Tirdas, 7th Frostfall, 4E 201
to Fredas, 10th Frostfall, 4E 201
I approached Sethri while Rigmor stood back a bit.
- Wulf: As you can see, Sethri, my head is still attached.
- Rigmor: Unlike Aedriath’s.
- Sethri: News travels fast, Wulf. News travels fast.
- Wulf: You wouldn’t have known about Tilar Aedriath’s death since it happened less than ten minutes ago. His body is still warm and probably still twitching.
- Rigmor: You can tell when Wulf is tired by how pedantic he gets.
- Wulf: Yeah, I got pooped, killing all those people.
- Rigmor: And his sarcasm level increases as well.
- Wulf: Has everybody else left?
- Sethri: Yes, come inside out of the cold, and I will reveal all.
- Rigmor: Why do I worry when you talk about revealing things, Sethri?
- Sethri: Before you join us, Wulf, there are some presents for you. Look on the workbench in the stables.
- Rigmor: While you are doing that, I might change into my old armour. This suit has served its purpose, and I no longer feel comfortable wearing it.
- Wulf: Hashire will probably delay me with a hefty dose of self-pity.
- Sethri: Who is Hashire?
- Rigmor: Wulf’s unicorn friend. He can be more sarcastic than Dragonbum.
- Sethri: I see Wulf’s black horse. Where is the unicorn?
- Rigmor: Unicorns can change their appearance. Don’t you know anything?
- Sethri: So that is not a horse but a unicorn in disguise?
- Rigmor: Yeah, duh!
Rigmor giggled as she followed Sethri inside.
I used Night Vision as I walked to the stables.
To my surprise, Hashire telepathically said, “Others have explained why I was not invited to Solstheim. I understand, Wulf.”
“We shall ride to the border with Rigmor and Ren. I intend to spend a few days with my beloved before then.”
“Meanwhile, I will head to the island and reintroduce myself to Sune.”
“She has probably abandoned you for that large, black stallion.”
“I hope not. It would be terrible if the black stallion had a nasty accident.”
I lifted the new Azura’s Bane. It was of equal quality to the original, and no ‘essence of a mother’s love’ was required.
I picked up the gift from Boethiah. Some say she wields Goldbrand, but I don’t think so. The gold katana she gifted is a product of superb craftsmanship and was not created by a Daedra. Nahfahlaar made the original Goldbrand. It was wielded by The Forgotten Hero posing as Emperor Titus Mede II at the Battle of The Red Ring. Since they battled and defeated Lord Naarifin, Boethia’s Champion, it is very doubtful that Boethiah possesses the original Goldbrand. However, she may own one of several Goldbrands due to past Dragon Breaks.
I took time to string the Khajiiti bow and shoot at distant targets. The bow is superb, and the arrows are of equal quality.
I placed the gifts into my Journal Case. When I turned towards the farmhouse, Father’s avatar appeared before me.
He said, “That was well done, Son. You designated tasks and trusted others to perform them. That is the mark of a true commander.”
“Rigmor did well commanding the veterans in two battles. It seems knowledge imparted by fathers is sometimes useful.”
“Both of you are natural leaders.”
“Did Mother speak to you?”
“Her avatar visited. As you know, it is not quite the same as flesh and blood. But yes, we spoke at length about trivial things as we often do.”
“Mortals think all conversations between gods are of import and full of mystery. How dull would eternity be if that were the case?”
“Before Rigmor enters Bruma, I ask you to visit Alessia’s shrine. It is the only place on Mundus where she can talk to you both.”
“Does this concern The Obscurity?”
“Yes, Son. Also, you might have other questions you know I cannot answer.”
“You detected the anomaly when I summoned Lord Shor’s avatar.”
“We all did. It was disturbing, but like much about you, it is a mystery. I have no doubt you have suspicions, but I cannot and will not discuss my apotheosis.”
“I don’t think Mother will reveal secrets even if she knows them. However, I doubt she is aware of the entire truth.”
“If you think I don’t feel guilty about that, you are mistaken.”
“The Divines have their reasons for secrecy. However, as you insinuated, I know I am an enigma, so part of the problem is a reluctance to admit ignorance.”
“We have egos, but that does not stop us from working hard to preserve our creation and the mortals that inhabit it. Our motivation is love.”
“I intend to spend some time with Rigmor away from the chaos. We will visit Mother’s shrine before Rigmor leaves for Bruma.”
“Please visit Aetherius soon, and let me be your father.”
“How come there are no good fishing spots in Aetherius? That pastime allowed us to relax and talk about inconsequential stuff.”
“There are fish in the waters of Sovngarde.”
“I know, but they don’t need to eat. Therefore, they wouldn’t take the bait. Besides, we could enjoy ourselves, and somebody like Ysgramor might wander over to ruin my day.”
‘You could beat the shit out of him for amusement.”
“Father! That would be mindless violence!”
“Go on, tell me it wouldn’t make you smile. Lord Shor would heal him, and you could do it again!”
Father laughed as he vanished. Mother would lecture him for hours if she heard that advice.
I entered the farmhouse and was surprised to see Rigmor had already donned her old armour. I suppose she became proficient with its buckles and straps over time.
I sat and stared at my beloved.
- Rigmor: A septim for your thoughts.
- Wulf: The last time I saw you wearing that armour, you were broken and almost dead.
- Rigmor: It is familiar and gives me comfort.
- Wulf: Being broken and almost dead gives you comfort.
- Rigmor: You idiot. The armour gives me comfort.
- Wulf: Well, it is not good enough for my lady. Unfortunately, I didn’t recover the armour you wore when those bastards kidnapped you. However, I have an excellent suit made by the same blacksmith.
- Rigmor: Well, you will have to show me it.
- Sethri: Ahem.
- Wulf: Oh, look, Rigmor. A strange person is sitting at the table!
- Sethri: Two squads of Dragonguard are escorting Sigunn and Baa’Ren-Dar to the border. A dragon was acting as a scout and guard.
- Wulf: I think Silah asked Valminoor to do that.
- Rigmor: Mum will enjoy the horse ride, and we used to camp in the wilderness quite often.
- Sethri: I said Sigunn could stay with me. She gasped a little, thanked me for my good nature and went with the old Khajiiti.
- Rigmor: Guess what Yngol did?
- Wulf: He took Sorella and Angi up the mountains. He is going to build a new house for them and maybe stay. He told me after the battle.
- Rigmor: I hope that turns out well.
- Wulf: Who delivered the copy of Azura’s Bane?
- Sethri: How do you know it’s not the original?
- Wulf: The bits of the original Azura’s Bane are in The Ash Pit, Malacath’s realm of Oblivion. It was destroyed when I hit the Sigil Stone to close the Oblivion Gate.
- Rigmor: Where did she get the essence of a mother’s love?
- Sethri: What?
- Wulf: Just some nonsense that Lady Azura said. Anyway, where did the sword come from?
- Sethri: A young priestess and other acolytes were repairing Azura’s shrine near the Black Diamond mine. Azura made it appear on the altar and asked the priestess to bring it here.
- Wulf: The gold katana is from Boethia to thank her Champion.
- Sethri: Champion?
- Wulf: Yes, I am Boethia’s champion.
- Sethri: I knew that!
- Wulf: The longbow is from Baa’Ren-Dar and is excellent.
- Sethri: I guess you’ll take young Rigmor back to Bruma then?
- Wulf: We haven’t decided whether to part ways at the border or for me to take Rigmor to Bruma. Either way, we won’t do that for a few days.
- Sethri: I have a sealed letter from Baa’Ren-Dar.
Sethri handed me the letter. I broke the seal, quickly scanned it, and read it aloud.
“Lord Wulf Welkynd,
This one will prepare everything as well as he can for Rigmor’s arrival. However, there are urgent matters in Elsweyr that need Khajiit’s attention. This one will wait several days but must attend to matters at home afterwards. This one will use Khajiit’s usual means of travel to arrive in Bruma days before Sigunn and Rigmor. Everything will be in place, and the mead shall be plentiful and cold.
Kaza’Zhid has had a premonition that you will become legendary and save Tamriel many times.
This one would be eternally grateful if you would take Rigmor to the border with Cyrodiil. An escort of Bruma Guards and Legionnaires will escort her from there. This one knows you must attend to the civil war and other matters.
We owe you an outstanding debt of gratitude. This one thanks you, Wulf, for what you do for all of us. Khajiit especially thanks you for being Rigmor’s Guardian.
Oh, Khajiit has obtained Ragnar’s old house. It has remained empty and boarded up since the family were arrested. It will be a place for Rigmor to stay while builders and artisans prepare the castle.
- Rigmor: The soothsayer said you will save Tamriel many times!
- Wulf: Not just Tamriel, but all of Nirn and Mundus. I have already stopped Alduin, Malacath and Miraak.
- Sethri: Miraak?
- Wulf: Another Dragonborn trapped in Apocrypha, Hermaeus Mora’s realm of Oblivion. He is now my ally.
- Sethri: You said you stopped him.
- Wulf: It is a long story that will be published in my annotated journal.
- Rigmor: We must deal with what comes when it arrives, my dear Dragonbum. We should not stress over things we can not influence.
- Wulf: That is the logical approach.
- Rigmor: Wow, I can’t believe we have our old house back!
- Wulf: Baa’Ren-Dar wants me to leave you at the border. I don’t think it is for the reason he wrote. He knows I can return quickly to Skyrim if Ulfric restarts the civil war.
- Sethri: Dragonborn, my Mistress wanted me to warn you that taking Rigmor across the border would endanger her. She’s been looking after Rigmor all her life and is never wrong.
- Wulf: And did Lady Azura say why?
- Sethri: Azura isn’t sure, but she can feel ripples in The Void. There’s some heavy grinding going on. There must be a bloody good reason if that old Khajiiti wants you to stay behind and send Rigmor off alone.
- Wulf: I am still to hear a good reason.
- Sethri: Well, something isn’t right, and I don’t just mean dragons and this Miraak and stuff. There is something to it. Something way bigger. That old Khajiiti’s been staying at the Riften’s Temple of Mara. Ever wonder about that one? It means he’s got the ear of the gods. Dinya told me herself. Mara is a step away from the old man himself, right? There must be a good reason they don’t want you anywhere beyond that border. Any idea why that is?
- Wulf: Why would the Priestess of Riften’s Temple of Mara tell you anything?
- Sethri: Yeah, means and ways, Wulf, means and ways.
- Rigmor: Sethri!
- Wulf: Do you want a punch in the mouth?
- Sethri: What?
- Wulf: Dinya is a Priestess of Mara and married to the Head Priest. She would be excommunicated if she broke the sacred marriage vows that she administers! And why would she risk all for a dalliance with an agent of a Daedric Prince?
- Sethri: Well, um…
- Wulf: Her husband is a Redguard and would not accept such an insult. His devotion to Lady Mara would not prevent him from cutting you to pieces with a blunt knife!
- Sethri: Shit!
- Wulf: Such lies are not harmless. Nor are they amusing.
- Sethri: I apologise.
- Wulf: Your claim that Azura is never wrong is complete bullshit! She is not omnipotent and is often wrong. If The Divines can’t tell me precisely what will occur, how could Lady Azura?
- Sethri: Umm….
- Wulf: You dared to say Azura has looked after Rigmor her entire life!
- She did not stop Rigmor’s family from being torn apart.
- She did not stop Ragnar’s execution.
- She did not stop Sigunn and Rigmor from being enslaved.
- She did not stop the beatings and whippings that almost killed Rigmor.
- She did not tell Baa’Ren-Dar about Rigmor’s captivity. He found her by chance and rescued her.
- She did not heal Rigmor after the Bruma Embassy. Angi did.
- She did not send me to Skyrim. The Divines did.
- She did not heal Rigmor after she leapt off a cliff. Rose, Celestine, and I did.
- She did not stop Rigmor from being kidnapped by The New Order.
- She did not rescue Rigmor from the sacrificial dais. I did.
- She did not help Rigmor recover from the poison administered by the New Order.
- She did not help Rigmor rediscover herself in time to turn up at the battle yesterday.
- Rigmor: Sethri, Lady Azura helped Wulf even when her power on Nirn was diminished, and for that, we are both eternally grateful. She said she manipulated people, and it is impossible to tell what that involved. For instance, she sent you to us, and that helped!
- Wulf: The truth does not mean we do not admire Lady Azura or respect her best wishes for Rigmor. But you need to realise, as Malesam has, that what Daedric Princes claim they can do is exaggerated.
- Sethri: Well, what about the ripples in The Void?
- Wulf: Ripples are also called junctions. They signify a significant divergence in possible timelines. For instance, me almost dying when Aedriath ambushed us was a ripple. The Divines will not warn me about ripples because they don’t know their exact cause. They knew I might die due to that ripple, but not how or why. Even if they did know, they would not tell me. Many ripples occur as I deal with threats like Alduin, Malacath and Miraak. They are common, and even The Divines don’t always know their significance. Lady Azura may have some clues to some ripples due to the foresight of her seers.
- Sethri: What about Baa’Ren-Dar and Mara?
- Wulf: Mara is the Mother Cat in the Khajiiti pantheon and is worshipped by them. There is nothing strange about Baa’Ren-Dar staying in Lady Mara’s temple. Several Khajiiti are there, including pilgrims, each time I visit. Priestess Ahnasari lives there, and funny enough, she is a Khajiiti. As for having the ears of the gods, the most senior Priests and Priestesses speak to Lady Mara and receive directions on who needs help with relationship problems. People pray to Lady Mara, and she passes on the relevant information to them. If The Divines wanted Baa’Ren-Dar to know something, Lady Mara might tell one of the Priests or Priestesses to deliver a message. But The Divines speak to me often, so if there is a reason for me not to cross the border, they will let me know.
- Rigmor: Sethri, I have seen and heard Divines and Daedric Princes speak to Wulf. They would not tell Baa’Ren-Dar and not him! He is the Champion of The Divines.
- Wulf: For instance, Lord Talos visited me whilst I was in the stables collecting my gifts.
- Rigmor: Was it something I need to know?
- Wulf: There are many things I need to discuss with you in private.
- Rigmor: Okay.
- Wulf: Aren’t you curious, Sethri, about the castle?
- Sethri: There was one mentioned in the letter, wasn’t there?
- Wulf: Sethri should be told.
