and wore no wig, yet she took my breath away.
She stopped, unsure of herself, so I approached her smiling.
Standing before me was the woman I loved wearing what she deserved and enjoyed, and she looked stunning.
I told her, “Rigmor, with all sincerity, you look stunning!”
“No, I don’t. I Iook like a, I dunno, an ugly rock demon.”
“Wow, a good-looking rock demon must be the most beautiful creature ever!”
“I make the dress look ugly.”
“No, Rigmor, the dress is trying hard to match your beauty!”
“But my hair?”
“Hair, no hair. Armour, dress, or nightclothes. Whether washed or grubby. It makes no difference to these eyes and this heart. I am nothing but honest with you. I am not lying about this.”
“But I have so many scars!”
“Rigmor, beauty is a sum of the body, mind, and soul. You can grow your hair back. Shallow women, whom some find attractive, can’t suddenly grow empathy, courage, and your remarkable ability to see the beauty in the world around you. You, my beloved Rigmor, are beautiful!”
“Baa’Ren-Dar told me you used to love wearing pretty dresses. You had the same scars, the same inner demons back then. It is not the hair. You chose to cut your hair as a sign of renewal. Nor is it the scars. You worry that a man you have feelings for could not find you beautiful. I know those doubts. How could the woman I love find a killer who is also part dragon as anything but ugly?”
Rigmor looked down. She didn’t want her face to betray the truth.
I said, “That dress suits you. Don’t you like it?”
Rigmor looked up, “Haha. I love it. This whole thing is crazy! No one gives me presents.”
“If I could give you a kingdom, it would not compare to what you have gifted me.”
“I will sit down and watch you run around like a young Rigmor in Torval.”
“I don’t know about running but thank you. Not just for the dress but also for being you. You are my weird, sometimes infuriating, big, softy Guardian.”
I sat, and I watched, and I absorbed. Every moment was seared into my memory. If we find Sigunn and Rigmor decided to leave me, these memories might be all I have in the dark times to come.
After Rigmor finished murdering red flowers, she sat on a stump.
She was doing her stare-into-infinity thing as I approached.
When I stood in front of her, she looked up and smiled.
I returned the smile and said, “I can imagine Baa’Ren-Dar watching his child wander around his gardens. His grin would be wide, and his heart would be filled with love. It must have been difficult as you moved into womanhood. I suppose all fathers watch that transition full of worry about the future.”
“He probably thought I was travelling towards death when I left Torval for Bruma. He knew I had to get revenge and find my mother. He did not try and stop me.”
“It brought a smile to my face watching you enjoy something simple. Seeing you amongst our flowers at Lakeview Manor also warmed my heart. You had been so close to death, Rigmor.”
“Yeah, I almost made Baa’Ren’s fears come true! I’m glad I came here.”
Rigmor stood and moved to another tree stump, closer to the fire.
I sat in the chair and was about to ask Rigmor about her preference for stumps. However, her face showed worry, and the smile was gone.
I asked, “What are you thinking?”
“I’m a bit scared, I guess. It’s been a long time, and I wonder if Mum will even know who I am?”
“I think your face has been in her dreams every night of captivity. Sigunn will recognise you. She probably replays favourite memories repeatedly and recalls entire conversations word for word.
“You have never promised to find her alive or rescue her.”
“I try not to make promises about something out of my control. All I can do is promise to be there for you.”
“She was a schoolteacher, you know? Back then, before all this. She taught me how to read and write. I studied fine art, poetry, and song because my dad insisted that I learn these things alongside my combat training. It was befitting a noble child, you see. We even had a family crest.”
“Yours was true nobility. Earned by your father via service to others and not inherited.”
“They cast us down after the arrest. We lost everything. Before we were enslaved, Mum told me I had to use the name Sigunnsdottir.”
“You were born Lady Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, daughter of Ser Ragnar Fjonasson and Lady Sigunn Frostreaver. They can’t erase that fact! You know the truth of what your father did, and they can’t steal that truth from you! They tried to take everything but failed miserably. You can still laugh and makes others laugh. You can still see beauty when they have tried hard to hide it with darkness. To restore your family’s name and titles would be the ultimate victory and something we will pursue. Casius offered his help, remember?”
“Yeah, he did.”
“And I am sure after we defeat The New Order, Mede will owe me a favour or two.”
“I have written a song for you. Would you like to hear it?”
“I am honoured you did that and would love to hear it.”
“Bear with me. I have to do this right. One second…”
We stood, and Rigmor stared into my eyes. As Lady Mara said, the love I saw was of great power.
