Loredas, 4th Frostfall, 4E 201
and Sundas, 5th Frostfall, 4E 201
I had breakfast with the children, which took longer than expected. The reason is that all of them, especially Olette, had many questions about Solstheim, Rigmor, The New Order, etc. I barely had time to shove food in my mouth in the brief pauses.
It was time to become General Welkynd, so I donned the armour Father gifted me.
I went outside and summoned Silah.
“Good morning, Silah.”
“You are looking relaxed, Valdr.”
“Is Aedriath going to arrive tomorrow?”
“Yes, our estimate is still around midday tomorrow for his scouts to reach the battlefield. They will report to Aedriath that we plan to fight them on the plain, not from within Whiterun.”
“They will also tell him they can’t manoeuvre past our forces to attack the city.”
“I wonder what Aedriath’s reaction will be when he is told that he faces a combined force?”
“He will probably stain his trousers. However, it is too late. He can’t stop now.”
“Their army in Cyrodiil is almost where His Imperial Majesty wants them to be. I think he may crush them before you engage Aedriath.”
“Aedriath must be wondering why we haven’t eliminated him as we have the other officers.”
“Aedriath realised what we were doing and disguised himself as a rank-and-file soldier. It would almost impossible to tell which of the thousands is him.”
“How close is Rigmor to the Orsimer mercenaries?”
“Late tomorrow, they should be in a position to attack. Rigmor is taking advice from veterans but has made it clear that she has the last word. The Dragonguard and Rigmor want The Sons of Talos to fight and not feel redundant. We are unsure how they will do against the best soldiers The New Order have fielded. Therefore, if needed, The Dragonguard will intervene.”
“The Dragonguard would know that the veterans do not fear death in battle.”
“Rigmor and others have made that clear. Rigmor will lead them into battle, flanked by Celestine and Vayu. You need not worry, Valdr.”
“I am not concerned about Rigmor in battle. I am unsure as to how she will react to the horror of it.”
“Friends surround her, and she can talk to those with similar experiences.”
“Logic doesn’t work all the time, Silah.”
“You haven’t asked about my absence the last time you summoned me.”
“Would I get a useful answer?”
“Of course not.”
“Then I will wait for the big reveal.”
“What are you planning for today?”
“I met a College of Whispers mage yesterday. I don’t like them meddling in Skyrim, so I will try and find out what they are doing here. Can you please tell Khao and the others where Rigmor is so they can join her?”
“Thank you for all you have done, Silah.”
“What is it that you say? I need no thanks for doing what is right.”
Silah headed for the barracks. I headed for my room to finish a journal entry.
Thirty minutes later, I summoned Inigo.
I said, “Just you and me today, Inigo.”
“We shall talk to Lyssia, the mage we met yesterday. I want to know what The College of Whispers is doing in Skyrim.”
“The New Order’s scouts will arrive midday tomorrow. That gives us time to investigate further if need be.”
We teleported into Breezehome.
Inigo remarked, “Breezehome makes me feel as snug as a flea in fur!”
We exited, and the familiar and welcoming sounds and smells of Whiterun greeted us.
I asked Jeer-Tai, “How is the cheese business?”
“Excellent, Lord Welkynd! Ri’saad has been sourcing some very rare and exclusive cheeses for me, and they sell as fast as I can stock them.”
Inigo smiled at them when we walked past two female Khajiiti freelance guards. They smiled back. I know he would never cheat on Ko’rassa and was only flirting for fun.
We entered The Bannered Mare and looked around. I spotted Lyssia in the far-right corner.
She smiled as we approached.
- Wulf: Good morning, Mage Lyssia.
- Lyssia: Good morning to you, Lord Welkynd, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines.
- Wulf: Somebody has been asking questions.
- Lyssia: You told me you were a Thane of Whiterun, so I asked Jarl Balgruuf about you.
- Wulf: Jarl Balgruuf knows some things about me but nowhere near the totality.
- Lyssia: Please call me Lyssia.
- Wulf: Please call me Wulf.
- Inigo: And I am Inigo.
- Lyssia: You are one of the heroes that fought Alduin at The Throat of The Word and in Sovngarde.
- Inigo: Yes, I am.
- Wulf: Was Leolar’s body delivered to The Hall of the Dead?
- Lyssia: Yes, and I would like you to accompany me to check on the embalming.
- Wulf: Why?
- Lyssia: I thought I saw one of the expedition members enter that place. I am unsure, as I was at a distance when I viewed him. However, after yesterday’s encounter with those assailants, I hesitate to investigate on my own.
- Wulf: Your caution is sensible. Let us check on the embalming and see if a friend or enemy is there.
As an Argonian Companion passed us. I asked, “Companion, may I have a word?”
She turned to face me and said, “Yes, General Welkynd.”
“What is your name?”
“Companion Sees-all-Colours, please pass on my thanks to Harbinger Whitemane for the support The Companions will provide Whiterun against The New Order.”
“I shall. Thank you, Dragonborn and The Dragonguard, for saving all of us. Manning the walls is the least we could do.”
Sees-all-Colours continued on her way.
- Lyssia: Though noble in their pursuits, the Companions may not align with every soul’s desires.
- Wulf: There is nothing noble about The Companions. They are mercenaries who find false glory in battle.
- Lyssia: I never thought to meet a Nord who disliked The Companions.
- Wulf: I am not a Nord, Lyssia.
- Inigo: Don’t try and guess my friend’s race, Lyssia. You will never succeed!
- Lyssia: What race are you, Wulf?
- Wulf: That, I am afraid, is knowledge you have not earned the right to know.
- Lyssia: Well, we all have our little secrets.
- Inigo: My friend’s secrets are not trivial, Lyssia. He has many enemies, and for that reason, few know the secrets he guards.
- Wulf: You implied The Companions’ pursuits may not align with every soul’s desires. Are you hinting at something?
- Lyssia: All I know for sure is that the Companions are well-versed in combat and embody a sense of camaraderie.
- Wulf: You have your suspicions. Hence your reference to souls, for some have chosen Hircine’s Hunting Ground for their afterlife. I find it strange they can revere Ysgramor yet will never meet him in Sovngarde. He is a murderer and genocidal maniac, so that is no significant loss. He also sounds like a eunuch!
- Lyssia: You are not enamoured of the great Nord hero?
- Wulf: He has no redeeming features. Then again, many who reside in Sovngarde are no better. When I kill Ulfric, he will reside there. For the rest of this kalpa, he can recite how he killed the innocents of Markarth and turned brother against brother.
- Lyssia: The conflict between The Empire and Stormcloaks has deeply troubled me.
- Wulf: As it should any sensible person.
- Lyssia: The Stormcloaks are fighting for their homeland, a sentiment that resonates with many of Skyrim’s sons and daughters.
- Wulf: Bollocks! They will fight for their homeland when they fight The New Order outside of Whiterun. The civil war is about Ulfric’s bid for power and nothing more. Lord Talos does not want people fighting for the right to worship him.
- Lyssia: Isn’t The Empire suppressing that worship?
- Wulf: No, they are not. Have they removed the statues of Talos in Whiterun or Windhelm? Have they removed the Shrine of Talos I placed in Solitude’s Temple of The Divines? I know of at least a dozen Shrines and statues of Talos unhidden within Skyrim. It is The Thalmor that tries to suppress the worship of Talos.
- Lyssia: I can tell this is a subject you are passionate about.
- Inigo: Lyssia, Wulf has many titles. However, the one that tells you the most about him is Champion of The Divines.
- Wulf: Why are Dragonborn placed on Nirn?
- Lyssia: Some say they are protectors of all mortals.
- Wulf: Correct, and I am glad you said all mortals. Nords think of them as warriors against Mer. I have accepted a task to protect all mortals, regardless of race or religion. Their status as enemies, friends or strangers does not matter. The Nine gave this task.
- Lyssia: I see. That would explain the need for secrets.
- Wulf: Yes. Every time I protect mortals, I attract a new enemy. Some enemies, especially gods, would love to know some of those secrets. Let us check on the embalming.
We entered The Hall of The Dead and found Priest Andurs enjoying hot chocolate.
He said, “Greetings, Mage Lyssia. Have you come to inspect Leolar’s embalming?”
“Yes, indeed, Priest Andurs. It is a long trip to our Cynosure in Water’s Edge.”
“I am afraid Leolar’s sealed casket is already aboard a carriage ready for transport.”
“Who authorised that?”
A voice behind Andurs said, “I did, Lyssia.”
Lyssia exclaimed, “Then it was you I saw, Rodan!”
I rushed around the partition and watched an elderly mage walk towards Lyssia. He ignored Inigo and me.