- Rigmor: You’re right.
- Wulf: Tendril Sethri, allow me to introduce Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma.
- Sethri: What? Why? How?
- Rigmor: Emperor Mede offered me the vacant position as compensation for what happened to my family.
- Wulf: I bet that created a damn big ripple in The Void! Azura did not know what the ripple meant. No seers had foresight involving Mede’s offer.
- Sethri: I saw Sigunn and Baa’Ren-Dar in deep discussion a few times but did not pry. But why say goodbye at the border?
- Wulf: The danger to Rigmor stems from being with me. People will hunt her to harm me. Therefore, we must keep our relationship a secret for now.
- Rigmor: We appreciate all you have done for us and the people of Skyrim, Sethri. I hope we have not upset you.
- Sethri: I understand you are just trying to set the record straight. It has been my pleasure to help.
- Wulf: I would like to escort Rigmor to a discreet crossing into Cyrodiil. Too many questions would be asked at the official border crossing.
- Sethri: It just so happens there is an old smuggler’s route not far from Ivarstead. It will bring you to an abandoned trading post near the official border crossing.
- Wulf: I assume it is a way of bypassing the path blocked by rockslides. That blockage is why they moved the border gates to another location. Please mark this sneaky path on my map.
Sethri marked my map and handed it back.
- Wulf: Thanks, Sethri. That will save time, and I can divest myself of the whiny brat earlier!
- Rigmor: Thank the gods. I won’t have to put up with The Dragonbum much longer.
- Sethri: If, by perchance, you are around this way and happen to be saving the world all over again. Feel free to stop by anytime.
- Wulf: That could be quite often, according to Baa’Ren-Dar’s ‘soothsayer.’
- Sethri: Haha! Farewell, Dragonborn and Countess Rigmor of Bruma.
I retrieved Morgan’s armour from the chest, and then we exited the farmhouse.
We stepped off the porch and looked at the fog-enshrouded farm.
Rigmor lamented, “This farm was alive with Mum, Angi and Sorella here. Now, it is just as pretty but not the same.”
I wandered around, and Rigmor followed for several minutes. Then she stood before me with her arms crossed.
She demanded, “Okay, what is it?”
“I wanted to spend time with you at the homestead, without armour or weapons, but…”
“That place is too exposed.”
“I don’t want to have to kill anything. I want us to have some peace.”
“The Safehouse is nice.”
“I promise we shall stay at the homestead another time.”
“Wulf, I also want some quiet time, so The Safehouse is perfect. I am sure some things need doing in Solitude.”
“Yes, there are a few errands to run.”
“Then let’s go. I need a long, hot spa. And a long, hot…”
“Hey, you are the one that corrupted me!”
I teleported us into The Safehouse. It was six in the morning.
Rigmor said, “I want you to shave my head.”
“This hair is not natural. It doesn’t feel right.”
“A miasma surrounded you. When that dissipated, your hair quickly grew. I didn’t witness it, but others said it was disturbing.”
“I want to look like a noble lady, so the armour you mentioned and a nice wig will make that happen.”
“Okay, milady, I have a cutthroat razor that will do the job.”
We made our way upstairs and quickly disposed of our clothing.
We were both eager to remove all traces of battle from our bodies and soaked in the spa for several minutes. I then shaved Rigmor’s head.
I announced, “You are now as bald as a baby’s bum. Do I have the position of personal barber to Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier?”
Rigmor felt her head and replied, “Well done. It seems you are not useless after all.”
“I am sure you will find many uses for me later, milady.”
“What did Lord Talos want?”
“He wants us to visit Mother’s shrine. She spoke to me the other day and warned me about something she calls The Obscurity.”
“It is a junction from which no timelines emerge. It is the end of Mundus and all who dwell on Nirn.”
“According to Mother, who is uncannily accurate with her premonitions, you and I are the only hope of anything emerging from The Obscurity.”
“I don’t know, and I don’t think the gods know. There are things about me they cannot explain.”
“Such as how you were born with Akatosh’s blessings.”
“Yes. I suspect someone else is involved, and you have met them. Someone with more power and knowledge than The Divines.”
“The little girl in your premonitions. I met her in The Void when recovering from Aedriath’s ambush. She showed me Jenny. That is why I could make a replica close enough to jog your memories.”
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know her name, but she is a god.”
“And she is meddling in things.”
“She seems to want mortals and Mundus to continue existing. I call it she, but we cannot know her true form like all gods. I made the mistake of examining her soul. It was so foreign I was lucky to escape with my sanity intact.”
“Do you think she helped me because I am crucial to the future past The Obscurity?”
“I don’t know, Rigmor. I must accept gobblygook and not waste time or worry trying to understand everything.”
“One foot in front of the other, and try not to trip.”
“That’s the philosophy.”
“I am turning into a prune.”
I laughed as we left the spa and dried ourselves.
As we stood next to my bed, I asked, “Well, what now, milady?”
“Mmm, let me think. You could take advantage of this innocent teenage girl.”
“I am out of practice. Can you remind me where things go?”
Rigmor dragged me onto the bed and said, “I am sure you will remember.”
We made love and then slept for many hours. For the rest of the day, nothing else existed but my beloved Rigmor and me. We were alone, enveloped in Our Quiet, and were content with that. We discussed many things, including the unpleasantness of battle. I tried to explain what occurred with Lord Shor’s avatar, but it was not something easily understood.
A whole day of just us did wonders for our souls and optimism.
A day after arriving at The Safehouse, we prepared to rejoin civilisation. Rigmor selected a wig with a long ponytail, and it suited her.
Our first stop was the museum. We entered it via the doorway in The Safehouse, and then I placed a pile of artefacts on benches in the Work Room.
We found Avram breaking his fast.
- Wulf: Good morning, Avram.
- Avram: Good morning, Guildmaster.
- Wulf: The young lady is Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.
- Avram: I am honoured to meet you, Countess.
- Rigmor: Likewise, Avram.
- Wulf: Is Auryen in the building?
- Avram: He is in the library doing research.
- Wulf: Is there anything new happening?
- Avram: In preparation for our opening, Auryen has opened the doors to a select few residents of Solitude. That includes the children from your orphanage. He has been practising his tours on them.
- Rigmor: I bet they have asked questions that stumped him.
- Avram: Indeed, they have, Countess. Auryen likes the nimble minds of children not yet indoctrinated by parental bias. And not to be cruel, orphans are likelier to be corruption-free.
- Wulf: It is not cruel but a fact, Avram. You will notice that the children are of all races and show no bias against personal beliefs or traditions. A child craves answers and often sees things from unique perspectives.
- Avram: There is one fatherless child who is fascinated by the exhibits. His mother can hardly keep up with him as he dashes around the museum. He thought nobody was watching and tried to climb onto the mammoth in the Natural Science Wing. I planned to be stern with him, but his guilty look told me it was unnecessary.
- Wulf: Let me guess. Was it Henry?
- Avram: Yes. Do you know his story?
- Wulf: Henry’s father was a Legionnaire who died in one of the first civil war skirmishes. He is always asking me about when the museum will open. He isn’t destitute as his mother receives a good pension from The Imperial Army, and their house is already wholly owned.
- Avram: Still, it is another debt that I hope Ulfric Stormcloak is made to pay.
- Wulf: He will die. Then Jarl Elisif the Fair can be chosen as High Queen. She will officially open this museum in that role.
- Rigmor: Lord Welkynd expects an influx of orphans once the civil war is ended. We are also unsure about the damage inflicted by The New Order in Cyrodiil and Skyrim. That idiocy might also add to the number of orphans within The Empire.
- Avram: Hammerfell is no stranger to civil war. Both sides, the Crowns and Forebears were guilty of unwarranted massacres. Auryen said that Ulfric Stormcloak has proven himself capable of such savagery and hopes he is stopped before another Markarth Incident occurs.
- Wulf: We shall stop him, Avram. I hope to do so with minimal bloodshed and damage.
As we headed for the library, I told Rigmor, “What happened in Hammerfell is not something Father is proud of. He regrets how he handled the situation. In the end, diplomacy was the decider, not swords and bows.”
“The skills he showed as general and then Emperor are probably invaluable in his current role.”
“I would hope The Nine are less accepting of collateral damage than mortal leaders. So far, they have not shown a tendency to sacrifice the few to save the many, although people accuse them of it.”
On the way to the library, we passed by some newer exhibits. Auryen and our staff were very busy while I was dealing with other issues.
We entered the library and saw Auryen on the middle balcony with his head in a book.
So absorbed was he that I managed to approach him without being noticed. Rigmor was busy looking around whilst I did so.
Disguising my voice, I said, “I am sorry for my damage to the books. There should be a sign telling us patrons that wine is not allowed in the library.”
Auryen was so startled he dropped his book over the edge and turned with a shocked look.
One of the guards called up, “I caught it, Auryen. I don’t think it is damaged.”
Auryen’s sense of humour is an elusive beast and was not showing itself. I had to stifle my laughter even though his stern face made it difficult. Rigmor came running to us.
- Auryen: Guildmaster, I am sure there is a cure for your affliction.
- Rigmor: Wulf’s weirdness is incurable.
- Auryen: General Tullius looked resplendent in his armour as he led a column of Legionnaires out of the city. Are things getting serious with the civil war?
- Wulf: No, Auryen. They have left to hunt deserters from The New Order who are dangerous to our citizens.
- Auryen: And how goes that war?
- Rigmor: It is over. Aedriath’s forces were crushed here, in Alinor and Cyrodiil.
- Wulf: I did not introduce my companion when she visited the museum with me some time back.
- Auryen: Are you the same young lady who wore that fantastic suit of armour fashioned by Kazakowy, the renowned Breton blacksmith?
- Rigmor: Yes, that was me. I laughed at your reaction when Wulf handed you The Oghma Infinium.
- Wulf: Chief Librarian Auryen, I am honoured to introduce Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.
- Auryen: I am honoured to meet you, Countess. So, my suspicion was correct, and you are the infamous Rigmor of Bruma.
- Rigmor: Yes, but it is too late to claim the reward since The New Order no longer exists.
- Auryen: Pity as that money could have paid for the rare first edition of Kagouti Mating Habits I so much desire.
- Wulf: So, there is a sense of humour in there?
- Auryen: Yes, but you never trigger it.
- Wulf: I have placed some artefacts in the Work Room. There are a few Black Books, the original face masks of The Tribunal and other trinkets like Hopesfire and Trueflame.
- Auryen: Trinkets? They are some of the most important artefacts in the world!
- Wulf: Really? Gosh, I never knew.
- Auryen: I will ignore your baiting in the forlorn hope you will tell the stories behind their retrieval!
- Wulf: I shall soon sit and regale you with the tales. However, there is a matter related to my time in Sosltheim.
- Auryen: Which is?
- Wulf: I want to host a special guest in the museum for some time.
- Auryen: Who?
- Wulf: Miraak. The former Dragon Priest who is Dragonborn and was a guest of Hermaeus Mora for forty-five centuries. He will need to educate himself on Nirn’s history, and where better than our library and museum?
- Auryen: You trust him?
- Wulf: Up to a point. As I have done with Paarthurnax, Odahviing and some of my closest friends, I am giving Miraak a chance at redemption. He wants to aid me with the chaos I face, but to do so, he needs to understand modern politics and the history that led us to the current status quo.
- Auryen: There are spare beds, and I shall endeavour to assist him if you desire, Guildmaster.
- Wulf: An ally as powerful as Miraak may prove beneficial as I continue my duties as Champion of The Divines. I would not ask this if it was not necessary.
- Auryen: I understand, and Miraak may prove fascinating to speak to.
- Rigmor: Auryen, did you know Count Carvain?
- Auryen: Yes, I knew the Carvain family for centuries. They were keen collectors of Ayleid artefacts. The Count had plans to create an Ayleid museum to display their items. I was going to aid with the wording on the plaques, etcetera. I know his brother died when visiting Skyrim recently. Are you related to him?
- Rigmor: No. My father’s name is Ragnar Fjonasson. He was knighted and given a noble title by His Imperial Majesty for his service during and after The Great War. Then, when it was politically convenient, Emperor Titus Mede II allowed The Dominion to accuse my dad of war crimes and arrest and execute him. My family was stripped of its noble status, and my mum and I were enslaved.
- Auryen: I know of Ragnar’s deeds and his subsequent execution on false charges. I was unaware of what happened to his family.
- Rigmor: His Imperial Majesty offered me the position of Countess to compensate for the treatment of my family.
- Auryen: You don’t live as long as me without recognising only parts of a story are being told. I assume, like Wulf, some secrets should not be made public.
- Rigmor: Yes, and I worry that His Imperial Majesty’s decision may cause friction as, undoubtedly, there will be nobles who believe they have more rights to Bruma’s throne.
- Wulf: Rigmor was crucial in uncovering the plans of The New Order. She led many of her father’s veterans in two significant battles. I am sure His Imperial Majesty will also point that out. The fact is, Rigmor was born a noble within Bruma and is a legitimate choice for the Countess position.
- Auryen: Prove your competence, Countess, and the naysayers will soon be silenced.
- Wulf: Rigmor will have experienced advisors. One of note is Professor Freathof Pulonicus.
- Auryen: He is a man of keen intellect and insatiable curiosity. He likes reading old, dusty, obscure books and scrolls. That is a strange pastime, don’t you think, Countess?
- Rigmor: I have heard The Dragonborn likes to do similar. So yes, weird and strange.
- Wulf: Auryen, can you please do some research for me?
- Auryen: Yes, of course.
- Wulf: I am dealing with a militant group called The Order of Light. They are based in Cyrodiil but have recently encroached on Skyrim in their search for The Orb of The Divines. They attacked College of Whispers mages searching for that relic. They killed one of the mages and also kidnapped a Skyrim citizen. I think they misconstrued what The Orb of The Divines is. I discovered The Orb of The Divines and killed many of their agents. However, they plan to usurp Skyrim’s throne, so I don’t think this will be the last we hear of them. I have handed a report to the Penitus Oculatus, but it might be beneficial if you do some parallel research.
- Auryen: I must admit that I have never heard of them. Is The Orb of The Divines a portal, as many scholars surmised?
- Wulf: Indeed, it is a portal to a pocket plane of Aetherius. I spoke to Lord Arkay within that plane.
