Fredas, 19th Hearthfire, 4E 201
to Sundas, 21st Hearthfire, 4E 201
Celestine yelled, “Wulf, please, take somebody with you!”
I turned and approached her. She had her arms crossed, so I knew a lecture was forthcoming.
I explained, “I would prefer to do this alone!”
“Why? Are you trying to prove something? If so, then what and to who?”
“This is my mess. Why should others be put at risk to fix it?”
“Every person who travelled with you from Akavir and those who have joined us in Skyrim love you. Every one of them would gladly risk their lives for you. Even though we have known her briefly, many of us have come to love Rigmor. Sorella is not the exception!”
“Shush! I am in Little Big Sister mode!”
“You have to remove the guilt, Wulf! You are not used to losing, and I know you are not egotistical, but it still plays on your mind. Could you have done something different? Yes, of course, you could have! However, we are not gods and don’t get to travel through time. Well, you have, but then again, you are weird.”
“You are Rigmor’s best hope. Most likely, you are her only hope. Take some of your friends to ensure you live long enough to rescue her. That is the logical thing to do, even if your brain is scrambled by misplaced guilt!”
“Wow, you are excellent at this!”
“Do I have to grab a box to stand on?”
“So I can reach and whack you across the head and twist your ear.”
“I will ask the Ka’Po’Tun to accompany me.”
“Wow! That was easier than I thought.”
“As I said, you are excellent at nagging. Poor Vayu!”
“Hurry up and sort out Nirn’s problems, Wulf. Vayu and I have hardly spent a night together in that wonderful house you gifted us. So, get moving!”
I moved nearer the woodpile and summoned the Ka’Po’Tun.
- Wulf: Did Vayu bring you up to speed?
- Dhali: He said you are to speak to somebody who knows Rigmor’s location.
- Wulf: Yes, his name is Jonte Malesam. He was working in the Black Diamond mine as a spy.
- P’sua: A spy for who?
- Wulf: I don’t know. I assume it is a Daedric Prince.
- Dhali: So, where do we need to go?
- Wulf: Boulderfall Cave. It is not far from here.
- Dhali: How are you holding up, Wulf?
- Wulf: Celestine had to be Little Big Sister.
- Shiva: Let me guess. You feel guilty.
- Wulf: When you almost killed me with a flying kick, was that your fault, Shiva?
- Shiva: No, you dropped your guard and were distracted.
- Wulf: Did you feel guilty?
- Shiva: Well…ahh….
- Khao: Celestine had to pull Shiva out of her doldrums.
- Wulf: Guilt is often illogical. I am sure when Rigmor and I are surrounded by Our Quiet, logic will erase the guilt. Until then, let me wallow in it.
- Dhali: Let’s find and rescue Rigmor, Wulf. That is all that matters.
I used Night Vision, as little moonlight illuminated the way.
Our travels passed by a derelict hut whose fire was blazing.
We glanced inside, and it seemed somebody hid when they saw us approaching.
There was a locked trapdoor.
I said to my friends, “I can smell Skooma. This place is probably a Skooma den. We might visit it one day, but not now.”
Near Boulderfall Cave, we encountered an elderly necromancer fighting a few bandits.
We killed the bandits. However, the necromancer was not hostile, so we let him be.
We found and entered Boulderfall Cave.
A couple of Skeletal Warriors acted as sentries and attacked us.
We disposed of them, and a young mage explained, “My apologies. I summoned the skeletons as protection against the local bandits.”
Two necromancers showed no aggression.
I said, “Squad, sheath your weapons and stay alert but at a distance. At the first sign of treachery, cut them down.”
I approached a table where an aged Altmer sat. The young mage was Breton and of Master level. She stood behind the Altmer.
As I approached, the Altmer said, “Ah! Just as I suspected. Rigmor’s Guardian alive and well.”
“Are you Jonte Malesam?”
“You were told I was alive and to wait for me here. Do not pretend to be more than what you are, Jonte.”
I sat and studied Jonte. I did not read his soul but detected his negligible Magicka.
I said, “You, Jonte Malesam, are not a mage or necromancer. I detect very little Magicka in you.”
I looked at the young mage whose eyebrows rose when I said I couldn’t detect much Magicka in Malesam. Magicka divination is not a common skill.
I asked, “Master Mage, what is your name?”
“Mage Cerys, I was trained by the Psijic Order. I know much that has been lost to The College of Winterhold.”
“That is unusual!”
“It is unique. The Psijic had their reasons for training me that are not relevant. Are you Jonte’s bodyguard?”
“No, I am his daughter.”
“You have my condolences.”
Cerys giggled. Malesam stared at me angrily.
I stared back and asked, “Malesam, are you here independently or ordered to do so by a superior?”
“I was asked to do this by my Mistress.”
“As I thought. I will listen to you but don’t try and boost your importance in the scheme of things. You are a messenger passing on information and nothing more.”
I smiled as Jonte fought with his temper.
I laughed, then said, “Perhaps you have been trained only to answer questions, so let’s try the important one first. Where is Rigmor?”
“Only my Mistress knows where she is, but don’t worry, Rigmor is unharmed.”