- Rodan: I was asleep when Leolar’s body was delivered, accompanied by a brunette mage called Lyssia. I have waited for you.
- Lyssia: I am relieved you did not suffer Leolar’s fate. But what of the expedition?
- Rodan: Did anybody see you? Were you followed?
- Lyssia: I was on a carriage escorted by half a dozen Legionnaires. That was not the stealthiest of entrances. However, I doubt I am in danger in the middle of Whiterun.
- Rodan: Who is this accompanying you?
- Wulf: I am Lord Welkynd. My companion is Inigo the Brave.
- Lyssia: Rodan, the college has charged me with shedding light on your situation.
- Rodan: The words I am about to speak must remain unheard by anyone outside our circle.
- Lyssia: Wulf and Inigo, would you be so kind as to grant us a moment of solitude?
- Wulf: The people who attacked wore expensive armour. They carried shields emblazoned with a symbol unknown to me. I think they are part of a well-funded organisation with exceptional intelligence-gathering resources. I believe this organisation presents a danger to others. Therefore, I demand to know who they are and what this is all about!
- Lyssia: Rodan, Lord Welkynd shall fall under my stewardship, and I shall bear full accountability for his actions.
- Wulf: No, I shall not fall under your stewardship. Whilst in Skyrim, you shall fall under mine.
- Rodan: Who are you to demand the sharing of sensitive information and to claim stewardship over Lyssia?
- Inigo: My friend is Lord Welkynd, General of The Imperial Army, Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Boethia, Azura, Meridia, Sheogorath and Hermaeus Mora. He is Thane of Falkreath Hold, Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, The Pale, The Rift, and Whiterun Hold.
- Wulf: I am also a Master of The College of Winterhold, and I answer to far higher authorities than either of you. I answer to The Nine and my conscience. As Thane of the Hold where the abduction and murder of Leolar occurred, its investigation becomes my legal matter to deal with. So even if you want to ignore my other titles, you cannot ignore the law.
Rodan turned to me.
- Rodan: Forgive my paranoia, Lord Welkynd. It seems you are the ideal person to resolve our issue.
- Wulf: What were you doing in Skyrim, and who were those men who attacked Lyssia?
- Rodan: We were on a mission to uncover a lost artefact called The Orb of The Divines. It is said to hold ancient knowledge. Through the tireless efforts of our research, it became clear that the artefact we sought was to be found within the ragged landscapes of Skyrim.
- Wulf: The Orb of The Divines is not a depository of ancient knowledge. It is a portal to a pocket plane of Aetherius created by Lord Arkay.
- Rodan: How do you know that?
- Wulf: I have studied the known artefacts of The Divines. The Orb of The Divines is inaccessible without its key. I believe the key consists of several Divine created artefacts.
- Rodan: What benefit is gained by visiting Arkay’s corner of Aetherius?
- Wulf: Once a mortal’s soul leaves its body and enters Aetherius, it cannot return to Mundus. The myth that the artefact is a depository of knowledge may come from the ability to speak to the deceased. I assume Lord Arkay would have to approve of the meeting and allow the spirit to enter the pocket plane.
- Inigo: The spirits in Sovngarde spoke in flowery language, unlike when they were alive.
- Rodan: You visited Sovngarde?
- Inigo: Yes, I fought Alduin beside my friends.
- Wulf: Inigo is probably the only Khajiiti ever to visit Sovngarde.
- Lyssia: Were you with Leolar when he died, Rodan?
- Rodan: I was with him when we were attacked. I was not sure if he was dead or held hostage.
- Lyssia: What happened?
- Rodan: Leolar and I arrived in Skyrim with one avenue to explore, an old mine near Riverwood.
- Wulf: I hope you can be more specific. There are many abandoned mines in that area.
- Rodan: As we approached Whiterun, we were attacked by warriors bearing shields with an unknown design. Leolar fought valiantly but was soon overpowered. I managed to conjure a spell of invisibility. Fleeing from the scene, I secured a valuable prize. It was a journal that one of the warriors lost during the melee. The journal revealed the existence of an organisation known as The Order of Light.
- Lyssia: Have you heard of them, Wulf?
- Wulf: No, but many organisations remain undetected.
- Rodan: The goals and intention of The Order of Light are unknown. However, the journal revealed they, too, covet The Orb of The Divines.
- Wulf: How many days ago was the attack, and how long have you been in Skyrim?
- Rodan: We arrived in Skyrim ten days ago. The attack happened six days ago. Since that fateful day, I have kept to the shadows, waiting and watching.
- Wulf: Lyssia, where is your Cynosure?
- Lyssia: Water’s Edge.
- Wulf: That’s part of Blackwood. It is along Green Road, between Bravil and Leyawiin.
- Lyssia: Yes, and I know what you are going to ask. I was sent to investigate the mission a week ago.
- Wulf: In the 3rd Era, The College of Whispers was one of the last groups of mortals who knew how to make portals and teleport. Have you rediscovered that knowledge?
- Lyssia: No, but we have a collection of Ayleid Waystones.
- Wulf: That explains the quick movement from your Cynosure and the worry when you heard nothing from the mission. When we discovered Leolar’s body, he had been dead for less than one hour. I would say they killed him when they saw Lyssia approaching. They were waiting in ambush, knowing somebody from The College of Whispers might investigate the missing mages. I don’t think they would have killed you outright, Lyssia. They would have tortured you as they did to Leolar. They would only do that if the mine near Riverwood weren’t the only site they needed to find.
- Rodan: That is impressive logic.
- Inigo: If my friend weren’t smart, he would be dead.
- Wulf: What is the next step?
- Rodan: My once tireless spirit had grown weary. Therefore, I hand over the continuation of this journey to Lyssia. If you have a map, I shall mark the location of the mine near Riverwood, where we planned to search.
- Wulf: Will you ride in the carriage and escort Leolar to his homeland?
- Rodan: Yes. However, we must all be wary of The Order of Light. How they came to know of our presence in Skyrim remains a mystery.
- Inigo: The obvious answer is you have spies.
- Rodan: Because I accompany Leolar, my passage will be slow. When I reach our Cynosure, I will bear witness to the events that have transpired.
I handed Rodan my map, and he marked the location of the mine. It was easy to reach from Riverwood.
Rodan said his farewell to Lyssia. It seems they are close, and I guessed he was her mentor.
Just as Rodan exited, a Whiterun Guard approached.
- Lyssia: Yes, Guardsman?
- Greglund: Oh, I am not here for you, Lady Anniotus. I need to speak to Thane Welkynd.
- Wulf: What can I do for you, Guard Greglund?
- Greglund: That creepy dragon lady and Vayu just informed Jarl Balgruuf that the enemy is expected to arrive tomorrow. He wants to speak to you about our preparations.
- Wulf: Silah is not creepy, just transparent.
- Greglund: My apologies. Anyway, I asked around and was told you had entered The Hall of The Dead. So here I am, delivering the message.
- Wulf: Assure Jarl Balgruuf that I shall visit sometime today.
- Greglund: Lady Anniotus, Court Mage Farengar seems to have had another accident. It would probably be best to visit him and see what can be done at your earliest convenience.
- Lyssia: Again?
- Greglund: There is no need to hurry. Perhaps a few more hours of farting flames may teach him a lesson. There are no flames, but he swears he feels like there are. He is rapidly running out of undergarments.
- Lyssia: Farengar is a perfect example of intelligence not equating to wisdom. Tell him to drink the concoction I prepared when his skin became scaly. It will remove the dragon’s toxins from his blood.
- Greglund: Why didn’t he try that already?
- Lyssia: He panics. I shall talk to him later, for we have far more pressing matters.
Greglund bowed to Lyssia, saluted me, waved to Inigo, and left.
- Wulf: Lady Lyssia Anniotus? That is a very Imperial name, but I think there is some Bosmer in your line.
- Lyssia: Indeed, my maternal grandmother was Bosmer.
- Wulf: Before travelling together, I would like to ask some questions and lay some ground rules.
- Lyssia: Fair enough. I shall endeavour to provide the most thorough answers that I am able. I also reserve the right to ask questions of my own.
- Wulf: Tell me about yourself.
- Lyssia: My father is a travelling merchant, and his trade took us far and wide across Tamriel. Thus, I was blessed with the opportunity to bear witness to its many wonders.
- Inigo: I know about the pleasure. I have also seen wonders that pose many questions.
- Lyssia: Indeed, and that is why I was fortunate my mother was a woman of learning. She spent her days buried in tomes and scrolls, deciphering ancient languages long forgotten.
- Wulf: I assume your mother’s pursuit of knowledge influenced you.
- Lyssia: Yes, and I recall hearing about The College of Whispers while I was young. Mother would tell me tales of the secrets and magic they had uncovered. As I grew older, I was drawn to their philosophy and the study of magic.