- Auryen: Are there any remaining College of Whispers mages in Skyrim?
- Wulf: Mage Lyssia is currently staying in Dragons Reach. She may join my band of merry misfits, depending on instructions from her Arch Mage.
- Auryen: The College of Whispers is more palatable than The Synod, but both are inferior to The College of Winterhold. Well, as far as I am concerned.
- Rigmor: Avram said you have opened the museum’s doors to a select few, including the orphans.
- Auryen: It gives me a chance to test my tour speel. Children are guaranteed to provide honest feedback. Unfortunately, some are obsessed with the weapons and gorier parts of history.
- Rigmor: Then you have a chance to divest them of falsities. Wulf always said there is no glory in battle. I have killed many in more minor melees but recently discovered a battle is different. It is chaos and savagery. It would be better for a child to know the reality.
- Auryen: That is what we endeavour to do, Countess. We do not promote false narratives.
- Wulf: I predict the civil war will soon restart. I intend to help finish it quickly and decisively.
- Auryen: Jarl Elisif wants the official opening to be one of her first functions as High Queen.
- Wulf: Then why are you wasting time talking to me? Don’t you have shelves to dust?
- Auryen: Countess, was that another attempt at humour by Lord Welkynd?
- Rigmor: I don’t know. I can’t think down to Wulf’s level.
- Wulf: Hey, don’t steal jokes!
The museum guard who caught the falling book handed it to Auryen. He inspected it and seemed assured it was not damaged.
Rigmor wanted to see the museum, so we did a rapid tour. I explained many of the artefacts and how I retrieved them.
When we entered The Daedric Gallery, Rigmor pointed to the Dark Lord statues and asked, “Can you name them all?”
“Yep. Starting from the left, Molag Bal, Uncle Sheo, Mehrunes Dagon, Clavicus Vile, Sanguine, Hircine, Peryite, Meridia, Azura, Boethia, Mephala, Vaermina, Tentacled Turd, Nocturnal and Namira.”
“Ahh, is Nocturnal facing the wrong way?”
“They are replicas not of solid marble but plaster and relatively light.”
“Light enough for mischievous children to turn around?”
“Yes. I am sure Avram will figure out how they got up there. What seems unclimbable to us is easy for nimble children.”
Rigmor knew the stories behind many of the Daedric artefacts as she had read my journals.
She also knew the stories behind many artefacts within The Hall of Lost Empires.
Rigmor enjoyed the exhibits in The Hall of Natural Science.
As we were about to exit The Hall of Natural Science, we encountered Saja, a Khajiiti orphan who had been travelling with Ri’saad but was not suited for that life.
I asked, “What do you think of the museum, Saja?”
“I like the paintings and the animals and the plants and the shells and all the pretty gemstones.”
“Not the armour or weapons?”
“No, they are horrible and used for killing people like what happened to my parents.”
“Some of the animals on display also kill people.”
“Yeah, but that is the way of nature. People killing people is not natural.”
“Do you like the orphanage?”
“Very much. All the other children are nice, and the adults listen to us and give us cuddles when needed.”
“I am glad you are at least a little bit happy.”
“I am very happy. I miss my parents, but so do all the other children, and we help each other. That is especially important when a new orphan arrives, and everything is strange, and the hurting is new.”
“Do you say hello to the caravans when they visit Solitude?”
“Yes, and they spoil me and give me treats I can take back for the others.”
Saja surprised me with a hug and then skipped towards the gemstone collection.
Rigmor said, “You are a big softie, and I love you.” She then held my hand as we continued the tour.
Rigmor liked the paintings I had been gathering. She saw one of an impressive-looking Khajiiti and asked, “Is that somebody famous?”
“Very famous. That is Ja’darri the Endless, a Dragonguard during Reman’s rule and a close friend of Nahfahlaar. He named her Toshrakhat. When a dragon bestows a name upon a mortal, it is their sincerest form of respect.”
“Is that why Nahfahlaar named you ‘Talos’ Crotch Goblin’?”
“Ha de ha, Countess.”
“How did Ja’darri become famous?”
“She was born under The Dark Moons. Do you know what that means?”
“I did learn something about Khajiiti when I lived in Torval. That means she was born when the three moons were in the sky and, therefore, was of Mane Furstock.”
“If a Khajiiti is of Mane Furstock but not The Mane, they can drift off The Path and become a Dro-m’Athra. That means Namira has claimed their soul. Their fur turns black, and their eyes glow a pale blue. Instead of dancing to the rhythms of Masser and Secunda, they dance to the rhythm of Lorkhan’s Heart. They are Namira’s disciples and partake of her excesses. Other Khajiiti will shun them.”
“If Nahfahlaar liked Ja’darri, she must have avoided becoming whatever they are called.”
“Yes, via willpower, Ja’darri warded off the corruption. Those of Mane Furstock are naturally fine warriors and larger than most Khajiiti. Nahfahlaar said of Ja’darri, ‘She was kind, immeasurably so. I suspect she had overcome a great sorrow, for she had a way of finding the light in the darkest times and the good in the cruellest of souls. And she was strong, in body and heart. Strong enough to brave anything.’”
“Did she have help to fight the darkness?”
“She asked Khenarthi, the Khajiiti representation of Lady Kynareth, to set a trial. In that trial, Ja’darri confronted and defeated her inner darkness. It would be like me challenging my dragon half to a dual and evicting it if victorious.”
“Nahfahlaar gifted Ja’darri with a Dragonhorn made from one of his horns. Dragonhorns subdue all other dragons except the one whose horn was used in its construction. Auryen cannot find any of the Dragonhorns we know existed. One would have been handy when first tackling the dragons in Skyrim.”
“I assume Ja’darri used the Dragonhorn when dragons invaded Elsweyr.”
“Yes, and she was also gifted The Mask of Alkosh by that shard of AKA.”
“Alkosh is the Khajiiti time-god.”
“Yes, and The Mask of Alkosh needed to be imbued with power by a dragon to be useful. Lord Alkosh asked Ja’darri to defeat Laatvulon, a black dragon of immense power and a disciple of Kaalgrontiid. Kaalgrontiid sought the lunar power of the moons. If he had succeeded, he would have become the equal of AKA. But he would have used his powers for dark deeds, not to regulate the lives of Mundus.”
“Did Ja’darri ask Nahfahlaar to imbue The Mask of Alkosh?”
“Yes, but he refused. That is when he gifted Ja’darri the Dragonhorn. Ja’darri and The Dragonguard confronted Laatvulon and managed to imprison him, but not before Ja’darri was killed.”
“Oh no! Why did Nahfahlaar refuse to imbue the mask?”
“I don’t know, and he gets upset if I ask, so I no longer do. I am sure The Dragonguard recorded the reason, but most of their writings were destroyed by The Dominion and Tsaesci.”
“Why is she called Ja’darri the Unending?”
“In 2E 582, Laatvulon had been freed from prison and wreaked havoc on Elsweyr. He was more powerful than before and defeated Nahfahlaar in battle. This time, when asked, Nahfahlaar imbued The Mask of Akatosh with the guidance of Ja’darri’s spirit. The Vestige, Meridia’s mortal champion, and The Dragonguard defeated Laatvulon and, later on, Kaalgrontiid.”
“So even after death, Ja’darri aided her people.”
“She aided all the people of Nirn, for Laatvulon and Kaalgrontiid were a danger to everybody.”
“I am guessing there is a lot more to this story.”
“Yes, a lot of complicated gobblygook. There are good books on the subject if you are interested.”
“Why did Meridia’s champion help mortals?”
“At the behest of Meridia, he thwarted the plans of rival Daedric Princes. Not a love of mortals motivated Meridia, but a hatred for her kin. However, The Vestige was not a mindless puppet, and I can’t recall him being blamed for anything I would label as evil. He accepted tasks from mortals that did not directly benefit his mistress. The Vestige earned many titles from many nations, and Nahfahlaar named him Ahkahtuz. I admire The Vestige, and his story is also imbued with major gobblygook.”
“Okay, that is a lot of information quickly, so let’s continue before I get dizzy.”
We visited much of the museum but avoided the armouries. For the same reason we also bypassed The Hall of Heroes. Neither of us wanted to see weapons and armour.
Just before leaving, we came across Henry.
I said, “Good morning, Henry.”
“Oh, hello, Dragonborn and pretty lady.”
“Climbed any stuffed mammoths lately?”
“Hey, I said sorry to Avram.”
“I wonder if you could climb to the statues of Daedric Princes and, I dunno, turn one around.”
“Ahh…not saying I could, but it looks easy enough.”
“I have heard Lady Nocturnal is quite vengeful. The slightest insult can result in dire consequences.”
“She reads your thoughts, and whatever your worst nightmare is, she makes it happen, but ten times worse!”
“No! I didn’t mean it as an insult, just a joke. I was wondering how long it would take for Auryen to notice.”
“Lady Nocturnal doesn’t have those powers, Henry, and wouldn’t care about a backward statue.”
“You tricked me into confessing!”
“I will tell Avram what I did and let an adult turn Meridia around.”
“Please, Henry, being allowed into the museum before it officially opens is a privilege. So don’t get yourself banned.”
“Okay, I promise to leave the exhibits alone.”
“Make that promise to Avram.”
“Okay, I will do that right now.”
As Henry hurried away, we exited the museum and headed for The Blue Palace.
When we entered, I had the unpleasant experience of encountering Justiciar Thaarm.
I asked him, “Were you here petitioning to have Lord Talos’ shrine removed from The Temple of The Divines again? How often does Jarl Elisif have to tell you to fuck off?”
“No, Lord Welkynd, I politely asked permission to search your museum for forbidden icons and relics.”
“Did Jarl Elisif tell you to fuck off again?”
“No. Jarl Elisif said I can try and remove anything I deem contrary to The White Gold Concordat. However, she said your guards would regard that as theft and stop us. I laughed and said we would cut them down.”
“I assure you, Justiciar, you would not live for long if that happened.”
“Yes, and that is why I shall work through my embassy, who will demand Emperor Titus Mede II do something about such a blatant violation of our treaty.”
“His Imperial Majesty will also tell you to fuck off. Let me make this clear. I will kill any Thalmor who tries to steal our exhibits. So, feel free to try Justiciar Thaarm. You should know that very few real items are displayed before you die stealing them. The genuine artefacts are locked away in a pocket plane of Oblivion you can’t access.”
I left the angry Justiciar, and an amused Rigmor walked with me towards the throne.
Jarl Elisif was staring into infinity and didn’t notice us approaching.
I coughed, which startled the young woman. When she saw who we were, she smiled.
- Wulf: Sorry to startle you, my Jarl. I seem to have woken Borri as well.
- Elisif: Sometimes Borri is the only intelligent person I speak to for hours.
- Wulf: Some people would think that is weird. However, unless the dog talks back, it is normal.
- Rigmor: Your dog does talk, Dragonbum.
- Wulf: We both know Meeko is not a dog.
- Elisif: He is the size of a horse! I think the children would vote for Meeko to be High King. How are you, Lady Ivanitchy Ramsbottom?
- Rigmor: I have accepted His Imperial Majesty’s offer. Please, can we discuss that in private?
- Elisif: By all means, follow me. Borri, you are Jarl till I return.
- Borri: Woof!
The ladies sat, and I towered over them as I remained standing.
- Elisif: I knew you had accepted, Countess, as an official proclamation arrived less than an hour ago.
- Wulf: Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma. It suits her, don’t you think, my Jarl?
- Elisif: You know the rules about honorifics in private, Wulf. And yes, Rigmor’s official title does suit her.
- Rigmor: I have no illusion that it will be difficult at first. But everybody’s confidence in me is reassuring.
- Elisif: Even if His Imperial Majesty felt guilty about your family’s plight, he would not risk political trouble by installing an incompetent. You would be amazed how much information The Penitus Oculatus have gathered about you and your family. Lord Chancellor Liottus Blackwell would have given sage and unbiased advice on your suitability for the role.
- Rigmor: Such scrutiny leads to a problem for Wulf and me.
- Wulf: Although they are yet to tell me officially, we believe The Divines want us to continue our relationship but at the same time hide it. That would be safer for Rigmor as I attract enemies like iron to a lodestone. However, Rigmor’s safety is only part of the reason for the secrecy.
- Elisif: Well, with your ability to teleport and a few simple disguises, that should not be difficult.
- Rigmor: I am sure we shall find ways to avoid snooping by Blackwell and his agents.
- Elisif: Visit me if you need advice or just a friendly ear. I caution against fully trusting other Countesses or wives of Counts. The political games in Cyrodiil are vicious, and experienced players will consider you an easy target. Many will underestimate you due to your age. Some may even think your gender is inferior.
- Rigmor: Wulf said you will face similar prejudices when crowned High Queen.
- Elisif: I suffer them as a Jarl! However, I sometimes use their underestimations to my benefit.
- Rigmor: Act naïve, lure them into a trap and then pounce.
- Elisif: Yes, that is a tactic I use. Listen to your advisors, but make it clear to them that you are the countess and make the decisions.
- Rigmor: It is comforting that your advice mirrors that of Wulf.
- Wulf: My advice comes from reading histories and observing many rulers. Elisif’s comes from experience and is, therefore, of more value.
- Elisif: There is a nobility about you, Wulf. I think there is a lineage of leaders amongst your ancestors.
- Rigmor: Oh my, that is an understatement!
- Wulf: There are several princesses of various provinces amongst The Dragonguard. A lot of people can claim noble blood.
- Elisif: I know not to pry and am content with your story about originating from Roscrea and Akavir.
- Wulf: Did you know Rigmor led her father’s veterans in two significant battles? They relieved the blockade of Windhelm and then joined me at The Battle for Whiterun.
- Rigmor: I never want to be in battle ever again. Wulf always said they had no glory, and he is correct.
- Elisif: I cannot imagine and am fortunate to have been spared the sight of such slaughter.
- Rigmor: I wish I could forget the sight.
- Elisif: Wulf, when will the civil war restart?
- Wulf: I don’t know. I don’t think Ulfric will wait long, and his forces will not return to their bases. He will need to send more to bolster the numbers. That means the civil war won’t restart for at least a week. Jarl Balgruuf must side with The Empire, or he will lose Whiterun and his life as Ulfric slaughters his people.
- Elisif: It is difficult for him to see Ulfric for what he is. They were friends and shield brothers.