“I can’t summon Rigmor, which means she is unconscious or in another plane. Being dragged by Aedriath into a dingy cell in some dark dungeon is Rigmor’s worst nightmare come true. Yet you sit there and say she is unharmed! Once again, you parrot what you are told with zero first-hand knowledge. I demand to speak to your mistress, not her lackey!”
“What will I do if I don’t obey your demand? Kill me, and you’ll never see her again.”
“Look into my eyes, Jonte.”
I have found people obey that simple suggestion every time. So Jonte looked into my eyes, and I showed him the power contained within my soul. He recoiled and then went rigid. A green miasma surrounded him. Cerys looked unperturbed.
I told her, “Mage Cerys, Jonte has not been harmed, despite your protection dweomer being triggered. While his subconscious deals with what I revealed, it has immobilised him. He will return to normal in a few seconds.”
After ten seconds, Jonte could move, and he lent forward, staring at me.
I explained, “I have not threatened you, Jonte, although I did warn all cave residents about treachery. You think of me as Rigmor’s Guardian, a title I am proud of. However, I wonder if your mistress told you of my other titles?”
“Mage Cerys, can you help your father?”
She replied, “Yes. You are Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn.”
“Yes, I am The Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines. I am also the Champion of Azura, Sheogorath, Meridia and Hermaeus Mora. Didn’t you know that, Jonte?”
Jonte’s stupefied expression was all the answer I needed.
“Neither you, Jonte, nor your mistress cares about Rigmor. However, you probably care for Cerys. She will die if I don’t stop The New Order, but not at my hands. So how about you save her life by passing on the information.”
“If you spent less time belittling me, we would get to the message quicker.”
“Jonte, your delusion of significance triggered my sarcasm.”
Cerys coughed to cover another giggle.
Jonte took a deep breath and said, “Yes, we have a vested interest, you and I. What The New Order is trying to establish is madness. They are blind fools trying to restore Tamriel to an ancient time long gone by.”
“The New Order hope to kill all Talos worshippers and erase him from history. This erasing will aid in the quest they share with The Thalmor. They desire the destruction of The Nine and linear time. They hope to become immortal and free spirits in the Aurbis like they believe they once were. Aedriath should have been more careful about what he wrote in his journal. But everybody who looks behind the ‘Man cannot ascend to god’ argument knows that is the reason behind Thalmor hatred for Talos. The New Order think they have a quicker way to reach the desired outcome.”
Jonte looked surprised. Cerys smiled.
I explained, “I am not just a killing machine, Jonte!”
Jonte continued, “Then you would not be surprised that only the upper echelons of The New Order know what is going on. They have bided their time for decades planning this so-called Restoration. Once I knew they were attempting to construct an Oblivion Gate, I informed my Mistress.”
“You are fortunate not to have been there when we came visiting. I would not have known you were a spy or cared before I killed you.”
“I serve my Mistress as Sethri serves his.”
“As I serve The Nine and all mortals of Nirn. That is why I am willing to deal with your mistress. I assume she is a Daedric Prince and wants The Dragonborn to do something none of her devotees can do in exchange for the whereabouts of Rigmor. The histories are full of such bargains.”
“Yes, my Mistress requires your services, Guardian.”
“My name is Wulf.”
“Before The Entity can enter as a living God-King, he must own Scourge.”
“Malacath’s wonderful mace? That truly was a useful gift he created! It was last seen when The Nerevarine recovered it just before the Oblivion Crises.”
“Its power will subdue the Daedra, and The New Order will be free to cleanse Tamriel as they see fit.”
“The stupidity of that statement is beyond belief. But if your mistress tells you that, it must be true! The New Order is searching for it in Morthal. But which dig site, as there is plenty in that area?”
“Officially, it’s an archaeological excavation, but they are looking for the mace unofficially. However, they are digging in the wrong place, and fortunately for you, they believe you are dead.”
“Why would my death make the slightest difference to their search for Scourge? And why would their mistaken belief in my demise be fortunate?”
Malesam’s brow furrowed as he tried to come up with plausible answers.
I sighed and said, “Forget Scourge for a minute. Explain to me how Rigmor fits in with their plans.”
“Before The Entity can enter the realm of mortals, it must transform. But a sacrifice must be made for it to do so. The Nordling girl Rigmor is to be sacrificed on the ‘Altar of Restoration’ so The Entity can enter the mortal realm as a living God-King.”
I growled, “Rigmor is not a girl nor a Nordling. She is a Nord Swordmaiden of unequalled skill and bravery!”
Malesam flinched. I think he expects me to rip his head off. That is not going to happen, but fear is a valuable tool.
I asked, “What changed? They have been trying hard to kill her, and she suddenly becomes crucial to their plans. Plans your mistress claims have been in place for decades.”
“At first, yes. The New Order had found another potential…replacement for Rigmor…another child of noble birth.”
“Rigmor is no child, so age has nothing to do with her importance. As for her nobility, there are thousands of offspring of those whose noble status has been bestowed, not inherited. What makes the ‘potential replacement’ and Rigmor different from all the others?”
“Let me tell you a little story.”
“If it is facts about Rigmor, then go ahead. Otherwise, no thanks.”
“Many years ago, a little girl was born in Bruma. She was the only daughter of a Nord War Chief and a schoolteacher. Most would have thought nothing unusual there, but this little girl was special. So special it would cause gods to vest their interests in her wellbeing, not only for her but also for themselves. The New Order has a very powerful master that orchestrates everything. The Daedric Princes do not know who their master is and call it The Entity. But my mistress knows its identity.”