- Wulf: And you pursued that interest.
- Lyssia: Yes, I knew it was the path I was meant to follow, and I was determined to make it so. Now, I stand as a proud member of The College of Whispers. I am eager to unlock the secrets of the arcane and advance the knowledge of magic.
- Wulf: Many pursue the same but are thwarted by a lack of natural Magicka. I can tell your Magicka reserves are well beyond average.
- Lyssia: How can you tell that?
- Wulf: I have many abilities that come naturally or were gifted by The Divines. Reading somebody’s Magicka reserves is one of them.
- Lyssia: You said you are a Master of The College of Winterhold.
- Wulf: Yes, I am a Master in all the Schools of Magicka, including necromancy. I have also received training from The Psijic Order. I am the only non-member ever to have that honour.
- Lyssia: But you look so young!
- Wulf: Chronologically, I am twenty-two years of age. However, thanks to another gift from The Divines, I have studied many things for years.
- Lyssia: Do you have much contact with The Divines?
- Wulf: I speak to them regularly. I also speak to several Daedric Princes on a friendly basis.
- Lyssia: Enough to become their champion, according to Farengar.
- Wulf: Some of the Dark Lords I champion are not my friends. However, I am a helpful mortal with power, so they were happy to promote me to that position.
- Lyssia: Fair of face, bold of heart and drawn to the mystic arts. Watch yourself, my dear, lest you find me smitten with you.
- Inigo: Wulf’s partner would dice you into tiny pieces if she were to hear such flirting.
- Lyssia: I apologise and will exercise more restraint in the future.
- Wulf: Inigo is wrong. My beloved would slice you in two and not waste time creating bloody chunks.
- Lyssia: Oh!
- Wulf: Where are you staying, Lyssia?
- Lyssia: As you may have guessed, I am known in Whiterun’s Court and have accommodation in Dragonsreach. That is where I gathered some information about you and your companions.
- Wulf: I visit Jarl Balgruuf frequently and have never seen you, so I assume your association with him is recent.
- Lyssia: Yes, only a few days. That is when Farengar’s intense fascination with dragons caused havoc. I visited him, hoping that Rodan and Leolar had consulted with him.
- Wulf: Farengar is intelligent, but as you surmised, he is naïve and lacks wisdom.
- Lyssia: His fixation on dragons drove him to partake in an unwise experiment. He had obtained dragon blood and created a concoction with it. When he drank it, he grew scales over the extremities of his body, all twenty-one of them.
- Inigo: He grew scales on his wang?
- Lyssia: Yes. I took his word for it because the last thing I wanted to see was his tiny, scaled-covered penis.
- Wulf: You gave him a laxative!
- Lyssia: Yes, and it seems he has used it to excess.
- Wulf: I surmise it was so successful treating the scales that he consumed more after another experiment.
- Lyssia: I think that is the likely scenario. When I fixed Farengar, Jarl Balgruuf took notice. After a brief discussion, he offered me accommodation while I investigated the missing mages.
- Wulf: Farengar can wait. I think we should immediately investigate the mine near Riverwood.
- Lyssia: I agree.
- Wulf: People who want to travel with me must agree to and adhere to basic rules.
- Lyssia: Which are?
- Wulf: Do not step in front of me unless we are already in melee combat.
- Lyssia: Why?
- Wulf: The Voice does not differentiate between friend and foe. If you are caught in the path of a Shout, you can die.
- Inigo: Many people get turned to ash by Wulf’s power.
- Lyssia: Okay, not getting in front of Wulf sound’s sensible.
- Wulf: You might see me use powers and abilities you don’t understand. Until I can trust you, I will not answer many questions they generate. It is best if you accept that I have been blessed by The Divines or gained knowledge lost to the ages.
- Lyssia: Understood.
- Wulf: Are you carrying any Ayleid Waystones?
- Lyssia: Two. One gets me to the border near Falkreath. The other takes me to the border of Bravil.
- Wulf: Then you are used to travelling through the ethereal plane.
- Lyssia: Yes.
- Wulf: Good. Then place your hand on my shoulder. I will teleport us to Riverwood.
- Lyssia: Is teleportation one of the gifts?
- Wulf: No, I researched and learned the forgotten magics. I will not need physical contact to teleport you when I know you better.
I teleported us to Riverwood’s entrance.
Lyssia stared at me as if trying to solve a complex puzzle.
I laughed and then started to walk along Riverwood’s main street.
A guard asked, “Thane Welkynd, when will the enemy reach Whiterun?”
“We expect them to reach the battlefield midday tomorrow. But they will be exhausted, so the battle will likely commence the following morning.”
“Good. I finish my week of Riverwood guarding today and return to Whiterun tomorrow. I will not miss the battle!”
“If all goes to plan, no city guard will glimpse the enemy.”
“As long as I see Stormcloak and Legionnaire standing united, I will be content.”
“Ulfric will not allow the truce to last a minute longer than needed. Brother will soon be fighting brother once more.”
“That is a grim thought, Thane. But I know it is true.”
We continued, crossed a bridge, and stood at some crossroads.
Lyssia asked, “How sure are you that the invaders will be defeated?”
“It is a certainty. However, The New Order’s numbers would be greatly reduced even if they defeated our army. They could not succeed in breaching Whiterun’s defences.”
“I hope my services are not required inside the city, but if they are, I will offer them freely.”
“You will see the people of Nirn at their best as race and religion are ignored for a just cause.”
We walked to and entered the mine.
Immediately we heard a single pickaxe in use, and some mumbled speech.
We travelled further in and noticed large deposits of orichalcum ore.
A bit later, I whispered, “There are three people ahead. One is using the pickaxe. The other two seem to be guarding him.”
We crept closer and overhead a guard saying, “Keep at it, you pitiful worm, unless you want The Order of Light to make your wretched existence unbearable.”
The miner replied, “Please, believe me when I say my axe is powerless against this rock!”
The guard whacked the miner across the head and growled, “Swing harder, or I will hit you harder!”
I used my Thu’um, but not powerfully, and said, “I AM THANE WELKYND, AND YOU ARE BREAKING IMPERIAL AND SKYRIM LAWS. DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND GET ON YOUR KNEES.”
My caution was justified as rocks fell from the ceiling and supporting beams groaned.
The enemy charged, so I drew my sword and decapitated both in seconds.
- Lyssia: For a mage, you handle that sword well.
- Inigo: My friend has killed thousands with his sword and bow, probably more with The Voice and magic.
- Wulf: I can’t protect the innocent without culling those who want to harm them. But I find no glory in battle and have little regard for those that do.
- Lyssia: Where did you learn your sword and bow skills?
- Wulf: Lord Talos taught me sword, bow and tactics when I was young. Dragonguard Swordmasters and Bowmasters when older. I am now a Dragonguard Swordmaster.
- Lyssia: I have heard your companions call themselves Dragonguard.
- Wulf: When we met you yesterday, Inigo was the only Khajiiti. The others are Ka’Po’Tun from Akavir.
- Lyssia: You are an enigma, Wulf.
- Wulf: I am easy to summarise. I will do what is needed to protect the mortals of Nirn.
I walked over to the miner and cast Minor Healing to remove the bruise inflicted by the dead guard.
I then inspected the rock he was attacking with his pickaxe. It wasn’t real.
The miner asked, “Are you The Dragonborn?”
“Yes, I am Lord Welkynd. And your name is?”
“Where and when did these people capture you, Lartnlen?”
“Near Falkreath yesterday. I was inspecting disused mines, hoping to find one that could still turn a profit.”
“The rock is false. It is a magical construct, and your pickaxe couldn’t possibly damage it.”
“They kept talking about some ancient artefact. They seemed to think it was very important.”
“I don’t think they understand what the artefact is.”
I handed Lartnlen a bag of coins.
He asked, “What is this for?”
“I suggest you go to one of the mining towns and get hired. Many disused mines have abundant ore but have been abandoned for a reason. I often find deceased prospectors such as yourself who have died alone. Purchase a good quality pickaxe and lantern. That will increase your chances of being hired. Good luck, Lartnlen.”
Lartnlen stared at me as he walked past. He then stopped to watch what happened next.
At the beginning of my short melee with the guards, Lyssia had cast protective spells on herself, so she glowed blue.
She said, “Stand back, my friend, while I try to unravel this false wall.”
Lyssia stared at the construct for several minutes.
I told her, “You must hit it with pure Magicka of the correct frequency. Put your hand near it and see if you can estimate that frequency. Start at that frequency and slowly increase it. Not much Magicka is needed, but be aware that a lot of energy will be expelled when the construct shatters.”