- Wulf: It is no use speculating on what Ulfric will do. General Tullius and The Imperial Army will react swiftly to whatever he tries.
- Rigmor: Wulf has been dragged from one crisis to another. But he doesn’t complain and keeps on giving of himself.
- Wulf: The Dragonguard are beside me and share the burden.
- Elisif: So, Countess, when do you start your bum-numbing reign?
- Rigmor: Tomorrow or the day after. It depends on when I get sick of Wulf’s company.
- Wulf: I can’t wait to dump the spoiled teenage brat onto others.
- Elisif: I hear snippets of what you have done for Rigmor, Wulf. I am sure when I learn the whole story, it will be heartwarming and reassuring.
- Rigmor: More like terrifying and confusing.
- Wulf: Okay, my Jarl, soon to be Your Highness, we have taken up enough of your time. I am sure Borri has done an excellent job as regent, but your throne awaits.
- Elisif: Make sure your throne is well cushioned, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: I need a weapon rack next to it with my sword prominent.
- Elisif: Yes, introduce new game pieces into Cyrodiil’s politics. Liven it up a bit.
The two young leaders laughed as they stood.
“Where next?” asked Rigmor.
“We shall teleport to the dock. I need to talk to Vittoria Vicci about the excessive prices her company charges Solstheim. She is likely unaware of them and will soon correct the error.”
We teleported onto Solitude’s docks.
Rigmor enjoyed the scenery while I spoke to Vittoria.
Vittoria asked, “Good day, Lord Welkynd. Can I assist you?”
“I have recently returned from Solstheim. It was brought to my attention that merchants transporting goods for that settlement are being charged excessive prices for the aforementioned goods. I can see no reason for this price gouging and wonder if you can enlighten me on their need?”
The look of shock on Vittoria’s face confirmed what I suspected. The price gouging was implemented by her Dockmaster, not her. The shock was soon replaced by anger.
She replied, “I can assure you, Lord Welkynd, that I was unaware of this unacceptable practice. Fortunately, even with the civil war ongoing, registered mail is delivered promptly to all Holds. I shall write to the Dockmaster and demand that prices for goods bound for Solstheim be no higher than our standard rates. I will also ask for an explanation of how this occurred.”
“I thank you for your prompt response on this matter. You may find it interesting that the ebony mine on Solstheim is operating again. Raven Rock will soon be wealthy, and its residents will need luxury goods.”
“In that case, things will change at our Windhelm docks. I need people I can trust dealing with such important customers.”
I was smiling as I walked to Rigmor, who stood with her arms crossed.
“Yes, my beloved, is there a problem?”
“One second, you accuse them of price gouging, and the next, you give Vittoria a clue about new trade opportunities.”
“I knew the price gouging was not Vittoria’s idea. I also know that her upcoming marriage to Asgeir Snow-Shod will be important to the civil war healing process. I want them to be successful and an inspiration. Therefore, I allowed your cousin to secure extra trade with Solstheim.”
“Vittoria is my cousin, isn’t she?”
“She has that strange Mede blood like you. That is why I pity her.”
‘Would you like a stroll to the entrance, madam.”
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
“We will visit the market and buy some of the new treats that Eran, the baker, is making.”
“That sounds like a healthy lunch.”
“So, you don’t want to try chocolate chip cookies or brownies?”
“What is chocolate?”
“My dear Rigmor, your life will become so much brighter!”
We held hands as we walked silently to Solitude’s entrance.
On our way to the market, Isaac nearly bowled Rigmor over as he tried to avoid being tagged by Jens.
They stopped, and Isaac apologised.
- Isaac: Ahh, sorry, lady, and um, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: Rigmor, this spritely young gentleman is Isaac. He is one of the Kinghall Orphanage residents.
- Rigmor: It is alright, Isaac. No harm was done.
- Isaac: I must be more cautious. I am stronger than other children and can do much damage if not careful.
- Rigmor: You don’t look very big, Isaac. Why do you think you are stronger than other children?
- Isaac: I am a vampire.
- Wulf: I rescued Isaac from the vampire coven near Morthal. Movarth Piquine, the ancient Cyrodiilic Vampire, turned him.
- Isaac: Yeah, he killed my parents, which is why I am an orphan. Lord Welkynd said I am a Daywalker, unlike most other vampires.
- Rigmor: Is that because Movarth was a Cyrodiilic Vampire?
- Isaac: Yep. That is also why I don’t look very vampirish. I wear black because I like to, not because I am a vampire.
- Wulf: Jens seems keen to continue your game. I am glad to see you enjoying yourself, Isaac.
- Isaac: I must let Jens tag me, or he might stop playing. I am way faster than any of the other orphans.
The two boys took off again and weaved around any adults standing in their way.
Rigmor asked, “Did you rescue Jens from somewhere?”
“Yes, he asked for help when he saw us fighting the large bandit gang infesting Bleak Falls Barrow. They had killed his parents and then used him to crawl through tight places and do other things an adult was too large for. He was terrified they would kill him if he disobeyed.”
“That is where you found that golden dragon claw and the dragon burial thingy.”
“You have remembered a lot from my journals.”
“I was trying to learn more about that weirdo Dragonborn person. I was surprised to find he was a giant softie.”
“Do you think you could ever love him?”
“That depends on how good that chocolate stuff is. After all, he said it would make my life brighter.”
“Then let us descend upon Baker Eran and see if that handsome Dragonborn tells the truth.”
Before we reached the stall, we were intercepted by Eutei.
She said, “Excuse me, Lord Welkynd.”
“Greetings, Eutei. What can I do for you?”
“Do you still need a steward for that homestead near Whiterun?”
“Yes, I do. Last time we spoke, you said you would look at it the next time you passed that way.”
“My partner, Sharava, and I recently guarded some pilgrims on their way to Whiterun. We inspected the exterior of the homestead, and the location is ideal for us.”
“You told me you have experience as a steward.”
“Indeed, I do, and Sharava used to be a farmer when she was Shahei.”
“I don’t think changing gender makes you forget how to be a farmer.”
“Ha, it does not. However, other unpleasant habits are lost when The Hist changes us to female.”
“That is a bit sexist, Eutei.”
“Maybe so, but it is true.”
“If you want the position, it is yours on a three-month trial.”
“We have one request, Lord Welkynd, that may seem strange to you.”
“You can but ask, Eutei.”
“We do not want to live within the house. A simple tent next to the river is our desire.”
“I understand. The fish are plentiful in the river.”
“We want to live a more traditional existence. You know we are capable of defending your property and ourselves.”
“You are a formidable mage, and I believe Sharava is quite adept with dual blades and bow.”
“Yes, and our combined skills have saved many a pilgrim.”
I sorted through my gem bag and retrieved an emerald worth at least four hundred septims. I then retrieved some paper, a writing slate and a quill from my Journal Case. I wrote a letter for Wilmuth, sealed it with wax, and placed items back in the Journal Case.
I handed the gem, fifty septims, a key and the letter to Eutei.
I explained, “Trade that gem with Ri’saad’s caravan. It should cover the cost of a good quality tent, cots, bedding, and other necessities. The key opens all doors, including the trapdoors. The letter and coins are for Wilmuth at Chillfurrow Farm. He has been looking after the property while I searched for a steward.”
“I know Wilmuth. We have often spoken over copious amounts of alcohol.”
“About Nazeem, no doubt.”
“Nazeem inherited the farm and knows nothing of farming. Yet he visits Chillfurrow Farm and complains about everything. I suggested to Wilmuth that the potatoes would grow better with some blood and bone fertiliser. I was not suggesting Nazeem should be that fertiliser, mind you.”
“I am amazed that annoying twerp has not been murdered by now.”
“Thank you, Lord Welkynd. Sharava and I will hire a carriage and head for the homestead tomorrow. I look forward to seeing you there.”
Rigmor stood at Eran’s stall and sniffed long and loud.
- Eran: Ahh, young lady, I see the smell of my goods entices you.
- Rigmor: Indeed, it does. I am unsure what the various pastries are except those apple pies. My mother used to bake them quite often.
- Eran: These are created using a traditional Cyrodiil recipe.
- Rigmor: I thought so. The smell of cinnamon is strong. Along with what I assume is chocolate.
- Eran: Have you experienced the delights of chocolate?
- Rigmor: No, but Lord Welkynd guarantees it will brighten my life. He wasn’t wrong about those sausage things, so I trust he speaks the truth.
- Wulf: Eran, I will have two chocolate chip cookies, two brownies and the large apple pie. Thanks.
- Eran: Certainly. And they are on the house since you stopped those dragons from turning me and my stall into ash piles.
- Wulf: I don’t accept such payment, Eran.
- Rigmor: Oh, shut up Lord Welkynd. If it pleases Eran to gift you a few pastries, then gracefully accept and take that noble stick out of your arse!
Eran laughed as I sheepishly took the pastries from him. I carefully placed the pie into my Journal Case, making Eran gasp in surprise.
I handed a cookie to Rigmor and watched as she nibbled a bit. She then stared with wonder at the round miracle before taking a massive bite out of it. In no time, she was licking crumbs from her fingers.
I asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“What do you call people who make chocolate?”
“One of the first things I will do is ensure Bruma has a chocolatier. I never thought I would like something more than Sweetrolls.”
“Chocolate is made from cacao beans. They only grow in tropical rainforests, so you must import them or their refined form. I believe Eran’s cacao beans come from Elsweyr. Some Khajiiti clans have known of chocolate for thousands of years.”
“I will ask Baa’Ren-Dar about them.”
“That cookie contained a small amount of chocolate. Let’s see what you think of a brownie.”
I handed Rigmor a brownie, and there was no nibble this time. She took a bite and closed her eyes in bliss as she chewed.
There was no use trying to talk to her because another was taken as soon as one bite was swallowed.
I decided to eat my cookie but handed the other brownie to the eager Rigmor.
As she consumed that, I spoke to Listens-To-Letters.
He said, “Ahh, Lord Welkynd, a new cartload of random books and scrolls arrived yesterday. You may be interested in a first edition of Crendal’s Drunken Song.”
“That is one of the worst pieces of literature every printed!”
“As you know, that makes it a desirable addition to any worthy collection. It is a mere 150 septims.”
He handed me the book. It only has one entry, like ABCs for Barbarians, except this is supposed to be for sailors.
- A is for the apes that date their mothers
- B is for the boils that they pop for fun
- C is for the water sailors sail on
- D is for the lumps upon their tongues
- E is for the eels they eat for breakfast
- F is for the fleas that swarm within their shorts
- G is for the grog they swill by gallons
- H is for the hair upon their warts
- I is what they poke out with their fingers
- J is for the jerks they give on ropes
- K is for the kats that they drown in bags
- L is for the love they give to goats
- M is for the marks of fifty lashes
- N is for their smarts, for they have none
- O is for the oceans they get lost in
- P is for their pox and scurvy gums
- Q is for the quake-butts fit for pounding
- R is wrong, and wrong they’ll always be
- S is stinky, just like a sailor’s armpits
- T is for the ticks that eat their fleas
- U is for the urgent needs of manhood
- V is for the vegetables they won’t eat
- W for weevils in their hardtack
- X ‘es mark the spots on all their maps
- Y – oh, why! We cry. Must our song end?
- Z – the zoanthropic girls of our hometowns
I groaned, handed the book back and said, “Yes, Auryen will appreciate that one.”
“I will send it over immediately and put it on the museum’s tab.”
I heard a burp behind me and stifled my laugh as Rigmor followed me to The Temple of The Divines.
I stopped briefly to speak to Captain Aldis.
I asked, “Has General Tullius returned yet?”
“No, Lord Welkynd. He advised us it may take some time to hunt down the enemy deserters even with the aid of dragon scouts.”
“Well, I hope he gets back before Ulfric decides to restart his war.”
“I have yet to hear from anybody who witnessed The Battle of Whiterun.”
“The kill ratio was at least ten to one in our favour. The New Order never stood a chance. Stormcloak and Imperial fought side by side, and Ulfric’s idiocy was forgotten. The dead piled high, and the ground turned red. As usual, there was no glory. There were heroic acts, but nobody celebrated the carnage.”
“Oh, that is a grim description.”
“We won. Lots of people died horribly. That summarises it, Captain Aldis. Good day to you.”
We entered The Temple of The Divines and approached Priestess Freir. Isaac and Jens raced past us and out the door as we did so.
Freir watched them with a smile on her face.
- Freir: Blessings of the Nine Divines upon both of you. It brightens my day to see you.
- Wulf: It is always a blessing to see you, Priestess Freir.
- Rigmor: Do Isaac or Jens know how to walk?
- Freir: They race through the temple and into the orphanage. Consume their lunch at a record pace, then race back outside. This rush happens every day. I do think they slow down when they visit Lord Welkynd’s museum.
- Rigmor: What does Isaac have for lunch? Oops….
- Freir: High Priest Rorlund and I are aware of Isaac’s vampirism, Lady Ragnarsdottier.
- Wulf: Like the vampire orphans at Aurane, Isaac consumes everyday food with an occasional goblet of fresh animal blood. Being a Cyrodiilic Vampire means he does not need to consume blood often.
- Freir: We are sad his soul is lost to Molag Bal.
- Wulf: There were cures for vampirism in the past. It is lost knowledge that a few mages and alchemists are trying to reclaim. I wouldn’t give up on Isaac’s soul just yet.
- Freir: That is uplifting news, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: Were you aware of Count Carvain’s unfortunate demise in Bruma?
- Freir: Yes, we were told the whole family has perished, or gone missing, by visiting pilgrims.
- Wulf: His Imperial Majesty offered the position of Countess to Rigmor. She is now Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.
- Freir: One minute, a fugitive of the law, well, Thalmor law, and the next minute a Countess. Congratulations on your impressive promotion, Your Excellency.
- Wulf: Rigmor will be an excellent excellency.
- Rigmor: That is yet to be proven, Wulf. And thank you, Priestess Freir.
- Freir: I don’t know why His Imperial Majesty chose you for that position, but The Divines see something special in both of you, so be confident, Rigmor. You will be an excellent Countess.
- Wulf: It seems Justiciar Thaarm has given up on trying to have Lord Talos’ shrine removed from this temple. He will now demand that anything heretical be removed from my museum.
- Freir: He will be told to, ahh…
- Wulf: Fuck off?