“I assume your mistress is a Daedric Prince. Therefore, you should have said, ‘The other Daedric Princes….’ Bad grammar and grooming in one ugly package!”
Cerys giggled again. Some of my friends joined in.
I continued, “Who is The Entity?”
“Alas. I am not at liberty to discuss that further.”
“Oh no, that would be exercising your mortal free will, and bad things might happen!”
“A once in millennia scheme was about to unfold. Azura took it upon herself to protect the child but, in doing so, would ultimately put herself at risk. The Entity’s first strike was the whereabouts of the Black Diamonds. He entrusted Tumrenen Kaeuseus, a killer, bandit, and thief, to travel all of Tamriel searching for them. Anyone who possessed them was tortured to ascertain the vein’s location. They were then killed, and the diamonds were forged into armour. You probably know that the diamonds are linked to Azura’s power. It was a cynical plot to weaken that power. It worked well until Kaeuseus murdered Casius Varon’s family. Casius tracked him down and killed him. That was not something The Entity had foreseen.”
“The Entity sounds like a complete moron. Why not capture a few of Azura’s disciples or seers and torture them? Or what about the jewellers who made items such as Casius’ mother’s necklace? That would make more sense than targeting the ignorant recipients of such gifts. I have a bag full of gems. Am I supposed to know from where they were mined?”
“All of this was enough to distract Azura, and the New Order struck. Ragnar was arrested, and his family was kept as hostages. He was extracted to Alinor in chains and executed. They needed him dead. They feared him. But the girl child Rigmor? She has noble blood dating back some two hundred years. All the pieces were in the right place. Ragnar was executed, and the child was kept under close guard for the sacrifice of noble virgin blood. But Aedriath slipped up, and the sentimental Khajiiti whisked her away. Hahaha!”
“The Dominion wanted Ragnar arrested, not The New Order! Rigmor was protected by Diplomatic Immunity until she came of age. Then she slaughtered everybody in the Bruma embassy, so the hunt began, and a huge bounty was offered. How idiotic was it to hunt to kill when a hunt to capture made much more sense? They would not have to scramble for a replacement, would they?”
“Near the completion of the Oblivion Gate, the boy child, unfortunately, perished in an unforeseen accident. The New Order was running out of time and now needed Rigmor alive.”
“Yes, and I fell for Aedriath’s trap. I figured that out. I handed them Rigmor and got killed for my service.”
“You have caused him so much distress that maniac Aedriath was foaming at the mouth in apoplectic rage. Hahaha!”
“Laugh once more, and I will make you soil your pants. Tell me where to get Scourge!”
“Before he could unleash ‘The Great Anguish,’ Mehrunes Dagon had it taken to a temple carved into the mountain rocks near Markarth. But the entrance is not beneath Markarth as The New Order think. Markarth is beneath the entrance. You will need to climb the rock face to the right of the main doors to the city. Eventually, you will come to a pass. Follow the stream until you can see the city below you. There you will find the entrance.”
“And why do you think The Entity needs Scourge?”
“If The Entity has Scourge, it will be free to unleash its frenzy. Nothing will stop it, not even the Daedric Princes.”
“What do I do with Scourge after I have recovered it?”
“Bring it to the nearby shrine of my mistress. In return, she will give you the location of your beloved Rigmor.”
“Which of the Daedric Princes is your mistress?”
“If you save the girl, bring her to The College of Winterhold. There are some things she needs to learn about her past. I’ll be there waiting.”
“To which Shrine of Boethia do I take Scourge?”
“Give me your map, and I shall circle the correct one.”
I handed Malesam my map, and he circled a Boethia shrine near the farm.
He handed it back. Then I said, “Thank you, Jonte. Now for something you need to hear. You are ignorant of what gods can do on Nirn! What is The Liminal Barrier?”
“Mage Cerys, would you like to educate your father?”
Cerys explained, “Lord Akatosh created The Liminal Barrier at the request of Saint Alessia. She was tired of the Daedric Princes being able to manifest on Nirn when Aedra could not. This ability increased the appeal of Daedric Princes to those seeking power. It is why the Ayleid abandoned the Aedra for the Dark Lords. When Daedric Lords did manifest, they caused great destruction and killed many.”
“Correct. Due to the sacrifices of the et-Ada, who created Nirn and Mundus, their powers were reduced. Due to the metaphysics involved, they have not been able to manifest upon their creation since Convention. When Mehrunes Dagon manifested on Nirn, Lord Akatosh’s avatar battled him. The Dragonfires first maintained The Liminal Barrier in The Imperial City. It was made permanent by Martin Septim’s sacrifice and the release of power held within The Amulet of Kings. If Daedric Princes had the abilities you, and Tendril Sethri claim, they would not need mortal agents such as me, The Hero of Kvatch, The Nerevarine or many others.”
Cerys nodded. I wonder if she can teach her father or is expected to remain silent. She stood behind him like a servant instead of at the table with equals.