Lyssia did as I suggested, then cast Magicka at the construct. As predicted, it vanished in a burst of Magicka that knocked Lartnlen off his feet. He got to his feet and ran, his curiosity overtaken by fear.
In her eagerness, Lyssia ran ahead. Her target was a wall of text.
Inigo and I took a more cautious approach.
- Wulf: Lyssia, please do not run ahead of us. We are far better equipped to detect traps and ambushes than you.
- Inigo: We are far more likely to survive ambushes and traps.
- Lyssia: Forgive me. My eagerness to unravel this mystery overpowered my common sense.
- Wulf: Like eager prospectors, we often find dead scholars and mages who fall victim to these places.
- Inigo: That writing looks old!
- Lyssia: It is ancient indeed, Inigo. However, I believe I can discern its meaning. Let me study it for a moment.
Two languages known to me were on the wall. I was curious which one Lyssia knew. It was fifteen minutes before she spoke again.
- Lyssia: The Orb of The Divines lies locked away. It appears that three pieces are required to unseal it.
- Inigo: My friend said that a key was needed.
- Lyssia: There are three clues. Seek first the petal of Dibella’s grace. Beauty is incarnate in every face. Where elegance dances on love’s soft embrace. Therein lies the first key in her sacred place.
- Wulf: Ahst nu vinukaan Dibella’sa shay. Varennariel nu varlaen nagaia. Vaerim nu naumia vaermaar nir silahtaa. Doemik nu mahfaeraak nu nuundaal ahrk luftaa.
- Lyssia: You speak Ayleidoon?
- Wulf: Yes, and your translation was correct. I can also speak the other language.
- Lyssia: Is it Atmoramál?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Lyssia: Do you know the history of Atmoramál?
- Wulf: Yes, I do. Atmoramál is derived from Drekarmál, a combination of Dovahzul and Aldinnmál. Of course, the ancestor of all these languages is Ehlnofex.
- Lyssia: You are leaving out an essential part of its development. All history is important, Wulf, even if you are uncomfortable with it.
- Inigo: Lyssia, have you heard of The Dragonborn Gallery?
- Lyssia: Yes, and I hope to visit it when it opens.
- Inigo: My friend owns that museum. Its primary purpose is to portray history accurately. He does not hide the unpleasant or unpalatable.
- Lyssia: Oh.
- Wulf: In the museum, I mention that Ysgramor introduced Atmoran Runes in the first era. That might sound like a mighty accomplishment, except all he did was replace the runes used by the Falmer, Snow Elves if you prefer, with his own. It was another step in his attempt to remove an entire race from history.
- Lyssia: Once again, I let my mouth get ahead of my better judgement.
- Wulf: Please, continue with the other clues.
- Lyssia: Next, the band of sorrow Arkay bestows. A reminder of life’s highs and lows. In the silence of the tomb where the cold wind blows. There is the second key in death’s repose.
- Wulf: I find it odd they use the names of Saint Alessia’s pantheon and not the old gods.
- Lyssia: Yes, that is peculiar. It makes it difficult to date these inscriptions.
- Wulf: And the last part, please.
- Lyssia: The ring of time, by Akatosh bound. In the river of ages, its echoes sound. Where past and future in the present are found, the third key turns, and the orb is unbound.
- Inigo: The clues describe the places parts of the key are, but not where to find those places.
- Wulf: There is more information at the end of each clue.
- Lyssia: Some numbers are present, but their significance eludes me.
- Wulf: They are coordinates not usable on modern maps. You would need a first-era map to pinpoint the locations. I have one at my museum we could use.
- Lyssia: There is no need, for I have one at Dragonsreach.
- Wulf: Then we shall head there soon. First, I want to look around. This place is too elaborate and extensive for that wall to be its only purpose.
I was drawn to the water where a ramp to nowhere jutted several feet above it.
Next to the beginning of the ramp was a font. When I placed my hand on it, I felt a familiar presence. It was that of Lord Arkay.
I dived under the water and felt Arkay’s presence at a particular place.
I returned to Lyssia.
- Wulf: I think this is the location of The Orb of The Divines.
- Lyssia: Why?
- Wulf: I am sensitive to the presence of Divine energy. I can sense that of Lord Arkay on the bed of the lake. I can also feel his energy in the font near the ramp.
- Inigo: And you think The Orb of The Divines has something to do with Arkay?
- Wulf: Yes, and that is what I read, and there is no other logical explanation for his Divine presence to be here.
- Lyssia: Don’t ask questions, Lyssia. Just accept Wulf can do things. That advice was given, and it would be wise to follow it.
- Inigo: That mantra sounds familiar.
- Wulf: Okay, we shall zap to Dragonsreach. While I speak to Jarl Balgruuf, Lyssia can consult her map.
- Inigo: Why do you have a map with those old-fashioned coordinates?
- Lyssia: Mage Rodan instructed me to create it. He said it often comes in handy when searching for ancient artefacts.
- Wulf: I have never had to consult one before. Now I will have to start carrying one, as Mage Rodan seems to be correct in this matter.
- Lyssia: Do I have to put my hand on your shoulder again?
- Wulf: Yes, but I think this will be the last time that is needed.
Lyssia held my shoulder, and we teleported into Dragonsreach.
I turned to Lyssia and asked, “Where shall we find you?”
“On the balcony directly above where I am standing.”
When I stopped before Jarl Balgruuf, Lyssia headed upstairs.
- Wulf: Good morning, Jarl Balgruuf.
- Balgruuf: Silah and Vayu informed us that The New Order will arrive tomorrow.
- Wulf: We expect their leading elements, mainly scouts and light infantry, to arrive at the edge of the battlefield around midday.
- Irileth: And when do you think the battle will commence?
- Wulf: If the weather were sunny, I would expect the enemy to attack at first light on the sixth. However, the weather will be stormy and miserable, forcing them to wait.
- Irileth: They seem to have many archers and would hope for sunny weather.
- Balgruuf: How do you know it will be stormy?
- Wulf: Somebody with foresight has told me. That is not guaranteed, but I will make it stormy if it is sunny.
- Irileth: You can change the weather?
- Inigo: My friend, why are people surprised by what you can do?
- Irileth: Not all of us have the pleasure of following General Welkynd into danger.
- Wulf: Yes, Irileth, via spells taught to me by The Psijic Order, I can change the weather.
- Balgruuf: What can we expect?
- Wulf: We have destroyed their trebuchets and catapults, so no random boulders and fire will be tossed over Whiterun’s walls. I expect those on Whiterun’s ramparts to witness the destruction of enemy forces in hours, not days. There will be few, if any, prisoners taken. I doubt a single New Order soldier will come within a hundred yards of your walls.
- Balgruuf: What happens post-victory?
- Wulf: I expect many who fight in Stormcloak colours to realise their mistake and abandon Ulfric. He will not order all of his troops back to their positions. On the contrary, he will amass those loyal to him nearby. He will eventually attack Whiterun, whether you remain neutral or not.
- Balgruuf: I am not sure he would attack my city and kill my people.
- Wulf: You would be wise to commit to a side before I visit Ulfric and kill him. A neutral stance will not prevent you and your family from being deposed.
- Balgruuf: Bring me proof he intends to attack Whiterun.
- Wulf: I know of your traditions, Jarl Balgruuf. When the time comes, I will be your envoy.
- Balgruuf: I saw you and Lady Anniotus talking. Do you know her?
- Inigo: We are helping Lyssia investigate the death of her friend.
- Wulf: The group of people who killed Lyssia’s friend called themselves The Order of Light. They also kidnapped a miner that we rescued near Riverwood. We will let you know if they threaten anybody else in your Hold.
- Irileth: Surely you don’t involve yourself with every crime, General Welkynd.
- Wulf: I can’t ignore the ones I witness. Quite often, they lead to more significant concerns.
- Balgruuf: I am trying to share your confidence about The New Order, but I am worried about my people. If they kill one innocent, I will have failed them.
- Wulf: I empathise with your worry, Jarl Balgruuf. The Dragonguard have worked tirelessly in their efforts to reduce casualties. The farmers in their path have been evacuated. Even the stubborn ones are safe. Only so much can be done against an army the size that Aedriath leads.
- Balgruuf: Perhaps soon, my Hold and its people can feel safe again.
- Wulf: We will work tirelessly to make that happen. Now, if you will excuse us, we have more leads on The Order of Light we must pursue.
We made our way to Lyssia, who had tidied her hair.
- Wulf: Any success?
- Lyssia: Yes, I have successfully deciphered all three coordinates.
- Inigo: Do we have to find the artefacts in the order written on the wall?
- Wulf: No. But we will just on a whim. Please mark all three locations on my map.
I handed Lyssia my map, and she marked the three locations.