Rigmor cleared her throat, and then a voice, beautiful but, like its owner, unsure of its beauty, sang.
- “There is a small child lost in the dark. In my dreams, she’s still there….”
Rigmor’s voice faltered, then stopped. She then said, ‘I’m sorry, I… wait!”
As if she was a young girl singing in front of her tutor or tutors, Rigmor put her hands behind her back, stood straight, and sang.
- There is a small child lost in the dark. In my dreams, she’s still there.
- She has fallen, and she waits. Will someone come? Might someone care?
- Her heart, she’ll give you, her love be true. Where’s her Dragonborn, to save her, to never let her go?
Rigmor finished and stood still, unsure what my reaction would be.
I told her, “My tears are a result of overwhelming emotion, Rigmor. Not due to your voice.”
“Did you like it?”
I whispered, with my voice cracking, “It was wonderful! I am not lying to you, Rigmor. I won’t ever lie to you. It was beautiful and precious to me, and I thank you.”
“I am pleased you like it. I….”
I moved closer and took Rigmor’s hands in mine.
Rigmor whispered, “Wulf, I love you so much that it scares me.”
“Then let me ease your fears.”
I picked Rigmor up and tilted my head, hoping she would take the initiative to ease my fears.
Rigmor leaned down and kissed me, and nothing mattered anymore but us.
I lowered Rigmor, and she lent back a bit so that I could return the kiss.
Of its own accord, my hand found her derriere.
Rigmor giggled, then said, “Wulf, please take your hand off my rear end. If you continue, we may lose control and end up naked!”
“Oh, ah…sorry. I was, ahh… checking for splinters from the stump!”
“Yeah, sure. It seems you don’t have control over other parts either.”
“Just hold me, my Guardian.”
I lifted Rigmor once more. She leaned her head against mine and stroked my hair.
Rigmor said, “No matter what happens, Wulf, I will always be there for you. I want us to experience life together, no matter the dangers or difficulties. I don’t need to wait any longer to be certain of that.”
“I don’t know what to say, Rigmor. It is what I want, but is it right?”
“Shush, it is right because I say so. It seems you still need more training, batman.”
I placed Rigmor back onto her feet and kissed her hand.
Then I stood back and said, “Let’s go to Aurane and change into our kimonos. Then we can have dinner in Aurane’s inn, which is called Citadel Tavern.”
“Okay. And Wulf, I am okay with setting out for the mine tomorrow, so don’t worry about that!”
Rigmor collected her armour from behind the bushes. Then we walked over to Hashire.
- Wulf: Please take Ren to the island.
- Hashire: I am happy that you two are making progress. I thought for a second that I would have to cover Ren’s eyes.
- Rigmor: Do you have private rooms on this island populated by dozens of horses?
- Hashire: Ahh, no, but Ren has seen horses mating before. However, seeing his mistress doing so would be too much of a shock.
- Wulf: I was only checking for splinters!
- Hashire: And I am Ulfric Stormcloak in disguise.
- Rigmor: One day, we can have long rides without killing anything.
- Hashire: And I look forward to that, Ivanitchy Ramsbottom.
- Wulf: Yes! I was scratching her itchy bottom! Wasn’t that a thoughtful gesture on my behalf?
- Hashire: Give it up, Wulf. You were caught red-handed.
- Rigmor: More like a hand full of red.
- Hashire: Hahaha!
- Wulf: If I said that, nobody would laugh.
- Hashire: It is all in the delivery.
- Rigmor: Let’s go, Wulf. I need some mead!
We teleported into Aurane, and I was pleased to see Inigo had returned.
I called, “Inigo, we are heading for Citadel Tavern.”
He replied, “Okay, my friend, I shall see you there.”
We headed for my private rooms. As soon as we were changed into our kimonos, we teleported into Citadel Tavern.
Rigmor remarked, “This place is huge!”
Inigo noticed us and came over.
- Wulf: Inigo, it is my pleasure to introduce Rigmor Ragnarsdottier.
- Inigo: I am pleased to meet you, Rigmor.
- Wulf: Rigmor, this strange creature is called Inigo the Brave.
- Rigmor: I am pleased to meet you, Inigo.
- Wulf: Let’s go to the rooftop and talk in relative quiet. We can stuff our faces and drink later.
We headed for the roof and sat around a table.
- Wulf: How long have you been back, Inigo?
- Inigo: Ko’rassa and I returned early this morning.
- Wulf: Have you caught up on the events since we defeated Alduin?
- Inigo: Celestine sat us down and told us about The New Order. Rigmor, Wulf had told me about how he travelled to your side years ago. I am glad my friend has met you again.