“The Daedric Princes, like Aedra, have avatars and aspects that can appear on Nirn. However, only through certain elements, such as Black Diamonds, can limited powers be utilised by the gods on the mortal plane. Lady Kynareth uses the very air we breathe and the winds as another example. Lady Azura could not prevent Ragnar’s arrest unless she had prior knowledge via her seers and had mortal agents capable of thwarting a legal arrest approved by His Imperial Majesty. Azura never protected Rigmor from harm! She does not have that power. She struggled within her seat of power on Nirn to keep part of my soul within my body.”
Cerys continued to nod as I spoke. She was probably tired of Jonte ignoring his better-educated daughter.
I continued, “Jonte, you allocate omnipotence to these gods yet claim Azura was distracted. Gods have infinite and parallel thought processes. They have no trouble rubbing their belly and patting their head simultaneously. They don’t concentrate solely on one thing and can’t be distracted!”
Malesam looked uncomfortable.
“I could cut your head off, and Boethia could not stop me. I could walk over to her shrine and blast it into rubble with my Thu’um and Magicka, and she could not stop me. The same as other mere mortals desecrated Azura’s. You believe The Entity would be unstoppable, but does it have more power and followers than Mehrunes Dagon, Molag Bal, or Boethia herself? They all failed to usurp the mortal realm and no doubt many ignorant morons like you screamed, ‘Unstoppable! They are unstoppable!’ Lord Umbriel had hundreds of thousands, if not over a million troops and a flying city, but was stopped! With the aid of other mortals, I stopped Alduin, a demi-god capable of destroying Mundus.”
My anger was growing, and I did not want it to diminish.
“If Scourge is such a fantastic weapon, why did Mehrunes Dagon not use it?”
“Umm…I thought Dagon did use it.”
“He did not use it. Scourge returns struck Daedra to their originating realm. The Dark Lords can invade each other’s realms in Oblivion, but The Entity will be down here, reborn as a living God-King. Boethia and other Dark Lords could not appear on Nirn to fight The Entity. Therefore, the war would be against mortals, which means Scourge would be useless!”
I held little hope I would get through to Jonte. He is like all religious fanatics. They will always believe the bullshit of their chosen deity than straightforward logic and indisputable facts.
“Boethia lied to you, Jonte. She does not want Scourge for the reason you think. It is just something she wants, and a mortal capable of getting it is handy. You have been manipulated! I will fetch Scourge even though she has not sworn to me to uphold the bargain you parroted like the good mindless devotee you are. But she will tell me where Rigmor is because The Entity threatens her, and she will want me to stop it. That is why mortals like The Nerevarine and me exist. Gods are powerless on Nirn and rely on their champions to do their tasks!”
Cerys nodded. I doubt she is under Boethia’s spell.
I continued, “Aedriath wanted Rigmor dead even after the little noble boy had his ‘accident’! We killed dozens of well-armed opponents to get to The Forge via the mine. The enemy was not trying to capture Rigmor! We killed many more formidable opponents as we made our way through The Forge. Aedriath had no idea we would have allies to accomplish that, and once again, the intent was to kill Rigmor, not capture her! His Elite Guards were some of the best warriors Rigmor, and I have fought, and their diamond armour made them even more of a threat. Aedriath did not know Rigmor would turn up with Azura’s Bane or that my skills and sword would negate the armour. They tried to kill Rigmor, not capture her! Only when he failed to kill her but managed to kill me did Aedriath bother with the capture of Rigmor. Her love for me and fear of Aedriath made her vulnerable when she saw me collapse with a bolt in my neck. She could have easily killed the remaining Elite Guards and Aedriath if she had fought back. So yes, Aedriath planned to kill me, but he did not think that would hand him Rigmor alive! At the last second, he decided to obey the wishes of the senior members of The New Order. That is how evil always loses. There are always people like Aedriath, whose ego and pride get in the way of the best plans. I bet Boethia told you none of this. You know what she wants you to know and nothing more!”
Jonte didn’t try to refute what I was saying. He knew it was the truth.
My voice rose with my temper as I explained, “Surely even an ignorant git like you has heard of The Culling! When you do as Boethia asks, it is unlike Sethri obeying Azura. Boethia has tried to do the same as The Entity, Molag Bal, Lord Umbriel and Mehrunes Dagon. She has tried to thwart The Liminal Barrier and harm the mortals I am sworn to protect. Azura has never tried to harm the mortals of this world!”
I raised my voice further but did not use my Thu’um. The cave was too fragile!
“Listen well, Jonte Malesam! You are an agent for an enemy of The Divines and the mortals of Nirn. If your mistress asked you to do something harmful to Rigmor, you would do so! Once I have saved Rigmor, you must tread carefully, or I will kill you without hesitation. I, Wulf, Champion of The Divines, now swear this on all I hold sacred!”
In a softer voice, I said, “Cerys, your father claimed Rigmor is unharmed. The New Order think they need a virgin for their sacrifice. How did they reassure themselves that Rigmor is, in fact, a virgin? If they did nothing else to her, how would Rigmor feel about that intimate invasion of privacy by monsters from her worst nightmares? She also saw me drowning in my blood and being stabbed. Rigmor is far from unharmed!”
I stood and stormed out of the cave with my friends in tow. There was nothing to discuss concerning Jonte. He was nothing but a parroting messenger.
We teleported to the farm and approached Celestine.
I told her, “Celestine, we are going to Markarth to retrieve Scourge. Boethia will swap it for the location of Rigmor and an Oblivion Gate.”