- Lyssia: The first item is Arkay’s Band of Sorrow. That is in the ruins next to Lake Ilinalta.
- Wulf: That is not far from Ilinalta’s Deep. We shall teleport to one of my houses, Lakeview Lodge, and travel from there.
- Lyssia: May I stay and attend Mage Farengar?
- Inigo: We can handle it, my friend.
- Wulf: I can always summon help if need be. So yes, Lyssia, attend to Farengar.
- Lyssia: Akatosh’s Ring of Time is in the mine near Riverwood.
- Wulf: I checked the lake but not the rivers that feed into it.
- Lyssia: Can you please return before proceeding to the next item? I want to accompany you.
- Wulf: Yes, of course. We shall see you soon.
We teleported into Lakeview Manor and then exited it.
Akiho was standing near the gate we needed to use.
- Wulf: Hello, Princess Akiho.
- Akiho: Greetings Wulf and Inigo.
- Inigo: I wasn’t hungry till I saw and smelt that loaf!
- Akiho: It is smothered with honey from our hives.
- Wulf: Oh, was that thunder or Inigo’s tummy rumbling?
Akiho handed Inigo the loaf and smiled as he took a huge bite.
- Akiho: Now it is my stomach rumbling. Don’t worry. I might be able to reach the kitchen before collapsing from starvation.
- Wulf: Are there any issues I should know?
- Akiho: We have had troubles with New Order deserters. Less than ten minutes ago, we helped the local militia exterminate a group of nine. Be careful. We haven’t cleaned their blood and guts from the steps.
- Wulf: We thought the army might fragment but hoped most enemies would reach Whiterun.
- Akiho: Vayu visited yesterday and let us know what is happening. Rigmor will be relieved to dispose of her nemesis.
- Wulf: Yes, her nightmares will die with him.
- Akiho: Is there a reason you are here and not preparing for the battle?
- Wulf: Dragons are our scouts, so I know I have time to attend to other matters.
- Inigo: We are searching for an important artefact.
- Wulf: We are helping The College of Whispers. An obscure group called The Order of Light have been hunting and killing those mages and kidnapping Skyrim residents.
- Akiho: Well, have fun.
- Wulf: The place we are going will be filled with Draugr. That is why Inigo is so eager to get there.
Inigo stared at me as he stuffed his mouth with the last of the loaf.
We exited Lakeview Manor and were careful not to slip on the blood and gut covered stairs.
I asked Nestor, “How is the fishery?”
“The fish are breeding like rabbits. We have been selling a lot to passing merchants.”
“That is good. It won’t be long before my other properties fully fund the orphanages.”
Nestor continued his patrol, and I move to the side of the fishery then dived into the water.
I reached the opposite bank with Inigo a few seconds behind.
We made our way to the tomb’s entrance.
I told Inigo, “This place is called Gravekeeper’s Sanctum.”
“So, it will be full of zombies!”
“I will summon help if it gets too much, Inigo.”
We entered the tomb.
Inigo said, “I can smell and hear many zombies but am not afraid. I am not the sickly, unarmed Inigo that got these scars.”
“We have eliminated many Draugr together. This place will be boring as we kill more without effort.”
It was as I predicted. There was nothing to discover, just Draugr to kill.
We soon arrived at a long cavern. At the far end was a chest covered by a blue haze.
I eliminated the only Draugr in there.
Then I retrieved Arkay’s Band of Sorrow from a chest.
I told Inigo, “I can feel Lord Arkay’s presence, but it has no dweomer on it.”
We exited to the roof. Ilinalta’s Deep was not far away.
I then teleported us to Dragonsreach.
On the way to Lyssia, one of Jarl Balgruuf’s dogs demanded an ear scratch.
“There you go, Yarri. Are you happy now?”
Yarri wagged his tail. Storm didn’t even look up. I must bring Meeko to play with them. Although last time, they caused havoc on the streets of Whiterun.
Lyssia looked concerned as we approached her.
- Wulf: We have retrieved Arkay’s Band of Sorrow.
- Lyssia: That was quicker than expected. I do hope you didn’t encounter any significant difficulties along the way.
- Inigo: There were a lot of zombies, but we were not in much danger.
- Lyssia: Zombies?
- Wulf: That is what Inigo calls Draugr.
- Lyssia: I am eager to help recover Dibella’s Rose Petal. However, I have received some rather unexpected news. My father, Marcellus, with whom I’ve not spoken in a long time, has contacted me. He desires to meet with me, and I would be most grateful if you would accompany me. That is if it is not too much trouble.
- Wulf: Where does he want to meet?
- Lyssia: He’s waiting for me at the Frostfruit Inn in Rorikstead.
- Wulf: Yes, of course, we shall accompany you. But you seem uncertain.
- Inigo: Is everything alright?
- Lyssia: I cannot say for sure. I haven’t heard from Father in years, and our relationship has not been the best.
- Wulf: Did he say why he wants to meet with you?
- Lyssia: No. His message was somewhat cryptic.
- Inigo: My friend might be too polite. Therefore, I will ask. How did your father know where to find you?
- Lyssia: That is a good question for which I have no answer.
- Inigo: Mage Rodan didn’t know how The Order of Light knew about The College of Whispers visiting Skyrim.
- Lyssia: And Wulf suggested there are spies in the college.
- Inigo: I think there are spies keeping track of you.
- Lyssia: And they told my father?
- Wulf: That is logical speculation, but we have no proof.
- Lyssia: I do not feel comfortable about this. Nonetheless, having you two by my side shall undoubtedly provide some comfort.
- Wulf: I think I can teleport you without physical contact. Let’s try, shall we?
We barely came out of the ether when Nahagliiv appeared and issued a challenge.
He spoke in Dovahzul. The following is my translation of our discussion.
“Dragonborn, I have waited with patience for you to appear. I see you are not surrounded by those stronger than you. Therefore, I will kill you and become the true overlord.”
“I wondered where you were, Nahagliiv. You did not support Multhunrothkaan when he attacked Rorikstead. None of my friends approach my strength, and I will kill you without their aid. Your soul will be mine, and you will cease to exist. History will record your foolishness.”
Nahagliiv dived and attacked me with Lightning. I laughed as Dragonrend slammed into him.
Too late, Nahagliiv realised his peril and tried to flee. Dragonrend brought him down not far out of town.
I soon reached him and Shouted Dragonrend once more.
Shouted Dragonfire made him scream in pain as I ran towards him.
He lasted seconds as my katana did enormous damage. Nahagliiv roared as he died.
I sheathed my sword and stood still as I absorbed his soul.
Soon, a crowd gathered and started to cheer and clap.
Lyssia looked stunned.
- Lyssia: That beast stood no chance.
- Wulf: Dragons are not beasts, Lyssia. I have the soul and blood of a dragon and am not a beast!
- Lyssia: My apologies. Unlike the residents of Skyrim, I have not had to endure Alduin and his compatriots.
- Inigo: That is two days in a row, my friend. Why are they attacking you?
- Wulf: There will always be dragons who want to test their Thu’um against mine. That dragon is Nahagliiv, and his burial mound is nearby. I had not seen or heard of him since Alduin restored him. He wasn’t here when we saved Rorikstead from Multhunrothkaan.
- Lyssia: I have heard you use The Voice when talking. That was the first time I witnessed it in battle. Why did Nahagliiv crash to the ground? I couldn’t see any physical damage.
- Wulf: The Shout I used is called Dragonrend. It was invented by the Tongues, who banished Alduin into the timestream. It makes dragons contemplate their mortality. So foreign is that concept their subconscious overloads trying to make sense of it. That removes their ability to maintain controlled flight. Nahagliiv did well to fly as far as he did.
- Lyssia: And then you covered him with fire.
- Wulf: I can use a Shout or breathe to create Dragonfire. Since my helmet prevents the latter, I used a Shout.
- Lyssia: You look upset.
- Wulf: You saw me absorb Nahagliiv’s soul. He is now erased from this kalpa and all future kalpa. He ceased to exist. Alduin was doing that to mortals who appeared in Sovngarde. Instead of an afterlife there until the next kalpa, they were also erased for eternity.
- Inigo: My friend regards dragons as brothers and sisters.
- Wulf: We share a celestial father in Lord Akatosh. To be precise, a shard of AKA. All sentient beings deserve to be reborn each kalpa. To deny that right is a curse that The Divines cannot remove. It is an integral part of the gifts bestowed by Lord Akatosh.
- Lyssia: What will happen to Nahagliiv’s remains?
- Wulf: There is a market for the bones to create weapons and armour. I do not want that to happen. Therefore, another dragon will recover and deposit the remains where no mortal can interfere. I do not have to ask them. They will naturally know of this battle.
- Inigo: Let us hope no other dragons decide to challenge you, my friend.