- Wulf: What is happening with you and Ko’rassa?
- Inigo: Despite our years apart and different paths to get here, we have found our love again. When it comes down to it, no matter what happens, you remain your essential self. So, if you loved somebody once, it is natural to love them again.
- Wulf: Perhaps we should give Rigmor a brief summation of your path here.
- Inigo: You would not get bored with such a thing, Rigmor?
- Rigmor: Not at all. I can see you are a close friend of Wulf’s, and I want to know why you are blue, so my curiosity is high.
- Wulf: Rigmor was raised by a Khajiiti Emissary after her father was murdered. That is why she is so fascinated by your colour.
- Inigo: Understandable. We shall get to that, but I like telling things in order.
- Rigmor: Okay.
- Inigo: My brother and I never knew our natural parents. We were found abandoned in a smelly shack by a soldier on his way to battle. We melted his heart with our fuzzy little faces, and he carried us to the nearest town. He deposited us at an orphanage, where we spent most of our childhood.
- Rigmor: Were you adopted before being forced out due to age?
- Inigo: Fortunately, yes. A couple of retired assassins adopted Fergus and me. I guess the orphanage did not do a family background check.
- Rigmor: They probably had good backstories prepared. Retired assassins as parents would have resulted in an interesting childhood!
- Inigo: Mine was perhaps a little more unconventional than most, but I suppose all childhoods are interesting to a degree. My parents provided me with love and encouragement. Apart from the nightly training sessions, we were a typical family.
- Wulf: Ahem.
- Inigo: Okay, one parent was Argonian, and the other was Khajiiti. So perhaps not so typical if you consider that aspect.
- Rigmor: Anything seems normal compared to Wulf’s.
- Inigo: That is true!
- Rigmor: Did you have problems with other children?
- Inigo: Yes, I was bullied by the other Khajiiti children because of my unusual colour and markings. After my mother showed me a handy trick with a rock and a glove, I was never bothered again.
- Rigmor: Some bullies cannot be reasoned with and only understand violence. I hope nobody was seriously hurt.
- Inigo: Bruises to their egos were the only lasting injuries, Rigmor. I only injured people badly later in life.
- Rigmor: What were your training sessions about?
- Inigo: We were home-schooled in reading, writing, history and arithmetic. The training sessions were all about fighting. Father showed us how to use a sword. Mother taught us the bow. Although intense and sometimes painful, those sessions created many happy childhood memories.
- Rigmor: I was home-schooled by Mum. Dad taught me to use a greatsword from an early age. I also have fond memories of those times.
- Wulf: Rigmor is the finest greatsword wielder I have ever seen, Inigo.
- Inigo: Wulf would have seen many swordsmen in battle and within The Dragonguard. So that is high praise, Rigmor!
- Rigmor: Did your parents live with you in Elsweyr or another province?
- Inigo: We grew up in Riverhold, not far from Cyrodiil.
- Rigmor: That is in the far north, and I was always keen to attend its Sweetroll Festival. But I never did. For various reasons, I never left Torval after Baa’Ren-Dar rescued me.
- Inigo: Baa’Ren-Dar was the one who raised you?
- Rigmor: Yes, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.
- Inigo: He visited me in Riften prison and was fascinated by my story. But I am jumping ahead.
- Wulf: Keep your order or get confused.
- Rigmor: You sound like a parent instructing a child, Wulf.
- Inigo: That is okay, Rigmor. Sometimes it is necessary.
- Rigmor: Please continue.
- Inigo: Fergus and I headed for the Imperial City to find our fortune when we came of age.
- Rigmor: When I came of age, I headed for Bruma to massacre Thalmor. Did you find your fortune?
- Inigo: I found love for a time, at least. My brother found his death.
- Rigmor: Love is worth far more than gold.
- Inigo: True, but now that I think of it, maybe it wasn’t love. It was brief and, as it turned out, one-sided. Anyway, all that happened later.
- Rigmor: What happened to Fergus?
- Inigo: I will come to that soon. There is a little more to hear first.
- Rigmor: Sorry if I am messing up your order.
- Inigo: There is no need to apologise, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Are your parents still alive? It could not have been easy seeing their boys leave home.
- Inigo: My parents are both gone. They died protecting a trading caravan a few years back. I guess I am an orphan again.
- Rigmor: Oh, that is terrible! You have my belated condolences, Inigo.
- Inigo: Thank you, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: Retired assassins and, later on, caravan guards. Your parents sound fascinating. What were they like?