“I assume it isn’t just sitting out in the open.”
“No, it is in some ancient ruins that are undoubtedly well-defended.”
“That sounds like a typical Dark Lord bargain.”
“I need some information. How well do you know Arch-Mage Savos Aren?”
“Very well, but I haven’t spoken to him since returning to Tamriel.”
“Rigmor has noble blood by birth and not from the title her father was awarded. It goes back two hundred years. The person I met, Jonte Malesam, has some connection to The College of Winterhold. His daughter, Cerys, is a Master Mage and was with him.”
“Oh, I know Cerys. She is among the kindest and most softly-spoken people I have ever met. I never met her father.”
“Plaes, find out about Malesam and the connection between The College of Winterhold and Rigmor.”
“Okay, I will head for Winterhold soon. I will ask Jin to replace me while I am gone.”
“Tell Savos the information is for The Dragonborn and His Imperial Majesty. Tell him I will join the college when I can and share what Psijic stuff I can disseminate, plus help them study The Voice. Malesam wants me to visit the college to tell Rigmor about her history. I would rather tell her beforehand.”
“I agree you should tell Rigmor of her family history and not somebody she doesn’t know.”
“We don’t know how she will be when we find her. My summoning spell can’t reach her. It is as if she is dead.”
“You know there are many reasons that may happen. Don’t think the worse, Wulf. The love you share with Rigmor will aid her survival and recovery.”
“Okay, I will probably not return till I have Rigmor.”
My squad gathered around me, and we teleported to Markarth’s stables.
After walking to the beginning of the climb, I told my friends, “We could spend hours climbing. Instead, I will save time by Blinking my way to the top. I will summon you when I reach there.”
The early morning sunshine I enjoyed on my way up soon surrendered to a snowstorm. When I reached the end of the climb, I summoned the squad, and we made our way to the cave entrance.
We passed through a recently deserted Forsworn camp.
I hadn’t Shouted Kyne’s Peace, but it seemed to be in effect. I surmised it might now be a permanent blessing.
We found a suspicious-looking drain that was boarded up. A skeleton was embedded into some rocks next to it. Dagon’s devotees might as well have painted a big arrow with a sign saying, “Scourge, this way!”
We entered the ruins. Surprisingly, they were Nordic and not Dwemer.
I warned the group, “Expect powerful, Thu’um-wielding Draugr. I think this was once the tomb of a Dragon Priest.”
Dhali added, “Therefore, close quickly on the enemies. The fewer Shouts they use, the greater chance we all survive.”
We had worked together as a team for years and countless battles. The Draugr were powerful and abundant, but we scythed through them.
Scourge looked like a well-made but unremarkable ebony mace when we found it.
I picked it up and studied it closely. Its balance was excellent, and I could wield it well, buts its weight slowed it compared to a katana. The dweomer on it was powerful and something I could replicate if I had the time to study it further. I placed Scourge into my Journal Case.
We exited the excavated caves into natural caverns carved by water.
P’sua asked, “Where do these lead?”
“As far as I can tell, these are the same caverns and rivers that flow beneath Markarth. I think we shall emerge inside Understone Keep.”
“Is that where The New Order is looking for Scourge?”
“No. Calcelmo would never allow anybody to control his excavation. There are many other places they could be looking. Still, we shall see where we emerge so I can tell Auryen. The Explorers Guild may want to investigate the ruins we just left.”
We walked past a sleeping bear and a few trolls.
As expected, we emerged inside Understone Keep, just below The Hall of the Dead and near Calcelmo’s dig.
I whispered, “It is time to return briefly to the farm and then onto Boethia’s shrine.”
We teleported to the farm.
We then spoke to Celestine.
- Wulf: Did you visit the Arch-Mage?
- Celestine: Yes, he was keen to speak to me and had a million questions about where I had been and what it was like in Akavir. I don’t think he gets out of Winterhold much.
- Dhali: Did he provide any information on Rigmor?
- Celestine: Savos said he could only divulge the information to a Master of The College of Winterhold. Unfortunately, I am not one.
- Khao: But you are a Master Mage.
- Celestine: There are many Master Mages, Khao. There are a few Masters of The College of Winterhold, and Wulf is the newest. When you visit, the Arch-Mage will present you with a Master’s amulet.
- Wulf: Why would Savos do that?
- Celestine: Psijic Monks visited the Arch-Mage and suggested it would be beneficial if you held that rank.
- Dhali: Beneficial for who?
- Celestine: Everybody.
- Wulf: Savos wouldn’t have argued with them.
- Dhali: Why would he do as they suggest?
- Khao: The Psijic Order are the best seers in history. They often give advice based on foresight but do not divulge what they have foreseen. The Arch-Mage would know that.
- Celestine: Yes, but Savos would most likely have given Wulf that title anyway. He knows that he has been protecting Rigmor. You see, the college has a Royal Writ from Emperor Titus Mede I to protect all descendants of a bastard child of his.
- Shiva: Rigmor has Mede blood?
- Celestine: Yes.
- Dhali: The College has done as poorly as Azura protecting Rigmor!
- Wulf: Mede blood is not important enough to attract the attention of gods. Think about it. If Rigmor is at the end of two hundred years of a Mede I bastard line, one of her parents carried the same noble blood. How many generations are there, and how many cousins does Rigmor share that bloodline with? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people alive with well-documented and closer bloodlines to Emperor Titus Mede I.