- Wulf: They know and accept the risk they take. Very few are foolish enough to risk annihilation. Let us continue with our task.
Frostfruit Inn’s sign somewhat lightened my dark mood. It was painted by Maralki’s son, Erik, as a young boy. Erik fantasises about a life of adventure. I have told him to fall in love with somebody local, marry and have a fulfilling life in Rorikstead.
We entered the inn, and Lyssia made a beeline for her father.
Marcellus Anniotus looked every bit a Colovian Imperial. There was no hug or expression of affection between father and daughter. The body language of the two could not be mistaken for anything but mutual distaste. The tones in their voices bordered on hostility.
Marcellus said, “Lyssia, my dear daughter, how I have missed you.”
“Father, your sudden message was quite unexpected. Why did you get in touch with me after all this time?”
“I have been discretely observing your journey, my child.”
“Your pursuit of The Orb of The Divines has significant implications, and I possess information that may be useful to you.”
“Well, that is convenient and not suspicious at all.”
Marcellus did not respond to Lyssia’s barb. He is probably used to them. I glanced at Inigo, who did a slight shake of his head. He did not trust Marcellus.
Marcellus continued, “There is also another matter we must discuss.”
“Really? How are you even aware of The Orb of The Divines?”
“I understand your scepticism, Lyssia. With my extensive merchant network, not much information can get past me.”
That was a load of bollocks. But I kept my thoughts to myself and was sure Lyssia did not believe him.
Lyssia sighed and said, “Continue.”
“I know you desire to locate Dibella’s Rose Petal, and I can offer assistance.”
“We are already aware of its location.”
“Are you? Then you must also know that you require a key.”
“A key is necessary to retrieve Dibella’s Rose Petal, and I wish for you to have it.”
“It is peculiar that you have appeared after all this time and offered me assistance.”
“I simply want to make amends for my past mistakes.”
There was no sincerity in Marcellus’ words.
His façade continued, “I may not have been the best father to you, but I have always cared for you and your well-being.”
Rigmor’s answer to that would have been, “Yeah, right. Pffft!” Lyssia glared with contempt but kept quiet.
He told her, “Helping you is my way of showing you that I am still here for you and supporting you.”
With well-controlled sarcasm, Lyssia replied, “I am grateful, Father. Now, what is this other matter?”
“Your mother passed away some time ago, Lyssia.”
Lyssia gasped and was on the verge of tears when she asked, “How? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“It was sudden, my child. A terrible illness took her from us. I’m sorry, Lyssia.”
“I can’t believe it. I wish I had been there for her.”
“I know, my dear. But Fravita knew how much you loved her and was proud of the person you had become. She wanted nothing but the best for you.”
“Thank you, Father. I appreciate you telling me.”
“Yes, of course. I should get going.”
Lyssia was visibly upset, yet Marcellus offered her few words and little comfort. Inigo was irritated, but like me, he knew this was not the time to express his concerns.
Marcellus warned, “Do be careful, Lyssia. You are not the only ones after The Orb of The Divines. We will speak again soon.”
Marcellus handed Lyssia a key. I watched him leave the inn. That gave me time to control my temper and for Lyssia to regain composure.
When I thought she was ready, I told her, “I am sorry for your loss, Lyssia. Losing a parent cannot be easy.”
“Thank you. It’s just…well…I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Mother.”
“Your mother would have known your love for her and be so proud of you.”
“Do you want to return to Dragonsreach? Inigo and I can retrieve Dibella’s Rose Petal.”
“Yes, I think that would be best. I need some time to process everything that’s happened. Here is the key.”
I took the key and teleported us.
We emerged from the ether, and Lyssia started walking towards her quarters.
I said, “Wait, Lyssia.”
She turned to me.
I warned her, “You are being spied upon, and we cannot assume they are friendly. Do not mistake Dragonsreach for a secure haven.”
“I won’t, Wulf. I know you have suspicions about Father. Perhaps we can discuss them later.”
“Yes, now is not the time. We shall return after retrieving Dibella’s Rose Petal.”
As Lyssia walked away, I told Inigo, “We need to find Rorikstead Abyss. It is not far out of Rorikstead.”
“My friend, I do not trust Lyssia’s father one little bit.”
“I know. Marcellus could find Lyssia to give her the key but not to tell her about her mother’s death.”
“Is there anything special about the key?”
“No, it is to a good quality lock, but not one I could not pick. There is no dweomer on it.”
“He was heartless.”
“He may love his daughter, but if that is how he was during her formative years, he never expressed it with more than words.”
I teleported us to Rorikstead, and we headed for one of the exit gates.
As we approached it, some guards and locals were fighting a Khajiiti.
A guard yelled, “Lord Welkynd, I believe he is an assassin. He drew his weapon when I challenged him.”
When the Khajiiti saw us, he tried to escape.
One of the locals was dressed in leather and managed to keep up with the Khajiiti and engage him.
I cut the Khajiiti down.
When I searched the body, I found the following note, which I read aloud.
- “Why aren’t you here?
- My patience is going to end.
- I want ‘my’ prey dead!
- Master E.”
I growled, “This is not the first assassin sent by Master E. He will be the one to die when I discover his identity.”
I walked away at a rapid pace.
After some time, Inigo said, “Wait, my friend.”
I turned and let him catch up.
He said, “You are outraged, and you know that reduces your awareness. Do not stumble into a trap or ambush!”
“You are right, Inigo. I am tired of assassins and others trying to harm me. They would do so if Rigmor were with me, which puts her in danger. This armour disguises me, but…”
“But your furry blue friend is well known.”
“How much further?”
“We are there.”
“Will this place be full of zombies?”
“No, Inigo, they are not associated with Lady Dibella.”
We entered Rorikstead Abyss, which was a series of natural caverns.
After stepping through a waterfall, we swam across a shallow lake and came upon a Dwemer tower.
I moaned, “I forgot my pillow!”
We climbed a ramp and then entered the tower. In front of us was a lift.
Inigo asked, “What have the Dwemer got to do with Dibella?”
“Nothing at all. It seems a strange place to put a relic of The Divines.”
We went up many stories using the lift.
When I used Heat Vision, I saw a Dwemer Spider waiting to leap out at us.
We disposed of a few Dwemer Automatons, including the hiding spider.
We passed many statues of Dibella before coming to a set of locked doors. Heat Vision did not detect anybody on the other side. The key that Marcellus gave Lyssia unlocked them.
Beyond the door was a spirit of a Sybil. Beyond her were more doors.
Inigo whispered, “Who is she?”
“She is a Sybil. They are the spokespeople for Lady Dibella. Each temple has a living one. However, she is dead.”
I walked over and stood before the spirit.
I said, “Greetings, Sybil. I am Valdr Septim, Dragonchild and Champion of The Divines. I seek Dibella’s Rose Petal.”
“Greetings, Dragonchild. To access Dibella’s Rose Petal, answer this riddle.”
- Elusive force, in grace, it lies. In art and love, it reaches the skies.
- It lends its hand to harmony and weaves its spell across the land.
- A blooming flower, a pure embrace, hides within the heart’s chase.
- What is this seldom clear essence that kindles life and draws us nearer?
I did not hesitate and replied, “Beauty.”
The Sybil bowed and vanished. The door at the far end opened.
There was a seat and seemingly fresh food. Inigo asked the question bothering me.
“My friend, if that was a spirit, why is there a chair and fresh food?”
“It is a tongue wagger.”
“Something that serves no purpose but to make your tongue wag.”
“Roscrea must be a strange place to create such sayings!”
Another door required Marcellus’ key.
We entered a room with the artefact in the centre.
It sat on a pedestal and was not a petal but an exquisitely carved rose made of a delicate material that was not porcelain.
I gently lifted it and felt Lady Dibella’s presence but no dweomer.
A portal appeared. I could tell it did not teleport outside Mundus, so we stepped through.
It teleported us to the entry cave.
I then teleported us into Dragonsreach.
When we reached Lyssia’s table, she was not there.
I picked up a note and read it to Inigo.
- “Dear Lord Welkynd,
- Lyssia remains unarmed under our watchful eye.
- Our organisation views The Orb of The Divines as crucial to our cause.
- We commend your efforts in obtaining Dibella’s Rose Petal and Arkay’s Band of Sorrow.
- Now, you must deliver those items to ensure Lyssia’s safe release.
- We eagerly await your arrival at Riverwood’s mine.
- Lyssia’s safety relies on your promptness.”
Underneath, in different handwriting, was the following.
“Wulf and Inigo, we were right to be cautious. As a precaution, when I retired to my room, I placed several Paralysis Runes near the door. There was a knock, and when I demanded who it was, she said she was sent by The Order of Light to kidnap me. However, she knew The Champion of The Divines was my friend and wanted to help us, not hinder us.