- Freir: Yes.
- Wulf: I told him I would kill him if he tried to steal anything.
- Freir: Oh.
- Rigmor: I hope to be as diplomatic as Wulf in my discussions with annoying people.
- Freir: Well, it would save time.
- Wulf: It has been a pleasure speaking with you, Priestess Freir.
- Freir: I do hope you visit when you can, Countess.
- Rigmor: I will.
We made our way to the orphanage and entered.
Governess Tiera was in her office.
“Good morning, Governess. How are things?”
“Very good, Lord Welkynd. We are well prepared for the expected influx of orphans.”
“How is Alais?”
“After experiencing the Grey Quarter of Windhelm, I think any place would be a relief to the girl. She was surprised that Nord and Argonian children were happy to talk and play with her. She has settled in well and is becoming a favourite among the orphans.”
“I see that Isaac and Jens have formed a bond.”
“Both witnessed their parents killed by the same people who enslaved them. I cried when I overheard Isaac tell Jens that he was a vampire. Jens told him that was interesting, and they sat down to talk about Issac’s infliction. There was no judgement from Jens, just childhood curiosity.”
“What about Iliriel?”
“The hatred many have for High Elves doesn’t exist among the children. She is a person to them, not a High Elf. She seems sad sometimes, but as soon as another child notices, they involve her in an activity and laughter and smiles result.”
“I envy the time you get to spend with such children. I know the orphans at my estate are happy, but I have had very little chance to talk to them and observe them.”
“I heard what happened at the orphanage in Riften. That happens when our leaders hide orphans in the corner and pretend they don’t exist. They make themselves feel better by paying a pittance to run orphanages and never inspect them. Such institutions send the children onto the streets at sixteen with no skills. You are changing that, Lord Welkynd.”
“Is there anything you need help with?”
“No, Lord Welkynd. Everything here is going well.”
“Then I thank you, Governess, for showing compassion for the unfortunates who dwell here.”
We wandered around and had quick chats with Alais, Iliriel and Jens. The boy was resting from running around Solitude. All the children were happy and content, and Rigmor knew how much that pleased me.
As we headed for The Explorer’s Society, many children ran past in displays of endless enthusiasm and stamina. My smile widened. They are the future that I fight for.
We entered The Explorer’s Society Guildhouse and were accosted by Professor Marassi and the eternally enthusiastic Latoria.
- Latoria: Guildmaster, Latoria is excited that soon we can do some excavations!
- Wulf: There is still another war to deal with, Latoria.
- Latoria: Win it so we can explore dusty old ruins and sort through buckets of debris.
- Wulf: It is not the main reason I fight, but still, it is an admirable cause.
- Marassi: We have decided on our first dig site. Have you heard of Windcaller Pass?
- Wulf: Yes. It has an entrance near Whiterun and another near Ivarstead. Centuries ago, a series of rockfalls made it impassable. There is a valley in the middle where two dragons have lived for centuries.
- Marassi: We believe artefacts relating to Jurgen Windcaller will be found along that ancient route.
- Wulf: Oh, how exciting! Be still, poor heart!
- Latoria: Latoria thinks Guildmaster does not revere Windcaller like The Greycloaks.
- Wulf: I think he was an idiot, and The Way of The Voice is a load of bollocks. But still, if there is history to be discovered, then we shall dig our way through the rubble with enthusiasm and gusto!
- Marassi: Everything will be ready to go. Give us the word, and we can start digging within a week.
Madras rushed over when he saw me.
He blurted, “Guildmaster, I am researching a most extraordinary discovery!”
“A discovery or potential discovery?”
“Oh, it is still potential, but it will be a major discovery if my research is correct.”
“It seems we will be digging up ancient Nordic ruins for some time. Isn’t that exciting? Then we may get to your discovery. Are you ready to brief me on it?”
“Not yet, Guildmaster. I am working with Auryen on several leads. But it will be an amazing discovery! And no, Nordic ruins are never exciting.”
“Let me know when you are ready to discuss the details.”
“I will do, Guildmaster.”
Madras moved away, and then Rigmor exclaimed, “Hello, Dar!”
Sure enough, the esteemed palaeontologist, Professor Darnette Lauven, was visiting. She was startled by Rigmor’s greeting but soon composed herself as we walked to her.
- Dar: Excuse me, Rigmor and Lord Welkynd, it took a moment to recognise you without the armour and weapons.
- Rigmor: How is the fossil hunting?
- Dar: I hired a couple of guards, but then an army of Orsimer visited the area. Two large Orsimer brutes demanded I hand them any valuables I had. My guards intervened but did not last long despite being experienced fighters. I handed over a bag of coins, and after ransacking my camp, the thieves grunted and wandered away to join the other invaders. I am glad I was too old for any lustful pursuits they may have pursued.
- Wulf: Rigmor led an army that wiped out those Orsimer invaders. After that, she joined me in The Battle of Whiterun, where her army of veterans distinguished themselves.
- Dar: You led an army? You look barely old enough to get legally married!
- Rigmor: I am still a teenager but of marriageable age.
- Wulf: Rigmor is a natural leader.
- Dar: Can I return to my camp?
- Wulf: I would wait till the civil war is over. Many disheartened Stormcloaks may abandon Ulfric, but not all will be law-abiding citizens. You could find yourself facing the same demands but from Nords.
- Dar: The brutes discarded fossils of significant value. They were unaware of the market for such rare specimens. I buried them near my camp, and they should remain safe till I return.
- Wulf: I am sure you found the guildmembers welcoming.
- Dar: Indeed, they were, especially that lovely Latoria. What a ray of sunshine she is. I have a bunk, clean clothes and a few crates of fossils collected by Auryen over the centuries. I am sorting through them and populating the display within the museum.
- Rigmor: Wulf and I will go fossil hunting when we can.
- Dar: You will find it relaxing and quite exciting. You never know what you will find!
- Rigmor: Anything that doesn’t involve killing other people will be relaxing, Dar.
- Wulf: Are you ready for our visit to Solstheim, Rigmor?
- Rigmor: Yep.
- Wulf: I will teleport us into my new manor. We will visit the Councillor and so on in the morning.
- Dar: There are some excellent fossil deposits on Solstheim!
- Wulf: I suspect the tessellated rocks near Tel Mithryn would be one.
- Dar: Indeed, it is. Some of the wildlife is not too friendly.
- Rigmor: Most animals leave Wulf alone and will defend him against aggressors.
- Dar: You become more mysterious with every mention, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: There is no mystery, Dar. I am what you see.
- Rigmor: A big softie barbarian.
Dar laughed, and then her eyes widened as we vanished before her.
I directed Rigmor to the nearest privy, stoked a fire, and prepared dinner.
Rigmor returned upstairs a while later after looking around the house.
She exclaimed, “This place is impressive. Not the type of architecture I am used to, but neither is Aurane.”
“And what is in every bedroom?”
“A spa! Plus, there is that big natural one that looks pretty deep.”
“It will be interesting to see if that water affects your scars.”
“What smells so good?”
“A version of Elsweyr Chowder. The recipe is Ko’rassa’s and is not as spicy as some.”
“Baa’Ren-Dar’s favourite recipe burns when going in and out.”
‘You can help me with the bread if you wish.”
“I haven’t baked bread since I was a little girl!”
“Don’t forget, we have some Cyrodiil Apple Pie for dessert.”
We enjoyed the simple chore of preparing a meal.
We sat and ate and, as usual, found many disparate topics to discuss. Rigmor has a knack for bringing up non-sequiturs which steer our conversation elsewhere.
I soured the mood somewhat when I mentioned marriage just before dessert.
“Rigmor, we may not be able to marry for some time. And even if we could, I would not want to take your title from you.”
“Even if you wanted me to hold court and so on, I wouldn’t be allowed to, would I?”
“You would have no legal right to do so. Nothing you agreed to with supplicants or others would be legally binding. You could not pass judgment on criminals or spend money from the treasury. I could appoint your mother as steward, and her dowager status would allow Sigunn to run the county in my absence. But you, my dear Rigmor, would be reduced to consort and expected to keep your nose out of things. Even though you have commanded armies, I couldn’t even name you Castellan.”
“Can I place the county in Mother’s hands if need be?”
“I think there are rules on how long she could sit on the throne in your absence, but yes, that is legal.”
“Getting married would make it difficult to hide our relationship, don’t you think?”
“So would a pregnant Rigmor.”
“No, we shall not take precautions!”
“I understand your reasons, Rigmor, but it is a risk we take.”
“We risk making something beautiful out of something beautiful.”
“Anyway, where would it be if we were to marry?”
“The chapel in Bruma. It used to be called The Temple of Talos, but Count Carvain changed its name to The Temple of Bruma and made Lord Akatosh its principal deity. There is still a shrine to your father, but the name change has kept The Thalmor at bay.”
“Is it large?”
“Nope, I think there are eight pews in there. The wedding guests would be few, but we could invite many more to the reception.”
“My parents never married.”
“So, you are a bastard in name and personality!”
“Mmm…I have forgotten where I put that apple pie.”
“Look into my eyes, Dragonbum.”
“No, you will do the blinking eyes and pout thingy!”
“Aaarghh, I can’t resist! Mercy! I shall get the pie!”
After devouring the pie, which was superb, we cleaned up. That didn’t take long, with clever use of Magicka here and there.
We headed for the natural spa. It was scorching, and we could barely tolerate it at first.
We soon relaxed and soaked in it for some time, as it did help relieve the constant itching of Rigmor’s scars.
We stood before my bed, and Rigmor asked, “Do you want to take some risks?”
“Oh, is that code for banging boots now?”
“Remove your clothes, lie down and do as you are told.”
“Yes, Lady Ivanitchy Ramsbottom.”
“Revenge will be mine, Dragonbum. But not just now.”
After a spa and breakfast, we were ready to explore Raven Rock the following day. I handed Rigmor a bag of local currency so she could buy what she wanted from the local market.
We stepped outside, and she asked, “Wow, is that Red Mountain?”
“Yes, and it has never stopped erupting. The ash gets blown over Solstheim and covers everything. It can be as dark as midnight at noon during an ash storm.”
“What are those huge birds?”
“They aren’t birds but flying reptiles. They are called Cliff Racers, and some violent populations were culled in the third era. The remaining ones rarely attack a person. Their plumage is used in a lot in high-end fashion.”
“I will suffer terribly as I buy fancy clothes in The Imperial City. Poor mother will have to suffer with me.”
“I bet you will stand in the middle of the city and let the sun warm your face.”
“Yes, and I will visit the library. Shared memories with Mother will be in abundance.”
“I admire Sigunn tremendously. She appears to have survived her four years of enslavement with little trauma. However, I am sure there will be times when memories haunt her. The good memories will help her cope.”
“Mother told me that her years as a teacher will help run Bruma. She suggested the stern look she used on unruly students is something I need to practice.”
“Is there finger wagging involved?”
“Yes, and a hand on the hip is essential but hard to do when on a throne, I am sure.”
“Make sure your throne sits on a higher platform so you can stand and glare down at the miscreants.”
“Yes! Perfect! I might have fun doing that.”
“No sword, though.”
“Pity. That would have made it funner.”
“More fun. There is no such word as funner.”
“Countess Rigmor says there is. Do you want to be beheaded?”
“Yes, a sword would be funner.”
“Well done, you get to live another day.”
Rigmor found everything fascinating and had a million questions about the flora and fauna. She reminded me of the orphans at Aurane, who constantly bombarded me with questions.
I knew as soon as Rigmor saw it, curiosity would drive her.
“What is that thing?”
“It is a Nix-Hound. They feed by injecting their prey with a chemical that turns organs into soup. Then they suck up the soup through their proboscis.”
“Oh, charming. Are Nix-Hounds dangerous?”
“Wild ones might attack a person as a pack, but that is rare. Tame ones are no more dangerous than our dogs.”
“I know a young lady who would love a pet Nix-Hound.”
“Olette would like an entire zoo.”
I spoke to several locals while keeping an eye on Rigmor. Once again, I was impressed by how easily she made others feel at ease, and many smiled as she spoke to them. It is hard to reconcile the young, carefree woman I watched with the stern Warmaiden I met on the battlefield of Whiterun.
Rigmor purchased various fruits and vegetables foreign to her and several bottles of local booze. People watched and whispered as I used my Journal Case. Everybody knew who I was, and they seemed to accept I carried weird magical objects.
After an hour and another full bag of coins, Rigmor finished shopping.
“Where to now?” she asked.
“I thought you might like to see Lady Azura’s shrine.”
“Okay. I should pay respects to my Celestial Mother.”
“Yeah, she did such a stellar job preventing your kidnap.”
“Sorry. I promise to be a good boy.”
I stood back and then laughed as Lady Azura’s voice startled Rigmor. I was confident the goddess would take this opportunity to speak to her Celestial Daughter.
“Welcome, Daughter. Come closer, my champion.”
I stood slightly behind and to the Rigmor’s right.
- Azura: I see much, but not all. Do not accompany Rigmor across the border, Champion.
- Wulf: I await instructions from The Nine on that matter, Lady Azura.
- Azura: You are a creator of chaos and defeater of such. You have attracted the attention of many of my kind. Not all are benevolent.
- Wulf: That is to be expected when I champion mortals. I defeated The Entity and denied The Gardner of Men. I am prepared for whatever plans others have and am surrounded by mighty warriors and mages. We shall prevail.
- Azura: When you meet my old champion, tell him he is still loved. It has been long since he talked to me.
- Wulf: Of which champion do you speak?
- Azura: He was known as Nerevar when he first walked Mundus.
- Wulf: You believe I am to meet the Nerevarine?
- Azura: Several paths lead to that meeting.
- Wulf: I would be honoured to meet him and shall pass on your message.
- Azura: My Daughter, you have overcome much to reach this point. I shall do what I can to protect you, but the environment into which you enter is full of falsehood and naked ambition. Surround yourself with those you trust, and learn to suspect all who desire to befriend you.
- Rigmor: I cannot change who I am, Lady Azura. However, I will be cautious, as several have warned me about the Cyrodiil games.
- Azura: My nearest shrine is far from your new home.
- Rigmor: Yes, it is in Cheydinhal. I shall build a new shrine in Bruma and will decide its location at a later date. Much traffic flows from Skyrim and through Bruma. Your shrine would be visited by many of those travellers.