- Shiva: There must be more to Rigmor than her Mede heritage.
- Celestine: I was thinking the same. Perhaps the entwining of Rigmor and Wulf’s souls is unique. There are things The Divines have not been able to decipher regarding those two.
- Wulf: That is reasonable speculation, but unfortunately, we have no proof.
- Khao: It would be interesting if you managed to speak to the beings with your soul from another kalpa.
- Shiva: That would be creepy. It is you but not!
- Celestine: The Arch-Mage will provide the ancestral tree and other information. I will pick it up tomorrow. He said he wishes to speak to you before you meet Malesam. He emphasised that as a Master of The College of Winterhold, you will have authority over Malesam.
- Wulf: Why would I want or need authority over Malesam?
- Celestine: The Arch-Mage said he would not go into more details as it is up to you, as Rigmor’s Guardian, to decide who knows the entirety. He said the documents he provides will explain it all.
- Wulf: None of the information about Rigmor will be discussed until I say so. I suspect Sigunn and Baa’Ren-Dar are ignorant of Rigmor’s Mede blood and the Royal Writ. Logically, the fewer people that know, the less chance of complications.
- Shiva: A wise move. Anybody would think you had good teachers.
- Wulf: I did in Roscrea, but then I was lumped with idiots in Akavir.
- Shiva: I might do another flying kick to the chest. Accidentally, of course.
- Wulf: Okay, we have a bit of a walk to the shrine. Let’s go!
We hiked across The Rift without violent encounters until we reached the shrine.
A Boethia devotee drew her dagger and said, “Do not come any closer. Filth like you is not welcome in Boethia’s sacred place.”
“I am about to have a private conversation with Lady Boethia. I suggest you leave and come back later.”
“You lie! I will kill you for your blasphemy!”
The Boethia devotee sicked her Bonewolf at us. It ignored her.
My friends cut her down.
The Bonewolf wandered off.
Boethia tried to get inside my head and failed. So, it was the booming voice trick again.
“Come forward, mortal. Do you have the mace?”
I approached and then retrieved Scourge from my Journal Case.
I answered, “As you can see, Lady Boethia, I have Scourge.”
“So, you are Azura’s little toy.”
“I am no toy of a Daedric Prince. Surely The Great and Mighty Boethia should know who I am with her omnipotence?”
Boethia doesn’t know who I am. That is why she couldn’t tell Malesam. For the same reason Boethia did not recognise my soul, the Daedric Princes would not know about Rigmor’s noble blood at her birth. They don’t have that ability.
After a few seconds of silence, Boethia asked, “What does Azura know of the ‘Restoration’?”
“All she knows is that an entity wants to enter Mundus from Oblivion.”
“Hahaha! You have served me well, mortal, but are you worthy of my gratitude?”
“I did not serve you and care nothing for your gratitude.”
“Do you love this girl?”
“The woman’s name is Rigmor, and I love her more than life.”
“Then you must be prepared to go to any lengths to save her.”
“Yes, I will even listen to drivel from a Daedric Prince.”
“Why should it concern me if she lives or dies?”
“You know The Entity poses a threat to you. You also know I am the only one who can stop The Restoration. Play your mind games with somebody else! Tell me where Rigmor is so I can save her and remove the threat to you.”
“We have made no bargain, mortal!”
“True, you didn’t personally give me your word that you would provide the information I need in exchange for Scourge. Therefore, you are not bound to do so. The logical thing is to make the contract with me, Lady Boethia.”
“But the sacrifice would suit me well, for I can battle with The Entity and devour it. It would cause me great pleasure. The girl is worth more to me dead than alive.”
“More lies! The Entity would be on the mortal plane, and you can’t get here. Therefore, you could not battle and devour it! I swear by The Divines that if you withhold the information and Rigmor dies, I will destroy every single temple of yours that I can find! I am a Son of Akatosh, and you could not stop me!”
“You are a Dragonborn? Then I suggest a contract. You must prove your worth as a warrior before me. Defeat my champions, and place Scourge on my altar. Do these things, and I will tell you Rigmor’s location.”
“Do you want me to defeat your champions in Skyrim or travel to your proving grounds?”
“Do you give your word that if I defeat your champions and give you Scourge, the whereabouts of Rigmor and the identity of The Entity will be revealed to me?”
“I give you, Son of Akatosh, my word.”
“Then the contract is agreed to, and my friends stand witness. I hope you are not fond of any of your champions.”
Dhali said, “Don’t waste time playing with her champions, Wulf.”
“I won’t be long.”
I placed Scourge on the altar. It vanished, and then Boethia laughed and said, “This I have got to see. Accept my summons!”
I accepted Boethia’s summons and was in the indescribable cold of the ether for a split second before appearing in the pocket plane of Oblivion called ‘Boethia’s Proving Grounds.’
Boethia sent ten champions in total. At first one, then two, then three and finally a group of four.
None of them got near me. As soon as they appeared, Unrelenting Force killed them. It was over in less than a minute and made for a boring spectacle. However, Boethia seemed pleased.
Boethia suddenly appeared and walked towards me.
She stopped with her hands on her hips. She was at least twice my height.