I will tell you more when you arrive at the old mine. Do not mistake the hooded one for me. That is Sori Haggard, our unexpected ally. I am the short one in what I suspect will be ill-fitting armour. The officer is Captain Kaethius. There will be at least half a dozen soldiers with her.”
Inigo looked puzzled and asked, “How could they kidnap Lyssia from Dragonsreach? There are many guards, and she was being cautious.”
“They couldn’t even if Lyssia was not being diligent. However, she did what I would have done. She placed Paralysis Runes around her room. The noise would wake her if triggered, and the assailants would be paralysed.”
“If they left not long after we teleported to Rorikstead, they would have arrived in Riverwood recently.”
We teleported to Riverwood and looked for a guard.
“Guardsman Hredic, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Thane Welkynd.”
“We are looking for two females. One would be dressed in armour, the other in leather.”
“The only people who have passed through here in the last hour were two women. One was a blond, rather tall and wearing leather. The other was short in expensive ebony armour.”
“Was the short one wearing a red mask?”
“Yes, and she had a shield with an emblem of bird wings intersected by a sword.”
“Thank you, Guardsman Hredic.”
Pippi demanded an ear scratch.
Then Gerdur approached.
She said, “There was something odd about the two women, Thane Welkynd.”
“The armour did not fit the shorter woman. It was at least two sizes too large, even with all the straps tightened. In contrast, the taller woman almost burst out of her leather armour.”
“Then they are who we are searching for.”
“I am hearing rumours, Thane Welkynd. May I ask you something?”
“Yes, of course, Gerdur.”
“You are wearing an Imperial uniform. Is that just because you lead our combined armies against The New Order?”
“No, Gerdur. I will be fighting against Ulfric after we have dealt with The New Order. If you are worried about Ralof and get to see him, advise him to listen to me. I will inform all of Nirn about Ulfric and allow Stormcloaks to go home and live. But I will only wait for a set time before I start killing with Thun, Shor’s Shield Brother, by my side and wearing this armour gifted by Lord Talos. As you can see, I proudly display an Amulet of Talos.”
“You have only ever done good for people. I don’t know what you will say about Ulfric, but if you oppose him, that should be enough for people like Ralof to realise their error.”
“I hope so. Divines bless you and your family, Gerdur.”
We made our way to the mine and entered.
We could hear two people speaking. Heat Vision and sound showed that one of them was using a pickaxe.
Inigo whispered, “My friend if they attack us, that proves they are only interested in retrieving the artefacts.”
When closer, I heard one of them say, “The annals of history shall sing my praises as the unsurpassed champion of combat! The Dragonborn? Ha, he is but a plaything for a warrior like me!”
I turned the corner and said, “We have arrived as requested.”
The two soldiers attacked me. That proved hostile intent, so I killed them with Unrelenting Force.
We continued to the large chamber.
Somebody was hooded and bound in front of the message wall.
I studied her with Zoom Vision. I did not think it was Lyssia. I assumed it was the turncoat, Sori.
Heat Vision showed nobody behind the wall, which is not proof of their absence. Heat Vision cannot penetrate some minerals.
I told Inigo, “I will use Telekinesis to bring the prisoner here.”
I cast the spell, and the bound woman lifted off the ground and glided to me.
I untied her hands, helped her to her feet, and removed her hood.
- Wulf: Are you Sori?
- Sori: I am. And you are The Dragonborn, Champion of The Divines.
- Wulf: Yes, I am. My friend is Inigo, a Dragonguard.
- Sori: I recently realised how evil The Order of Light is. When I overheard their plan to kill you and Lyssia, I wanted to leave the cult. When they asked our squad, I volunteered to capture Lyssia.
- Inigo: What can you tell us about The Order of Light?
- Sori: Nothing. Their soldiers are regarded as mercenaries paid to do as told without asking questions.
- Wulf: We killed two soldiers. How many more are there?
- Sori: Our squad was seven soldiers and Captain Kaethius. We would usually have a sergeant or lieutenant in charge of a squad. Therefore, we knew what we were doing was important to the Order.
- Inigo: Have they found Akatosh’s Ring of Time?
- Sori: I don’t know. Once we left Riverwood, the hood was placed over my head. From that point onwards, I played the quiet and compliant prisoner called Lyssia.
- Wulf: Captain Kaethius didn’t catch on to the ruse?
- Sori: She never speaks to us but just issues orders. Captain Kaethius wouldn’t recognise my voice.
- Wulf: Inigo, hide in the shadows with Sori and protect her. I’ll have a chat with Captain Kaethius.
When I got close to the wall, I detected and deliberately tripped a Paralysis Rune. I then pretended to be immobilised.
Captain Kaethius came from behind the wall on the right. She was Altmer and I could tell she thought she had outsmarted me. However, she had to overcome her surprise at the prisoner’s absence. She peered around but could not see the decoy.
A soldier came from behind the wall on the left. I read her soul and knew it was Lyssia. I also knew there was no darkness in that soul.
I was supposed to be paralysed, so endured the bullshit in silence.
“My apologies, Dragonborn, for rendering you immobile. Caution is a virtue in our line of work, after all. I’m pleased you’ve managed to join us here, and I believe Lyssia shares this sentiment. Nonetheless, all good things must end, and Lyssia’s participation will no longer be required. She will be found and slaughtered, but fret not, for you shall be waiting for her in death. I shall remove what I need from your corpse. Thus, we shall have the key to access The Orb of The Divines.”
As the idiot paced back and forth, I watched Lyssia closely. The clenching and unclenching of her hands told me she struggled to keep her temper.
The soon-to-be-dead idiot continued, “I wonder if you are aware of our organisations’ vast influence? No? Well, it extends deep within Skyrim’s very core. The Orb of The Divines is a single undertaking amidst our numerous ventures with grand designs awaiting fruition. Indeed, our members have established themselves in positions of power and authority, and in due time, we shall seize control of Skyrim.”
Captain Kaethius faced Lyssia and ordered, “Soldier, kill our guest and bring me the items I need.”
I used a bit of Thu’um, and the effect was similar to yelling in her face. I told her, “I don’t think the soldier will obey you, Captain Kaethius. It is Lyssia in that armour.”
Captain Kaethius looked worriedly at Lyssia, who waved at her, and then stared at me.
I continued in my normal voice, “I have faced Daedric Princes and other powerful enemies such as Alduin, yet you thought a simple Rune could immobilise me? How stupid are you?”
“You are stupid enough to have sentries who tried to attack me on sight. That told me your intentions were hostile and that you did not intend to release Lyssia.”
Sori yelled, “She is the dumbest captain I have ever encountered!”
Inigo added loudly, “Shh, we are supposed to be hidden like the other soldiers in the cavern.”
Captain Kaethius looked around nervously.
I explained, “I was hoping you would give me some useful information, but all you did was sprout the usual bullshit. The Order of Light has not infiltrated the leaders of Skyrim. Now it is your choice, Captain Kaethius. Drop your weapon and surrender, or have your head removed by my katana.”
Captain Kaethius drew her sword and charged me.
I parried her sword strokes easily, and she slowly backed towards the water.
Inigo yelled, “The others have come out of hiding! I shall take care of them.”
I yelled back, “Leave some for me!”
Captain Kaethius became frantic and tried to bypass my defences with predictable, if skilful, attacks. She screamed as I got tired of the game and lopped off her head. I then joined Inigo and Lyssia in eliminating the soldiers.
I returned to the captain’s corpse and searched it.
There was nothing of use on her except Akatosh’s Ring of Time. It was superbly crafted with interwoven timelines joined by Junctions, or Ripples in The Void, as some call them.
I showed Lyssia the ring.
I said, “I will have to place all three artefacts into the font. I don’t know for sure what will happen. However, I think something will rise from the water.”
We made our way to the platform that hung over the water.
I placed the artefacts into the font. They vanished, and then a tiered stone structure rose from the water.
When it finished rising, a bright light appeared in the centre.
- Wulf: That is a portal. Even from here, I can feel the presence of Aetherius. I assume it leads to a pocket plane.
- Inigo: Are you going to enter, my friend?
- Wulf: Yes.
- Lyssia: Can we come with you?
- Wulf: Let me study the portal briefly and then tell you.
- Lyssia: I should deal with Sori. We don’t know if they will send others here, so she should leave before she is discovered. The Order of Light will think she died here, so they should not pursue her.
- Wulf: Is there somewhere she wants to go?
- Lyssia: He family lives in Leyawiin. They think she has been a merchant’s guard for a few months. If Sori returns there, she should be safe.
- Inigo: She seems terrified.