- Inigo: I suppose they were an odd couple, an Argonian and a Khajiit, but they adored each other and us. Despite their previous profession, they were good people.
- Rigmor: I know not all assassins are the same. Some of The Dragonguard were assassins, and they are decent people. Like Wulf, I judge on deeds, not a job title. What did Fergus and you do in Cyrodiil?
- Inigo: We found much work as sellswords. We never made it to the Imperial City but made lots of money.
- Rigmor: As with assassins, there are different types of sellswords. What kind of contracts did you accept?
- Inigo: A bit of giant-killing here, a bit of necromancer slaying there. It is hard to deny those in need, whether they have the coin or are poor. We took gold when offered but often worked for nothing. We made more than enough from those who could pay anyway.
- Wulf: Unlike the Companions in Whiterun, Inigo and Fergus displayed compassion and empathy!
- Inigo: If you haven’t guessed, Wulf does not like The Companions.
- Rigmor: Yes, he has made that clear to me. You never made it to the Imperial City. It is said that many roads lead to it, so where did your travels take you?
- Inigo: All over Cyrodiil, from the Gold Coast to the Jerall Mountains. It is a beautiful land but relatively tame compared to Skyrim.
- Wulf: Tame, except for Bruma. That is full of knuckle-dragging Nords.
- Rigmor: Careful, Dragonbum or my dainty foot will find your dangly bits!
- Inigo: Ko’rassa told me she had many lessons on how to cripple an opponent by targeting their genitals. Suitable for non-lethal getaways.
- Wulf: Ko’rassa was a Blade Spymaster before and during The Great War. She also had to assassinate people on occasion.
- Rigmor: Did you enjoy what you were doing in Cyrodiil, Inigo?
- Inigo: Yes, Rigmor, those were happy times. We travelled during the day and camped out under the stars at night. Life was good.
- Rigmor: I know what it is like to be enjoying life one day and be plunged into despair the next. What happened to you?
- Inigo: I awoke one morning to a lot of noise outside our tent. Fergus staggered in bleeding and pushed our father’s swords into my hands. He said that if I loved him, I would run. He used the last of his strength to rip out the back of the tent and push me down the slope beyond.
- Rigmor: Who attacked you?
- Inigo: Some Khajiiti-hating locals had blamed us for a spate of robberies in the area and decided to take the matter into their own hands. Twelve of them had snuck up on us during the night. Fergus died, but I live because of him.
- Rigmor: You must miss him very much.
- Inigo: Yes, but part of me is glad he did not witness what became of me after his passing.
- Rigmor: What did you become?
- Inigo: A bandit, Skooma addict and murderer.
- Rigmor: Many people would be mentally scarred from such an experience. I am sure Fergus would understand.
- Inigo: Wulf said the same thing, and maybe you are right. It is a nice thought, but I suppose I will never know.
- Rigmor: Do you wish you had stayed and fought beside Fergus?
- Inigo: Every day. It is part of the guilt I carry.
- Wulf: Rigmor feels guilt for not resisting when Thalmor arrested her father. She was fourteen and couldn’t have done anything but die.
- Inigo: I would have died if I had joined Fergus and fought beside him.
- Rigmor: Logic doesn’t always reduce guilt.
- Inigo: No, so that is why some people turn to Skooma.
- Rigmor: I have experienced a similar trauma, Inigo. Baa’Ren-Dar helped me. Your parents were dead, so you had nobody to help cope with Fergus’ death.
- Inigo: That morning, I lost all that was dear to me. Unfortunately, I also uncovered a side of myself I never knew existed.
- Wulf: As you know, Inigo, I have a very dark side. I am fortunate to know it is there. I also know it would dominate me if certain people died.
- Rigmor: Fergus’ death started your spiral to Skooma addiction.
- Inigo: Yes. I was recruited by a group of bandits a few years ago. That led me to discover Skooma, which led to nastiness. I was with a bandit girl for a while. Unfortunately, she was using me and wanted protection, not affection. I was dropped like a sack of troll dung when she found somebody more psychopathic.
- Rigmor: Earlier, you said that maybe it wasn’t love. You also thought it was one-sided.
- Inigo: I thought I loved her. She seemed like the only bright thing in a very dark place. We dulled each other’s pain somewhat. Regrettably, she was a vicious, manipulative Hagraven!
- Rigmor: I don’t think you could have stayed with that gang.
- Inigo: Correct. I left the bandits and took the only ally I had with me. His name was Felix. He was a big fellow and good in a scrap. He was also an addict, but we thought we had it under control. We became mercenaries together.