I approached her and looked into her eyes to prove I was not intimidated.
Boethia said, “I can sense her heartbeat mortal. I can sense her love for you. How cruel a joke it is then that your love is untrue. It is a false love.”
“You can sense no such thing and once again assume I am ignorant of what your powers in Mundus allow. Nonetheless, what would you know about love? Lady Mara, who gifted the power of love to mortals at Convention, knows the strength of our love and marvels at it. My despair shows your accusation to be baseless.”
“Do you not have the same feelings for her as she does for you?”
“Yes, and Rigmor knows it. Why persist with this charade? Fulfil your part of the contract!”
“Hahaha. Rigmor is now near death because you failed her. You abandoned her when she needed you the most. Isn’t this true, mortal?”
“Yes, I failed to protect her but never abandoned her. I dragged myself back from The Void using the power of our love so I could rescue her. You need me to stop The Entity, and your word is sacrosanct. No more games!”
“Hahaha! The Entity? There is no entity mortal. It is Malacath.”
“An entity is something with a distinct and independent existence. We knew there was something, but not what it was. Therefore, it is and was an entity. Stop talking nonsense.”
“The Entity is Malacath, the spurned fool! Malacath wants to be transformed into a God-King reborn as Trinimac.”
“That would explain his willingness to side with Altmer and not his devoted Orsimer.”
“Would you sacrifice yourself on the Altar of Trinimac for this girl?”
I yelled, “Yes, I would sacrifice myself to save Rigmor. She deserves to live and find happiness, even if I am not there to share it. I would smile from Aetherius, and The Divines would have to find another mortal champion!”
Boethia turned and walked towards her statue.
Then she stopped and turned.
I approached her once more.
In a less condescending tone, she said, “There are many acolytes, mortal. She is floating on her tears in a sea of writhing darkness and will awaken when her bosom bursts at the points of ten blades. Goblets ready so they might drink away her Lifeforce at the whim of a usurper. To get to the dais, you will need help, for you cannot do it alone. And once she is saved from the black pit of the abyss, you must go into Oblivion and strike the Sigil Stone with Azura’s Bane. Only then will Nirn be saved. Destroy the gate, or it will all have been for nothing.”
“I do not need help. I will enter the nest of enemies alone and kill all I encounter. I will enter The Ash Pit and destroy Malacath’s minions and the Oblivion Gate. If The New Order persist with their invasion, Rigmor and I will fight together, and all enemies will be slain!”
“Then go and save your beloved mortal, asleep on the dais awaiting her fate. A fate only you can decide.”
The laughter of Boethia faded as the cold of the ether was followed by the warmth of The Rift.
Jonte Malesam stood with his arms crossed. Cerys was nowhere to be seen.
I demanded, “Tell me where Rigmor is, Jonte!”
“They have taken her to an isolated island stronghold off the northern coast. It is, of course, heavily guarded. I hope you have some friends who might come to your aid in this time of need.”
“Oh, I didn’t know the four Ka’Po’Tun behind me were invisible!”
“They are from Akavir. Now, mark the island’s location on my map.”
Malesam marked my map. The island was about five miles north of Dawnstar.
Malesam continued, “There is a boat for you to use in Dawnstar. I have also marked its location as it is not amongst the normal jetties. I would advise…”
“I need no advice from you. Your mistress did not know I was Dragonborn. Ask yourself how she or any other Dark Lord could know of Rigmor’s noble blood if they could not detect what I am.”
My friends gathered close, and we teleported to the outskirts of Dawnstar.
Then we quickly made our way to the rowboat, which was barely seaworthy.
- Wulf: The infiltration needs to be done with maximum stealth. They may kill Rigmor if they think they are under attack. Therefore, I will row to the island alone and then infiltrate the stronghold solo. However, if I need to enter Oblivion, I will summon you to guard Rigmor.
- Dhali: Won’t they see the rowboat approaching?
- Wulf: I will conjure a dense fog. If I don’t think that will conceal me, I will become invisible and swim to the island.
- Khao: There will be many minions in The Ash Pit.
- Wulf: I doubt there will be enough to stop me. If I need help, I will summon the undead Dragonguard who guarded Alduin’s Wall. I will not summon the living to Oblivion.
- Dhali: What happened in Boethia’s Proving Grounds?
- Wulf: Boethia summoned ten of her champions. The fight was over in less than a minute.
- Shiva: Does that mean you are now Boethia’s Champion?
- Wulf: Yep. If my soul were not sure to go to Aetherius, it would be fascinating to see which Dark Lord managed to claim it.
I boarded the rowboat and started my journey.
When I thought the island was near, I cast Change Weather, and a thick fog enveloped a large area. Like natural fog, it also muffled sounds. I was positive nobody would hear the boat.
When the island came into view, I noticed a docked ship between a beach and the stronghold. I used it as a cover as I approached.
I beached the boat and then clambered out.
I could hardly make out the sentries due to the fog, even with Heat Vision and Zoom Vision. I was invisible, and they could not see me.
I made my way to the overgrown forecourt of a once formidable fortress.
I looked up and Shouted Storm Call.
Thunder boomed, and with each peal, lightning struck an enemy.
Within a minute, all sentries, numbering in the dozens, lay dead.