- Azura: That would be a mighty gift, Daughter.
- Rigmor: It is but a small payment for the life of my beloved.
- Azura: He has repaid that debt many times over. I wish no harm to befall mortals, and your Guardian is essential to prevent such harm. He champions my people in a land where many despise them.
- Rigmor: Both of us have great fondness and admiration for the Khajiiti.
- Azura: I part with a caution. You will be relying on others when your Guardian is elsewhere. Deeds, not mere words, must earn your trust. It is easy to mouth loyalty.
As Azura’s presence faded, Rigmor turned to me and asked, “How am I supposed to figure out the trustworthy?”
“Start with those who are already there. Freathof was loyal to the Carvain family. I think he will be loyal to you. You have your mother and Bruma garrison. Cerys is an honourable person, as most who study Restoration are. I find Malesam hard to trust fully due to his mistress. He might not intentionally cause you harm but inadvertently pass information onto Lady Boethia. Hold no illusion she aided us for altruistic reasons. She plays a game with other Daedric Lords just as convoluted and deadly as that of Cyrodiil nobles.”
“Bah, why worry about it now? I will deal with what comes.”
“That is an excellent motto. I wonder where you got that from?”
“I got it from a weirdo.”
We made our way to Morvayn Manor.
The guard said, “Councillor Morvayn is in attendance. He instructed me to let you enter, Lord Welkynd.”
“He knew I was in Raven Rock?”
“I saw you heading for the temple and told him.”
We entered and approached the councillors.
- Wulf: First Councillor Lleril Morvayn and Second Councillor Adril Arano, I am honoured to introduce Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma.
- Lleril: It is an honour to meet you, Countess Ragnarsdottier.
- Adril: We were saddened to hear of the accident that claimed the life of Count Carvain. We were further saddened to hear his wife and daughter were also lost to us. I pride myself in knowing the politics of not just Morrowind but all of Tamriel. Doesn’t Count Carvain have a brother who would inherit the title?
- Rigmor: Count Carvain’s brother and his wife were to be guests at Vittoria Vicci’s nuptials. Unfortunately, and against the wise council provided, they entered Skyrim with inadequate protection. Bandits killed them and their single guard.
- Adril: Are you a first cousin or similar to Count Carvain?
- Lleril: Adril, is this questioning necessary? I find it quite rude and intrusive. Countess Ragnarsdottier is here with Lord Welkynd, and I see no reason for deception on their part.
- Rigmor: It is okay, First Councillor. The Second Councillor is doing his duty with a thoroughness that should be admired, not admonished.
- Wulf: Rigmor’s father was Ragnar Fjonasson, the famous Imperial general who led the legendary Sons of Talos in many battles during and after The Great War. Fighting beside our Redguard friends, they prevented The Dominion from conquering Hammerfell.
- Rigmor: Years after the war, when I was fourteen, The Dominion falsely accused my father of war crimes. Namely, the slaughter of tens of thousands of Redguard civilians as they tried to escape across the Brema River. The truth is the opposite. Ragnar and The Sons of Talos stopped Dominion troops from continuing the slaughter they started.
- Wulf: His Imperial Majesty was still trying to stabilise The Empire and did not want a confrontation with The Dominion over Ragnar. Titus Mede II knew Ragnar was innocent. After all, he was the one who pinned medals on Ragnar’s chest and made him a Knight. However, he agreed to The Dominion’s request and allowed the arrest of a hero.
- Rigmor: My father was paraded through the streets of several Alinor cities. He was spat on and had filth thrown at him. Eventually, they lay his head on a block and executed him.
- Wulf: Countess Rigmor and her mother were enslaved. Both were eventually rescued.
- Rigmor: As compensation for the treatment of my family, His Imperial Majesty offered me the position of Countess of Rigmor. My family was re-entered into The Book of Lists, and our noble status returned. The false histories of my father’s actions in Hammerfell have been removed, and the real story has been put in place.
- Adril: Forgive my impertinence. His Imperial Majesty would not risk problems with The Elder Council and other nobles to apologise for a political decision made. I have no doubt, after weighing the pros and cons of options, there were other reasons he chose you.
- Wulf: Countess Rigmor has been invaluable in ensuring our successful campaign against The New Order. She led the veterans of The Sons of Talos in two significant battles. At great risk to herself, Countess Rigmor accompanied me as we infiltrated New Order forts and other buildings.
- Adril: I understand better now. Thank you for dealing with my impertinence in a calm and informative manner.
- Rigmor: Once more, Second Councillor, you are merely performing your duties.
- Lleril: We have not received information on the war’s progress against The New Order.
- Wulf: The New Order armies were crushed in Cyrodiil and Skyrim. All of their operatives in Alinor have been arrested or killed. The New Order no longer exists.
- Lleril: That is welcome news, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: There is a specific reason for my quick visit. I have spoken to Vittoria Vicci, and she will ensure that Solstheim pays a fair market price for any goods The East Empire company provides.
- Lleril: Once more, you have aided my people, and therefore, I thank you once more, Lord Welkynd.
- Wulf: It was my pleasure. I can solve the mystery if you were wondering what that noise is. The Countess’ stomach is protesting as it has no food to keep it company. Therefore, we shall head for The Retching Netch and partake of local cuisine.
- Rigmor: Why didn’t you just say we will have some lunch, you idiot?
- Wulf: I did!
- Rigmor: Yeah, right. Pffft!
- Lleril: Are you two married or betrothed?
- Rigmor: Not yet. Lord Welkynd is still to learn the advantages of bathing.
- Wulf: I had a bath on the 23rd of last month!
- Lleril: Your pretend bickering is like the real thing I hear almost daily.
- Adril: Cindiri and I do not bicker!
- Lleril: You do, until eventually you capitulate and agree with Cindiri, no matter how wrong she is.
- Adril: I do not…do I?
We left the squabbling friends and headed outside.
I asked Rigmor, “Would you like to look from the ramparts, what they call The Bulwark?”
“Yeah, my growling stomach will have to wait. Ahh, is The Retching Netch a bit livelier than that Cornerclub in Windhelm?”
“Yes. Sometimes, if you listen carefully, you can hear laughter!”
“Yes, all mine. What a lucky girl I am.”
“Keep practicing the sarcasm, Rigmor. You will get there one day.”
We spent an hour moving around The Bulwark with Rigmor firing questions like an excited child.
At one stage, Rigmor started laughing at the mushroom helmets of some of the guards. I would hate to see her reaction to some of the other Velothi traditional helms.
We headed for the cornerclub, and I introduced Rigmor to Bet-Kogo. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t say much.
Rigmor entered The Retching Netch with some trepidation. However, when she heard some merriment, she hurried downstairs and tried various local spirits. She did eat something, thank goodness. Otherwise, I would have had to carry her out.
A couple of hours later, I teleported us into Severin Manor so Rigmor could use the privy and freshen up.
Our next stop was High Hrothgar so that I could talk to Arngeir about Miraak.
I waited for Arngeir to finish his meditation.
Eventually, he stood and greeted me.
- Arngeir: Welcome, Dragonborn.
- Wulf: Drem yol lok, Master Arngeir.
- Arngeir: What is the purpose of your visit?
- Wulf: Have The Greybeards detected any anomalies lately?
- Arngeir: Yes. A few days ago, a dragon’s soul was absorbed. We believe that occurred on the island of Solstheim. However, the vibrations upon Kyne’s winds were unfamiliar. They did not match those that occur when you absorb a soul.
- Wulf: Why do you think that occurred?
- Arngeir: Our only logical solution was that another Dragonborn exists. But that is absurd!
- Rigmor: Wow, you are in for a surprise!
- Arngeir: You have visited several times, young lady, but have never been introduced.
- Wulf: Arngeir, this young lady is Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier of Bruma.
- Arngeir: Countess? What happened to Count Carvain?
- Wulf: He died in a riding accident. His daughter disappeared and is assumed dead. The Count’s Consort died from grief. His brother and sister-in-law were killed by bandits in Skyrim. For reasons I will not go into now, His Imperial Majesty has bestowed the title of Countess of Bruma on Rigmor.
- Arngeir: Forgive me for my lack of grace, Countess. Sometimes, news from the outside comes as a shock.
- Rigmor: Do not concern yourself, Master Arngeir. You are not the first and won’t be the last to display shock at my appointment.
- Arngeir: That is gracious for you to say. Now, what is going to surprise me?
- Rigmor: Wulf went to Apocrypha, Hermaeus Mora’s realm of Oblivion, and rescued Miraak, the first Dragonborn, who was trapped there since The Dragon War. That is forty-five centuries, I think.
- Arngeir: Please, Dragonborn, explain how this came to be.
- Wulf: Lord Akatosh needed a mortal hero to combat Alduin. He chose Miraak, a powerful Dragon Priest and ruler of Solstheim. Lord Akatosh gifted his blessings to Miraak. Instead of joining forces with the Ancient Tongues, Miraak developed other plans to defeat Alduin. However, before they came to fruition, his temple was attacked by dragons. He and three other Dragon Priests managed to kill over two dozen dragons before another Dragon Priest severely injured Miraak. Miraak had been dealing with Hermaeus Mora, who offered him refuge. Miraak accepted the offer and found himself in Apocrypha. Miraak refused to become Mora’s champion, and the Deadric Prince placed him in stasis. When Alduin returned, Mora released Miraak from stasis, hoping that he would defeat Alduin. Instead, Miraak rebelled against Mora. I went to Apocrypha and, together with Miraak, killed wave after wave of Mora’s minions sent to eliminate us. We then escaped to Mundus from Apocrypha. Miraak is in Solstheim taking care of loose ends. In a day or two, I will bring him to Skyrim. I want him to meet you and also Paarthurnax. Lord Akatosh is pleased I am offering Miraak a chance at redemption as I did for Paarthurnax and Odahviing. Miraak must explain what occurred to Paarthurnax, for your leader only knows part of the history.
- Arngeir: I am positive there is more to that tale, but I know enough for now. We have no record of Miraak, which is an anomaly, for we have meticulously gathered the Thu’um’s history.
- Wulf: Miraak’s time on Nirn was well before your order was formed. You would remain ignorant of Miraak unless Paarthurnax mentioned every detail of the Dragon War. It took my librarian, Auryen, some time to find any reference to Miraak.
- Arngeir: Will Miraak need our guidance?
- Wulf: He may seek some help. His knowledge of the Thu’um is extensive, and he created several Shouts. His ability to focus his Thu’um is superior to mine, and I expect him to be a vital ally in my endeavours.
- Arngeir: You said you are giving him a chance for redemption. What has he done that needs redeeming?
- Wulf: He tried to ensorcel the people of Solstheim. He tried to kill me. He did not aid The Ancient Tongues against Alduin. None of his actions were for selfish reasons, but they did present a danger to all mortals.
- Arngeir: Will Paarthurnax regard him as an enemy?
- Wulf: Yes, because I doubt Paarthurnax knows the reasons behind Miraak’s actions. Lord Akatosh is pleased I am offering Miraak a chance at redemption. If nothing else, Paarthurnax should respect what our Celestial Father wants.
- Rigmor: Paarthurnax’s and Odahviing’s crimes are far more extensive than Miraak’s.
- Wulf: Lord Akatosh chose Miraak to receive his blessings. He did so because he saw qualities in Miraak that impressed our God of Time. The Divines are not omnipotent, but I like to think they are good judges of character.
- Arngeir: I look forward to meeting Miraak. I am also keen to learn the whole story behind your dealings with Hermaeus Mora.
- Wulf: As per usual, my exploits will be in published journals. There is not much about my dealings with Hermaeus Mora that needs redaction. Eventually, all of my journals will be redaction-free.
- Arngeir: Is there anything else I can help you with, Dragonborn?
- Wulf: No, thank you, Arngeir. We shall visit Lady Kyne’s temple now.
Arngeir returned to his meditations, and we went to the temple.
When we entered, Rigmor said, “I know the routine. I will quietly observe.”
I approached the shrine and then opened my mind to Lady Kyne.
“Dragonchild, you once again confuse and delight The Nine.”
“I am pleased I keep my gods entertained.”
“The anomaly you experienced when using the Thu’um to summon Shor’s avatar is perplexing. You managed to end the danger quickly, but changes were made to your soul.”
“That is alarming! What kind of changes?”
“Your dragon soul has adapted more thoroughly to your mortal body. The fusion between the two is greater. There is no harm to you, but I believe it will allow a temporary transformation. Similar to how Hircine’s curse creates Lycanthropes.”
“I will accept your assurance that no harm has been done. However, I need to know the details of this transformation.”
“We are certain that the transformation can be triggered by the Shout that I will teach you. You will learn more about the form through experimentation. We can only speculate, for this is unique like much about you.”
“Many mortals who transform into their lycanthropic form become savage beasts.”
“What occurs when you let your dragon soul control your actions?”
“I show no mercy in combat. I find false glory in battle and elation at conquering my enemies. I become a dragon succumbing to its base instincts.”
“But you do not kill indiscriminately. You still have your core values and protect innocents and allies.”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“The transformation should make you appear similar to a Draman. We suspect your Thu’um will be much stronger due to a better synergy between soul and body. You may revel in combat. However, your core values will not change.”
“If The Nine think it could be useful occasionally, I am willing to learn and use the Shout.”
Kyne’s presence in my mind was disturbing. Usually, I am in a trance while she injects the information on Words of Power and Shouts into my memory. This time, since it was a single Shout, my mind did not have time to blank the intrusion. It reminded me why I spent so much time creating my mind blocks.
To the layman, it seems strange that uttering one, two or three Dovahzul words can create such powerful magic. However, it is similar to the chants used in some spells. Not the words but the intent wrapped around their pronunciation taps into the reserves of Magicka or Thu’um. The new Shout only contained one new Word of Power, Fel, which means feral. It is used to force my body and instincts to resemble that of a dragon. The basic structure of my mortal form restricts the body’s transformation. The transformation is similar to how Lycanthropy does not turn a mortal into a wolf or bear form but a hybrid. The three Words of Power had to be used. There is no weaker form of the Shout, which Kyne has named ‘Awaken Instincts.’ The three Words of Power are Dov Fel Slen (Dragon Feral Flesh).