- Wulf: Anybody who just witnessed our violence would be.
I retrieved a couple of emeralds worth at least a thousand septims. I handed them to Lyssia.
- Wulf: Tell Sori the gems are worth at least a thousand septims if sold to the Khajiiti caravans. Thank her and tell her to find a safer form of employment.
- Lyssia: If you don’t mind, I will swap armour with her. I hate clunky metal suits!
- Inigo: I am sure that Sori will be happy to swap. I don’t think she can breathe well in that leather outfit.
- Lyssia: It is tight in all the right places on her.
- Inigo: I didn’t notice. Ahem.
Lyssia laughed as she made her way to Sori.
I approached the light, carefully studied it from different angles, and was careful not to touch it. I soon concluded it was as I first surmised. It was a portal to somewhere in Aetherius.
I returned to Inigo and said, “It is a portal to Aetherius. I think it is safe, but I still want you to remain here but hidden.”
“That is wise, my friend. I could be a nasty surprise if any enemies arrived.”
I studied the platform but could not place the style of architecture used. It was unlike anything I had seen before. I was so absorbed in examining the platform that I didn’t notice Lyssia’s return. She had to tap me several times on the shoulder to get my attention.
I said, “Oh, sorry. The archaeologist in me takes over sometimes. How did it go?”
“Sori will be okay. She will stay in Riverwood till the roads are clear of troops.”
“Did you see our armies?”
“Yes, the Imperials were setting up outside Whiterun. The Stormcloaks were marching past the meadery.”
“Okay, I will enter the portal first. If I don’t get disintegrated or similar, you can follow after a few seconds.”
Inigo hid where he could still see the portal.
I entered the portal and was soon surrounded by the familiarity of Aetherius.
I had wondered how Lord Arkay would present himself. His avatar was in the form of a crystal surrounded by miasma and electricity. It was an orb.
Zoom Vision showed an elderly woman in The College of Whispers’ robes standing behind the orb.
I heard Lyssia materialise and gasp behind me. I slowly approached the orb and stopped about six feet away.
Arkay’s voice was that of an elderly gentleman and was somewhat comforting in its tone.
- Arkay: Weavings of fate, strands of destiny entwined, mortals embark upon a divine journey.
- Wulf: Lord Arkay, you know my thoughts on fate and destiny.
- Arkay: Yes, Dragonchild. I am also aware of your dislike for flowery words. Do you begrudge one of The Nine a bit of flippancy?
- Wulf: Not at all. I am honoured to hear your voice. It is a mission of mine to get all of The Nine to speak to me eventually.
- Arkay: Stand aside, Dragonchild. I need to speak to Lyssia.
- Lyssia: To me?
- Arkay: Is there another Lyssia around here?
- Lyssia: Ahh, no, Lord Arkay.
- Arkay: Well then, logically, I want to talk to you. However, there is a large obstruction in the way.
- Wulf: I am moving.
- Arkay: When? In this kalpa or the next?
- Wulf: You don’t need me to move to see Lyssia.
- Arkay: You are not in the way of my sight, Dragonchild.
I knew why Arkay wanted me to move. I stepped back and watched a reunion.
Arkay announced, “Lyssia, a loved one from Aetherius, is here. She bears wisdom and truth in a loving embrace.”
The elderly mage walked towards Lyssia. You could call it a spectre, but in reality, it was a construct of Lyssia’s mother wrapped around her soul.
Lyssia stared intently at the woman until she was sure who was approaching. Then she exclaimed, “Is that you, Mother?”
“Yes, Daughter. I watch over you from Aetherius.”
“I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
“Do not feel guilt. You were doing important work. Now listen!”
“Unveil the shrouded face of your father, for his intentions are not what they seem.”
“We had our suspicions.”
“When I beheld his ambition to grasp Skyrim within The Order of Light’s iron fist, I sought to dissuade him from his path. Alas, my voice was silenced by his hand forever.”
“He murdered you? No…it cannot be. Why would he walk such a path?”
“The allure of power can be intoxicating. It clouds the hearts and minds of even the strongest individuals.”
“No, Mother. Power clouds the hearts and minds of weak individuals.”
“Perhaps. But your father was once a good man. However, the thirst for control led him astray. He believed that by forging The Order of Light, he could reshape Nirn according to his vision.”
“I have no doubt his vision involves the suppression of personal freedoms and free will.”
“Yes, and Valdr will tell you that is no different than the ambition of some Daedric Princes.”
“The man you call Wulf.”
“I will do what must be done and stand against him.”
“Stand resolute, my daughter. In your moments of strength and weakness alike, know that my spirit shall accompany you, always.”
Mother and daughter embraced. That would be something impossible if Lyssia’s mother were merely a spirit.
Lyssia’s mother vanished.
I approached Lord Arkay again.
The Divine said, “Dragonchild, the essence of growth and potentiality permeates your being.”
“Yes, I seem to generate Junctions with every action.”
“An array of possibilities stretches out before you, intricately composed of innumerable realms that intersect, each offering a unique path to explore.”
“I do not have the luxury of exploration, Lord Arkay. I find each realm fascinating, but I visit for practical reasons.”
In a flowery voice, The Divine said, “Venture forth and seize your destiny, as the tapestry of fate weaves and entwines.”
“Careful, I do not desire to vomit all over your pocket plane.”
“I have been asked to warn you of great peril yet to be unearthed. Study it, and watch for its emergence.”
A sphere appeared. It was covered in moving Ehlnofex runes.
I asked, “What is it?”
“You know the rules. This warning ensures you do not dismiss it if you encounter it.”
“So, I must watch out for a sphere of indeterminate size covered by Ehlnofex runes.”
“Yes, and now, as your paths solidify, we restore you both to the realm of the living.”
“Wait, Lord Arkay. Why would The Order of Light think you would help with their cause?”
“No doubt you have your suspicions. As always, trust your instincts.”
“Can we revisit this pocket realm?”
“You may, Dragonchild. Just speak of the need near the font, and the entrance will appear. Remember, mortals cannot stay in Aetherius for extended periods, and I ask you only ever bring a maximum of one guest.”
We teleported back to Nirn.
Inigo hurried to us as the artificial island sank back into the ground.
- Inigo: Well?
- Wulf: It was a tiny pocket plane of Aetherius. Lord Arkay’s chosen avatar talked to us.
- Lyssia: Yes, he appeared as a crystal within a glowing orb.
- Inigo: And?
- Wulf: Lyssia’s mother talked to her. They even hugged!
- Lyssia: My heart swells with a myriad of emotions.
- Inigo: That must have been heartwarming.
- Lyssia: In truth, I am somewhat overwhelmed. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to hear Mother once more.
- Inigo: What is next?
- Lyssia: In light of this, I perceive no urgency in hastening back to our Cynosure to deliver a report.
- Wulf: Lyssia’s father murdered her mother.
- Inigo: Then you can’t take this threat lightly, Lyssia!
- Lyssia: Okay, The College of Whispers needs to know, but how can I trust anybody? It seems they had spies inside our Cynosure and within Skyrim.
- Wulf: I will write a report for The Penitus Oculatus. They can start investigating The Order of Light. Your father would be their priority target for questioning. I doubt they have the resources to threaten Skyrim or The Empire. As an officially sanctioned guild, The College of Whispers can receive support from The Penitus Oculatus. They will pass my concerns and what report you write onto your Arch Mage.
- Lyssia: My mother’s parting words instilled a solemn vow to confront my father and challenge The Order of Light. It is a promise I intend to keep.
- Wulf: I would like to aid you and will do so when we have credible leads. However, it is not a minor commitment if you want to travel with me more extensively.
- Inigo: We live in a place isolated from Nirn. Wulf has secrets that few people know. All the people who live and travel with him know that secrecy is needed to protect Wulf and everybody else.
- Wulf: Not only that. If an enemy cannot physically harm me, they may target those I regard as friends.
- Lyssia: Secrets such as Valdr and Dragonchild?
- Wulf: Yes. Why Lord Arkay called used those names are secret.
- Lyssia: I have never heard a god speak before.
- Wulf: That is the first time I have spoken to Lord Arkay. He was a bit more flippant than I expected of a Death God.
- Lyssia: So, what is next?
- Wulf: Stay in Dragonsreach for now. Give me time to sort out The New Order, and we shall discuss the options afterwards. I will write my report for The Penitus Oculatus later today. I suggest you write a report for your Arch Mage.
- Lyssia: Okay. I am exhausted and need to sleep.
- Wulf: You need sleep as well, Inigo. Aurane or Breezehome. Your choice.
- Inigo: Aurane. It is empty now, apart from the guards and children.
I prepared to teleport us to Dragonsreach. It was time for General Welkynd to appear on the battlefield.