- Rigmor: You didn’t have the Skooma under control, did you?
- Inigo: I did not. After a few months, Felix and I had made a little gold, but our addiction to Skooma was getting in the way. Rigmor, no one trusts an addict, especially not another addict.
- Rigmor: Why did Felix become addicted?
- Inigo: He never spoke about his past, but it was clear he had also been through a great deal before becoming a bandit. That life did not seem to suit him. He was violent but had retained some dim vestige of honour. At some point, I am sure he had been an educated man. I wish we had met under different circumstances.
- Rigmor: Did something happen to Felix?
- Inigo: Yes, I killed him. One day Felix burst into my chamber. Instinct took over, and I reacted. I killed him before he had a chance to talk. His murder was my second last step on the road to dishonour.
- Rigmor: And what was your last?
- Inigo: I murdered another person. I don’t want to discuss this anymore if you don’t mind.
- Wulf: It’s okay, Inigo. I will tell Rigmor how we met.
- Inigo: Okay, my friend. Please, don’t make me sound too weird.
- Rigmor: Nothing is as weird as Wulf.
- Inigo: Maybe not, but still, it is a strange tale.
- Wulf: Inigo thought he needed to be punished after that last murder. So he paid the Jarl of Riften to live inside Riften’s jail.
- Inigo: It was better than some inns I have slept in!
- Wulf: Several people told me about Inigo and assured me he was a good person. So, I visited him.
- Inigo: I thought Wulf was the person I had murdered and that he had come for revenge.
- Rigmor: Ahh, how did you kill that person?
- Inigo: An arrow in the back. With my muddled mind, it was not much of a leap to think I had only wounded him and that he tracked me to Riften.
- Wulf: I tried to convince Inigo I was not the person he shot. When that failed, I convinced him to join me and seek redemption.
- Inigo: I now know Wulf is not the person I killed. And although I have done good things beside him, I have a long way to go before I feel redeemed.
- Rigmor: You are the only person who can judge your redemption, Inigo.
- Inigo: Yes, and Wulf now understands that.
- Wulf: Yes, I do. There are other fascinating things about Inigo that you will discover on our travels. Speaking of which, my blue friend, would you like to accompany Rigmor and me tomorrow?
- Inigo: Where to?
- Rigmor: Mum and I were enslaved. I was rescued from that life by Baa’Ren-Dar. Mum is not so fortunate, and I have not seen her for four years.
- Wulf: We have tracked her to a mine on the border of High Rock. The mine will be full of innocent enslaved people as well as enemies. Therefore, we will need to use stealth to avoid the deaths of innocents.
- Rigmor: We must be sneaky on our travels, as many bounty hunters are looking for me.
- Inigo: Celestine showed me the poster and explained why they are after you. Your father scared The Dominion, and it seems you scare The New Order. I would be pleased to join you. I assume we are walking, not riding?
- Wulf: Yes, as horses are not as silent as us. I will ask Nahfahlaar to scout for us.
- Inigo: He visited us, and Ko’rassa was thrilled he liked her robes.
- Wulf: I am glad he did. He isn’t the most diplomatic dragon at times.
- Rigmor: We will ask Celestine to come because Mum might need medical care, and Wulf could be very busy fighting.
- Inigo: A wise move and Celestine is quite sneaky.
- Wulf: Okay, I am starving. We can catch up on gossip later.
- Rigmor: Ahh, Inigo’s blueness?
- Inigo: I will explain that over a mead unless you don’t like booze.
- Rigmor: I am a Nord, Inigo. Vampires get drunk on our blood.
We sat and ate with Celestine and several others. There was no news from Angi’s camp. Celestine was keen to help us rescue Sigunn. Rigmor learned why Inigo is blue. She also learned about Inigo’s prophesy, which she thought was terrifying.
I then wandered around and chatted with lots of my friends. Rigmor did the same.
I retrieved a lute from behind the bar and sang a song for Rigmor.
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- If I were a merchant, I’d bring you six diamonds
- With six blood-red roses for my love to wear
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So, take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- If I were a nobleman, I’d bring you six carriages
- And six snow-white horses to take you anywhere
- If I were The Emperor, I’d build you six palaces
- With six hundred servants for comforting fare
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So, take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- So be not afraid, my love, you’re never alone, my love
- While you wear my ribbons to tie back your hair
- I was a simple man, a poor common farmer
- I gave you six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- Too-ra-lee, too-ra-lie, all I could share
- Were only six ribbons to tie back your hair
Rigmor was delighted with the song.
Rigmor and I decided to walk to the palace rather than teleport.