The knowledge transfer was finished in seconds, but my mind tried to convince me it was far longer. I promised it I would not do that again unless necessary. I think it forgave me.
Kyne said, “We don’t know if the Shout will be useful. However, it would have been remiss of us to ignore its existence. As with all things, trust your instincts, Dragonchild, for they have proven the wisest advisor.”
Kyne’s presence faded. I approached Rigmor.
“Wulf, you look pale.”
“It is not pleasant allowing a god to poke around in your brain.”
“You must let Kyne in to learn the new Words of Power and Shouts.”
“That’s right, but I usually go into a trance and don’t notice the intrusion.”
“Did you learn anything useful?”
“It might be. I can turn myself into a dragon-mortal hybrid. I am not sure what I will look like. Lady Kyne thought I might look like a Draman, but they are a Daedric creation.”
“Why would you want to use the Shout?”
“I don’t know the form’s abilities, so I don’t know as yet. It may be that my Thu’um is more concentrated and, therefore, stronger in the hybrid form. Perhaps my understanding of the Thu’um will be greater in that form.”
“Would you still be Wulf?”
“Lady Kyne said I will be similar to when I let my dragon instincts take control. I will be ruthless and bloodthirsty and revel in combat. But I will still be me and would not harm an innocent.”
“What benefits would there be to that form?”
“The Nine are not sure. The only way to understand the form is to use it.”
“Well then, try the Shout. The quicker you learn about it, the quicker you determine its uses.”
“I have no idea what I will look like.”
“Wulf, try the Shout.”
DOV FEL SLEN
I have witnessed lycanthropes transform, and it is a slow and seemingly painful process that lasts several seconds. I changed into my new form instantaneously. Rigmor was startled.
But true to form, Rigmor’s curiosity overcame any initial shock or fear.
She reached out and touched me whilst staring into my eyes.
Rigmor asked, “How do you feel?”
My voice was like gravel when I replied, “I feel invincible. I am an unstoppable force. A born killer, a widow maker. A true Dov warrior and my enemy’s worst nightmare. The scariest thing is it excites and invigorates me.”
“Ha de haha. That was bullshit when I said it, but I think it is accurate with you.”
“What do you see in my eyes?”
“I see you. My dear, weird, big softy Dragonborn is before me.”
“Can I have a kiss?”
“Ahh…no…you have no lips. Where are your dangly bits?”
“Trust you to look. Like a dragon, they will be hidden behind a cloaca.”
“What are your first impressions?”
“I think my instincts for the Thu’um are heightened. The Voice is more natural to me. My focus is improved, and any Shout I use will be more powerful. My strength and speed have increased tremendously. Watch how far I can leap without effort.”
With no runup or other preparation, I leapt the length of the chamber. I could have gone further if Kyne’s statue was not in the way.
I leapt back and then used the Shout to return to my usual form.
Rigmor asked, “Do you think it is something you would use?”
“Absolutely. I must teach myself the capabilities and how to utilise them.”
“It is weird, but kinda cool! Ahh, what happens to your clothes and equipment when you transform?”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I have no idea.”
“Yeah, but why don’t you have any idea?”
“Aaargh! Okay, Dragonbum, where next before I forget how much I love you.”
“Ready when you are.”
We appeared out of the ether and walked closer to Mother’s shrine.
Rigmor looked at the writing and then turned to me.
“What does it say?” she asked.
“In Ayleidoon is says, ‘Var-pan Alesia, ri etaneil ta elenmir, nu viingan na aran anatar, kirel alyndor na varandar.’”
“Saint Alessia, through her purity and wisdom, earned the love of all good beings, mortal and immortal.”
“Who wrote that?”
“It is part of The Catechism of Alessia, which several people wrote.”
“What is a catechism?”
“A catechism is a set of truths. They are usually associated with a religion. However, a catechism can also teach fundamental truths of any subject.”
“Can you tell me the entire catechism?”
“These words cannot be gainsaid for the truth cannot be questioned: ‘Saint Alessia, through her purity and wisdom, earned the love of all good beings, mortal and immortal. At Sancre Tor, she prayed to Lord Akatosh for the liberation of her people, and the Time Dragon granted her Three Visions to guide her in this task. Though the road was long and filled with hardship, her faith sustained her. When, at last, all three visions had come to pass, and her people were freed of Elven domination, her purpose was fulfilled, and she was called to Apotheosis. Then was she inducted into sainthood by Lord Akatosh himself, and granted the Amulet of Kings, for the sacred rulers of The Empire to wear forever and beyond.’”
“Do you agree with it?”
“It appeals to the racist elements of society, and therefore, I do not entirely agree with it. Mother freed her people from Daedric worshipping Ayleid. They were a subset of Elven people, not the entirety. The First Empire had many high-ranking Ayleid nobles and landholders. It lacked racism of any form.”
Mother’s voice did not fill the air. Instead, she spoke to us telepathically and instructed, “Rigmor and Valdr, please face me.”
We moved back and looked up at Mother’s face, made difficult by the sun’s brightness.
- Alessia: Rigmor, I hope you are not uncomfortable with this type of communication.
- Rigmor: No, Saint Alessia. It is used quite often around Wulf, ahh, Valdr.
- Alessia: Please, I am Alessia, and you can call my son Wulf if that is more familiar.
- Rigmor: Okay.
- Wulf: Mother, you are using telepathy to ensure no scrying or eavesdropping can occur.
- Alessia: Yes, what I have to say cannot be known by those who oppose us.
- Wulf: Do The Divines not want me to cross into Cyrodiil? And if so, has this to do with why General Welkynd and The Dragonborn should be perceived as separate entities?
- Alessia: They do not want you to accompany Rigmor into Cyrodiil. I will explain this in what I hope are terms that Rigmor can understand. She is not as proficient at gobblygook as you, my son.
- Rigmor: Leave out the mumbo jumbo, and I should be able to keep up.
- Alessia: I am not a flowery speaker like Lady Mara and others.
- Rigmor: Okay, if my eyes glaze over and I start dribbling, you will know I am confused.
- Wulf: Oh, I thought that was your natural state.
- Alessia: Rigmor, ignore Valdr. Alas, The Divines can do nothing to improve his humour.
- Rigmor: Wulf, you are officially ignored.
- Alessia: Rigmor, do you understand junctions, what some call ripples in The Void?
- Rigmor: Wulf said they are important events that make some future timelines more probable. I know that fails logic, as each action creates infinite timelines. So, as Wulf advises, I accept the gobblygook that makes sense and ignore the rest.
- Alessia: That is wise advice and a reasonably accurate description. A junction is like a decision a mortal might make. Do I do this, or do I do that? For instance, do I go inside and out of the rain and remain dry? Or do I stand outside and get wet? Although still possible, the odds of getting wet after going inside are greatly diminished.
- Rigmor: Okay, that makes sense.
- Alessia: Several junctions in a row have led to a frightening possibility. Those junctions were Aedriath’s ambush that almost killed Valdr. His rescue of you from the sacrificial altar. Wulf’s return from The Ash Pit. The victory over The New Order. His rescue of Miraak etcetera.
- Rigmor: Understood. Wulf told me that these unexpected junctions make The Obscurity more likely. The increased likelihood is due to the increased chance of Mundus or Nirn surviving till the time of The Obscurity.
- Alessia: It is good Valdr spoke of this to you. It is complex, and I have no doubt he simplified it better than I can.
- Rigmor: Wulf also said that he and I are crucial to ensuring this timeline exists beyond The Obscurity.
- Alessia: Since we cannot see beyond The Obscurity, we have no definitive plan to counter it or guarantee that such a plan would be successful. We cannot say when The Obscurity will occur except within two or three decades. We must be flexible and concoct plans as we learn more. However, we are confident that one criterion for continuing this timeline is that you are alive and together.
- Rigmor: Please define together.
- Alessia: Within proximity of each other. Whether your relationship is lovers, friends, enemies, or casual acquaintances is unknown. You must understand that we know very little at this stage. The strength of your bond makes you stronger. We also recognise the beauty of your love for one another. So we would prefer you to be a romantic pair, but we cannot guarantee that.
- Rigmor: I know the answer, but I want to hear it from you or The Divines. Why, if it is essential Wulf and I be together, are we to part at the border?
- Alessia: Two reasons. The first is for your safety, Rigmor. As The Dragonborn and Champion of The Divines, Valdr has attracted and will continue to attract many enemies. Anybody close to him, physically and emotionally, will also be in danger. If an enemy doesn’t think they can physically hurt Wulf, they may try and emotionally damage him by targeting those he loves.
- Rigmor: That has been explained to me. Wulf has used the example of your champion, Pelinal Whitestrake, to demonstrate how such a loss can change a person.
- Alessia: Some people would become recluse. I know that Valdr would struggle with the death of any person he loved. Since his circle of loved ones is ever-increasing, the danger expands.
- Rigmor: Wulf cannot help but attract similar-minded people to his side. What is the other reason Wulf should leave me at the border?
- Alessia: After speaking to Hjalti, it became clear that Valdr’s unexpected appearance and interference undid The New Order. We don’t know what creates The Obscurity. If an entity or group plans it, the chance of your success may rely on Valdr’s unexpected appearance.
- Rigmor: If they don’t know of our relationship, they won’t prepare for Wulf’s involvement.
- Alessia: Such entities would expect him to intervene if Valdr is alive. They would hope to complete specific steps before he does. They may not be prepared for his sudden appearance and interference.
- Rigmor: I understand the reason for the border separation, but we can’t remain apart! We deserve and need to be together! We need to be together to be complete! I have already told Wulf I accept what will come as he does his tasks. Wulf will face darkness that he will not cope with if I am not by his side.
- Alessia: As The Liminal Barrier weakens, Valdr will face much darkness. I know my son well, Rigmor, and what you say is true. He will need your love to survive the ordeals ahead.
- Rigmor: I assume there is a plan to allow us to see each other when needed.
- Alessia: General Welkynd will not be seen after he has helped win the civil war. There will be little evidence that Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn, and General Welkynd are the same individual. The description of General Welkynd will vary tremendously because of the armour he wears. Although people in the future may question the common surname of Welkynd, there will be no records that confirm any suspicions they may have. The world must think you and Valdr tearfully parted ways at the border and gone your separate ways. The world must think that General Welkynd was a fleeting figure in history.
- Rigmor: How will you hide that they are the same person?
- Alessia: Our mortal agents will alter any official records that may expose them as the same individual. It will be impossible for somebody to say the two entities are one person definitively.
- Rigmor: Okay, I have dumped that good-for-nothing Wulf. How do I get to see my beautiful Dragonborn?
- Alessia: The separation must be absolute for some time. Not only will that enforce the illusion of a permanent separation, but you both have things to do that need your undivided attention. Rigmor, it will not be easy transitioning into the role of countess. Valdr needs to take care of Ulfric. When the time is right, you can often meet and travel together as long as it is done discreetly.
- Wulf: I am sure we can develop ways to cover our tracks, Mother.
- Alessia: Some people in power will help with that. Emperor Titus Mede II will be informed of the need for discretion and arrange invitations to boring festivals, tourneys, and other such nonsense. He listens to his religious advisors and will know what is at stake.
- Rigmor: It seems I was right and that expensive trips to The Imperial City for days of shopping are required. I can’t just turn up at those events without wearing the latest fashion!
- Wulf: As Countess, you might have to visit Skyrim for trade negotiations. I am sure Skyrim nobles will invite you to social events.
- Rigmor: Alessia, I will demand privacy from those around me as my right as a young woman and countess. I don’t think there will be a problem with me living a life outside the castle walls.
- Alessia: There shouldn’t be. However, the nobility in Cyrodiil is a bit old-fashioned in many respects, and you will be under close observation for some time. So, as long as you are discreet and do not give the gossipers scandals, your advisors and mother should leave you be.
- Wulf: If you are boring, the other nobles will stop snooping on you.
- Rigmor: I worry that even a few weeks apart will prove a burden, and we will both miss our talks and what we call ‘Our Quiet.’
- Alessia: We realised this, and Silah will soon arrive with gifts created by Lady Mara. She will explain further.
- Rigmor: I may want to accompany Wulf as he tackles the chaos.
- Alessia: Your presence may increase the chances of Valdr’s survival or success. Sometimes, there may be an increased risk to you, but I doubt The Nine would object to you assisting Valdr. If they do, tell them to mind their own business. Exercise the free will they gifted us.
- Wulf: As always, I assess the threat as a task unfolds. I have no hesitation in continuing alone if I believe the danger to others is extreme.
- Rigmor: Alessia, Wulf worries that you are weakening yourself by communicating like this.
- Alessia: Valdr is constantly worrying about others. I cannot do this often, but these talks have been necessary. It has also given me a chance to meet you, Rigmor. As a protective mother, I must ensure Valdr’s partners are suitable.
- Rigmor: I can sense Wulf’s warped humour in what you said, Alessia. So, do I pass the test, and what is this about partners?
- Alessia: We have always known that Valdr met his soul mate the night he travelled to your prison. We did not discover the entwined souls till later. We had to temper his expectations, as we did not know if he would ever meet you again, and if he did, what would happen. But Valdr was always confident you would meet again, and I know he avoided relationships offered on Roscrea. There has only ever been you in his heart, Rigmor. And I do not have to give an appraisal, for Valdr would only love somebody with a good soul.
- Rigmor: Wulf says you are an unmatched soothsayer. Didn’t you see us finding each other once more?
- Alessia: I see little of Valdr’s future by accident or design. I see where his influence may be, and now yours with his combined. But everything is just a possibility, not a certainty. I am sure Valdr has lectured you on that.
- Wulf: I don’t lecture.
- Rigmor: Yes, you do.
- Alessia: Indeed, you do.
- Rigmor: I look forward to meeting you, Alessia.
- Alessia: It may be some time before I escape my predicament. But when I do, we shall meet and swap tales about Valdr. I have many embarrassing antidotes. However, I must now take my leave. Remember, Valdr, talk to the stars. I will hear.
- Wulf: My love for you is eternal and immeasurable, Mother.
Mother’s presence faded, and Silah appeared from the ether.
The Jill circled and landed away from the shrine to avoid covering it in dirt and snow.
When we approached, Silah transformed into her spirit form.
- Rigmor: Hello, Silah!
- Silah: You are looking well, Rigmor.