The storm would continue for at least an hour and aid my silent infiltration of the stronghold. Out of habit, I crouched as I entered.
Three New Order troops sat before a fire and commented about the sudden and violent storm. They thought that they were fortunate not to be on sentry duty.
Three arrows later, they also lay dead.
I used Heat Vision to prepare my plan of attack.
When multiple troops occupied a room, killing one would bring others into my line of sight.
I made rapid progress killing dozens quietly and undetected.
I walked through a thick door and was greeted by rhythmic chanting. The chants were interspersed with mumbo jumbo being spoken by a priest. It was a typical sacrifice where nothing the priests say counts for anything. The preparation of the victim was important, not the words spoken.
Heat Vision showed me the ritual room had a couple dozen acolytes and three priests. I could not see Rigmor’s body heat.
I sheathed my weapons and entered the room cloaked. The priests we so absorbed in the sacrificial ritual they didn’t notice or hear the large doors opening. The acolytes all faced the priests. Rigmor lay, surrounded by a multi-coloured miasma, upon a dais. Behind her was an Oblivion Gate, flames suggesting it had almost penetrated The Liminal Barrier.
I walked swiftly, undetected and invisible, till I stood behind the priests.
After surveying the scene from that location, I decided to eliminate the acolytes before the priests. I then positioned myself to deliver their deaths. I Shouted Slow Time, then Unrelenting Force.
My Thu’um spread across the room, killing most acolytes with the first Shout.
I realised some were outside the cone of effect, so I used a second Shout to eliminate them.
I cut down the three priests before they even realised they were attacked.
I stared at Rigmor for several minutes. I could not detect her soul, and the only evidence she lived was the slow and almost imperceptible rise and fall of her chest. She was in some form of stasis. The only sound was the flames of Oblivion behind me.
I summoned my friends.
Then I got as close to Rigmor as possible without touching the miasma surrounding her.
I knelt and told my beloved, “I wish I could caress your face and let you know I am here. Your Dragonborn will not leave you alone in the dark. I am sorry I failed you. Please, forgive me. I love you.”
Shiva briefly placed her paw on my shoulder.
- Wulf: Rigmor lives, but it is like she is an empty shell. They have done something to her to allow the harvesting of her soul and Lifeforce by Malacath.
- Khao: He needs an empty mortal soul to store his during The Restoration.
- Wulf: Yes, and Rigmor’s Consciousness would end up in The Ash Pit for eternity. The ceremony being performed was smoke and mirrors. They could have sacrificed any mortal, and death in silence would still accomplish their aim once the victim was prepared.
- P’sua: When I view Rigmor from different angles, there seems to be a shadow across her head.
- Khao: Your eyes are seeing something, but your brain is not sure what. It has decided your eyes have seen a shadow. It is, but not of light. You are seeing a shadow across Rigmor’s soul.
- Wulf: Deep within Rigmor’s soul, her Consciousness still clings to the mortal plane. Hopefully, if I destroy the Oblivion Gate, any connection to The Ash Pit will be severed, and her soul will remain intact.
- Shiva: We will all hope you are right, Wulf.
- Wulf: This gate may explode when I destroy the Sigil Stone.
- Dhali: We shall stand between it and the dais and protect Rigmor with spell and shield.
- Wulf: Do not penetrate the miasma. That may trigger unwanted responses.
- P’sua: Remember, you are in Malacath’s realm, where he can squash you like a bug, so be diplomatic.
- Wulf: I wasn’t very diplomatic in Boethia’s realm. However, I knew she needed me alive. Malacath is different as I enter The Ash Pit as his enemy. Nobody knows what powers he still maintains. Many mortals have created pocket planes in Oblivion, which is no indicator of great power.
I used a pull chain to lower the portcullis.
I then stepped into the Oblivion Portal, and within a second, I was teleported to The Ash Pit.
In the distance was a tower. The Sigil Stone would be at the top of the tower, so that is where I headed.
A familiar pressure was felt. Why do the gods always think they have a right to barge into my head uninvited? I said, “Lord Malacath, you will have to speak, for my mind barriers cannot be breached.”
A booming bass voice declared, “YOU ARE A FOOL TO COME HERE. PREPARE TO DIE, MORTAL!”
Scamps and Flame Atronachs were not much opposition. I quickly destroyed them with Unrelenting Force as I went along.
“YOU DO NOT STAND A CHANCE AGAINST MY MINIONS. ONLY DEATH AWAITS YOU HERE.”
I didn’t point out that I wasn’t even pausing to destroy his minions.
As I got closer to the tower, Malacath’s desperation grew.
“YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE HERE ALIVE. TURN BACK WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A CHANCE.”
I was being a good boy and not answering back. Otherwise, I would have pointed out the flaw in his logic. If I can never leave here alive, I might as well keep fighting till I die!
“YOU DARE INTERFERE IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE GODS, YOU PUNY WEAKLING!”
I couldn’t remain silent this time and used my Thu’um to answer.
“LORD MALACATH, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO RECRUITED MORTALS AND MADE IT OUR AFFAIR!”
I was close to the entrance when Malacath said, “YOU BELIEVED THE LIES OF A SLUT, AND NOW YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR LIFE!”
I didn’t point out I didn’t believe most of what Boethia said.
I wiped out the last external defenders and then entered the tower.