- Rigmor: It has been a strange couple of days with gods talking to me and Wulf turning into a half-dragon thingy.
- Silah: None of us were sure if the Shout would work or what advantage the hybrid form may have.
- Wulf: I will have to live in that form for extended periods to understand its limitations and advantages fully.
- Rigmor: If nothing else, it will scare the shit out of enemies!
- Silah: Enemies with shitty underpants are always at a disadvantage.
- Rigmor: Especially if they are in full metal armour that traps in the fumes.
- Wulf: Okay, we have a way to the border to avoid prying eyes. I will wear my field armour that disguises me like General Welkynd’s armour. We agree we must separate for some time, but as Rigmor told Mother, that might be difficult.
- Silah: And that is why Lady Mara created matching rings for you.
- Rigmor: Wow, where are they?
- Silah: Patience, Rigmor, and I shall give them to you.
- Rigmor: I can be patient. About a minute is my record.
- Silah: The rings will allow you to talk telepathically with unlimited range as long as you are both in the same plane.
- Rigmor: So, for example, if Wulf was in Oblivion and I was on Nirn, we couldn’t talk via the rings.
- Silah: Correct.
- Wulf: It is similar to my summoning spell, which works across an unlimited range.
- Silah: Yes, the dweomer is similar. Later on, we shall enable a tracking function. Wulf could tell where Rigmor was, and the knowledge would be enough to teleport to her.
- Wulf: That will come in handy!
- Rigmor: Why later on and not immediately?
- Silah: Temptation, Rigmor. The Divines are going to treat you like irresponsible children. They want the physical separation to be at least a month or longer. It depends on how much scrutiny Rigmor is getting from other nobles.
- Rigmor: If I were in my private chambers or even our old house, nobody would see Wulf teleporting to me or me to him.
- Silah: Argue with The Divines. I am but a courier and messenger.
- Wulf: If people think you are in Bruma but can’t be found, that may cause issues. I am sure we will figure something out.
- Rigmor: Our Quiet will not work through the rings, will it?
- Silah: Not at first, but several of The Nine think it will eventually. As usual, nothing is certain when dealing with that weirdo you love.
Silah handed me the rings and said, “The dweomer won’t work until Rigmor is halfway to Bruma. Have fun!”
Silah vanished rather than turn back into dragon form. No doubt she travelled to Aetherius.
I asked Rigmor, “Gold band or ebony band?”
“Ebony is worth more.”
“Gold is prettier.”
“Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, will you marry me sometime in the future?”
“Oh, so this is an engagement ring then?”
“Well, may I have your answer, my beloved?”
“Yeah, I suppose, if you don’t annoy me too much.”
I slipped the ring onto Rigmor’s ring finger on her left hand.
Rigmor held her hand out and gasped.
She exclaimed, “It is beautiful.”
Rigmor then slid my ring into place.
I laughed and said, “There is another dweomer on the rings that only works when wearing them.”
“What does it do?”
“It makes them invisible to other people. You won’t get asked why you wear a ring on that finger.”
“That’s cool. If people can’t see it, they can’t steal it!”
“Yes, there is that benefit as well.”
“What now, my fiancée?”
“How about a hot meal and some booze at The Winking Skeever?”
“I might be interested.”
“How about if I sing some songs while we are there?”
“I would love that!”
We teleported to the entrance of Solitude and then made our way to The Winking Skeever.
I almost lost my appetite on entry when I saw a Khajiiti in a Thalmor uniform. I had seen him around Solitude several times and had never spoken to him. I know I would not be polite to what I regard as a traitor to his people.
We sat down. When the barmaid approached, we ordered steaks and goblets of wine.
Eutei came over and said, “We have our wagon ready to go. We shall see you at the homestead soon, I hope.”
“Safe travels, Eutei, and Blessings of The Divines.”
The evening crowds started to enter as Rigmor and I enjoyed our meals.
After a while, we gave up trying to talk over the din of the busy inn.
I approached Belrand.
He asked, “Do you need something, Lord Welkynd?”
“Would you like me to play a few songs for your customers?”
“You had them clamouring for more last time. So please, be my guest.”
Lisette the Bard saw me approaching with my lute. I waited for her to finish her song, and then she announced, “People of Solitude, tonight we are privileged to have Lord Welkynd, The Dragonborn and hero of us all, here to sing a few songs.”
I said, “Excuse me if I fumble with this new lute. It is small for my hands, but I have been keen for others to hear its magnificent tone. My first song is Six Ribbons.”
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- If I were a merchant, I’d bring you six diamonds
- With six blood-red roses for my love to wear
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So, take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- If I were a nobleman, I’d bring you six carriages
- And six snow-white horses to take you anywhere
- If I were The Emperor, I’d build you six palaces
- With six hundred servants for comforting fare
- But I am a simple man, a poor common farmer
- So, take my six ribbons to tie back your hair
- If I were a minstrel, I’d sing you six love songs
- To tell the whole world of the love that we share
- So be not afraid, my love, you’re never alone, my love
- While you wear my ribbons to tie back your hair
- I was a simple man, a poor common farmer
- I gave you six ribbons to tie back your hair
- Yellow and brown, blue as the sky,
- Red as my blood, green as your eyes
- Too-ra-lee, too-ra-lie, all I could share
- Were only six ribbons to tie back your hair
I was rewarded with enthusiastic clapping and cheers.
I next played a popular dance tune on the flute.
That was also met with appreciation by the audience.
I then sung ‘A Neired Stole My Husband.’
- A nereid stole my husband.
- My husband a nereid stole
- Beware the maids of the Seastrand
- Lest you be the next that we console.
- We strolled blithely along the shore
- Gathering shells and turning stones
- Then came the voice I now deplore
- A voice, a song, such soaring tones!
- At once, my husband quickly sped
- ‘Wait!’ I cried. Tis a nereid!
- But faster still, he pressed ahead
- Her sweet call could not be gainsaid.
- Too late, alas, alas, too late
- I found him swaying, deep in thrall
- My worst fear sent to me by fate
- He followed the nereid’s call.
- And she, beautiful, cruel, and vain
- Swam to her sisters, calling this back,
- ‘Your husband was no prize to gain;
- He’s yours once more, Lady Crookback!’
- A nereid stole my husband
- Returning him without delay
- Poor me, nearly free from his demands
- Stuck instead with him since that day!
Many people joined in with the song as it was popular and well-known.
Henry came to me and asked for an Imperial marching song.
As I played the simple rhythm on my drum, several Legionnaires and retired veterans in the audience sang the mournful song. It was about missed loved ones and thoughts on what they may be doing as the soldiers marched to war. Some of the singers choked with emotion on the part when the missed ones were children.
Henry cried and had to be comforted by his mother.
I bowed to signify the end of my performance and held my hand out for Rigmor.
As we made our way to the exit, Captain Metilius stopped us.
After saluting, he said, “General Tullius has returned from his foray. I watched with great admiration as he killed many an enemy from horseback. It was like he was thirty years younger!”
“He must be eager to teach the Stormcloaks a lesson or two.”
“Indeed, he is. Valminoor told us that Ulfric had sent a force from Windhelm to join the one in Whiterun. As predicted, he did not withdraw his troops from Whiterun Hold but camped them near the city.”
“We shall destroy his army, Captain. Then, we will swiftly destroy the garrisons of the cities that dared rebel against The Empire. Ulfric will die at my hands, and everything can return to normal.”
We walked the dark streets of Solitude in silence.
When preparing for bed, Rigmor’s mood was melancholy.
I said, “I have tried hard to keep our mood light.”
“I am sorry, Wulf. I know our parting will only be for a short time. However, once Our Quiet is gone, I will struggle with my emotions.”
“That is tomorrow. We still have the night.”
“Yes, your right.”
We made love and fell asleep, tangled together like our souls.
Our mood was light as we prepared for the journey. I donned my field armour from Akavir. Rigmor donned the armour I prepared for her with my usual dweomer. I honed Morganna and placed some dweomer on it as well.
I told her, “You look every bit the noble Warmaiden. Teenage boys will cheer for you and then realise they have fallen in love.”
“Yeah, right. Pffft!”
“Rigmor, you are beautiful.”
“Too bad my frumpy horse doesn’t fit the narrative.”
“When people learn about heroic Ren, he will be cherished by your citizens.”
“That is the scary part, Wulf. I will be responsible for hundreds of thousands of people.”
“You will be looking at the big picture. Countless others will perform the mundane duties to keep the County running. I am sure you will soon gain confidence. And I am not just saying this because you own my heart.”
“Okay, let’s get moving, servant.”
“Of course, milady.”
We teleported to the entrance of Ivarstead. People would not recognise the person with the well-to-do noble lady. The dweomer on my armour ensures that.
We walked across the bridge before we summoned our horses.
We mounted and slowly road towards the smuggler passage into Bruma.
When we came to an intersection, I stopped to get my bearings.
Rigmor asked, “Do you know where we need to go?”
“Yep. I am positive I know the way. Well, ahh, I think we need to go this way.”
“I thought you knew how to read a map.”
“I got used to Rigmor maps with lots of squiggly mountains and funny-looking trolls.”
“Hahaha. Now get going so you can get us lost, and I can complain about it forever.”
A while later, I stopped again and looked for familiar landmarks.
Rigmor whined, “You have done it, haven’t you? You have got us lost!”
“Do you think smuggler routes are easy to find with big arrows pointing to them?”
“Um, no, of course not.”
“Then let me concentrate and deduce where to go.”
“I’ll tell you where to go in a minute!”
“Tut, tut. That was not very ladylike.”
“As established on several occasions, I ain’t no lady!”
A bit further on, we passed a wolf pack.
Rigmor quipped, “Maybe you should ask the wolves before we die of starvation.”
“We have been riding for less than four hours. Less than five hours after you consumed that huge breakfast. Nobody is dying of starvation.”
“Wulf plus logic equals no fun.”
“Rigmor plus logic equals less whining.”
Minutes later, we squeezed through a narrow crevice. When I saw a steep set of ancient steps, I knew we were heading in the right direction.
I triumphantly announced, “Those steps lead to the old trade route. I told you I wouldn’t get us lost.”
“You have your uses. Some parts of you have interesting uses.”
“Milady, I am more than an object of pleasure.”
“Are you? I suppose you come in handy when something heavy needs moving.”
“Large and heavy such as your arse?”
“Start moving, peasant.”
We were both deep in thought and dread as we approached the border. Usually, I would find the ancient ruins we passed exciting and a topic for conversation. But I remained silent, and so did Rigmor. Hashire hadn’t said a word for the entire ride.
We stopped at a steep descent. Below us, the track branched to the right.
I told Rigmor, “We go straight ahead. The track to the right leads to a rockfall that has not been cleared.”
“You said the hut on Roscrea you lived in was small. Well, it couldn’t have been much smaller than our house in Bruma.”
“You are returning home this time, Rigmor. You aren’t doing a quick visit to eliminate some Thalmor.”
“Yeah, it is kinda weird that I can finally go home for real.”
“I wonder what those who knew fourteen-year-old Rigmor will think of Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier.”
“Probably, ‘What the fuck has Mede done!’”
“I hope the weather clears. This overcast stuff is down in the dumps, sad goodbye weather.”
“It will clear up.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“I am Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier and demand it be so.”
‘Yes, of course. I forgot. Please, don’t beat me, master. I am moving again.”
A while later, the weather was clear, and Rigmor said, “The gods have done as commanded. All fear Countess Rigmor Ragnarsdottier’s wrath!”
“You will, little mortal. Wahahaha!”
“You need to practice your evil cackle.”
A bit further, I stopped and said, “I think we will see the old gates when we reach that next overlook.”
“Mum will want to know why you are not with me.”
“Logically, she would know I have the civil war to take care of. But I think you must tell her the truth.”
“Yes, I could not start lying to her. Not when we are trying to rebuild what was taken from us. I am not the fourteen-year-old anymore.”
“Sigunn will understand we are doing what we think is right for everyone.”
“I wonder if they expect Cerys to be my maid?”
“When you get to know her better, you might trust her enough also to be told what is happening.”
“But never her father.”
“No, because Boethia may use information about me as a bargaining chip.”
“See, it is already complicated before I even meet others outside the castle.”
“Do I have to bore you with platitudes?”
“Nah, I can do it myself. Ahem, Rigmor Ragnarsdottier, Countess of Bruma, you can handle anything, including running a County and navigating Cyrodiil’s political game.”
“Well done. That was almost believable!”
“You hate me?”
“Yes, now move along. I am eager to remove you from my presence.”
“It will be you removing yourself from my presence.”
“It will be me kicking you where it hurts the most.”
“It will be you kissing it better.”
“That would be a good look if somebody else came along and saw us.”
I was correct, and the old border gate came into view. When used, a large fort would have been fully garrisoned with Legionnaires and many clerks to enforce tariffs.
We rode through the old border checkpoint gates and then dismounted.
As Rigmor headed for a conveniently lit fire, I looked at The Imperial City. It was hidden by fog.
I summoned Silah, who soon appeared out of the ether. We spoke telepathically.
- Wulf: As you can see, Silah, we have reached the border.
- Silah: I will tell Baa’Ren-Dar that Rigmor will arrive late afternoon tomorrow.
- Rigmor: How far away is my escort?
- Silah: They are about five miles to the right. If you start riding towards them, they will meet you halfway after I inform them of your arrival. We weren’t sure where you would emerge, so they camped halfway between two well-known smuggling routes.
- Rigmor: If they are well known, why haven’t they been blocked?
- Silah: I don’t know, but if you feel the need as Countess of Bruma, order it done.
- Rigmor: Thank you for your assistance, Silah.
- Silah: Thank you for making Wulf happier than he has ever been.
I walked over to Rigmor, who had found a stump to sit on, ignoring the comfortable chair next to it. Choosing stumps over chairs is one of her endearing quirks.
The lit campfire suggested other travellers had not long left the small camp.
I sat and stared towards The Imperial City.
After a few minutes, Rigmor asked, “Are you looking at the city or staring into infinity?”
“Sorry, Rigmor. I am trying to gather my thoughts.”
“And your emotions.”
I looked at my beloved and saw fear and uncertainty. I wanted to encourage Rigmor, but my melancholy was feeding her fears.
Rigmor said, “I am terrified, Wulf. How can I be Countess of Bruma?”
“By being yourself. Empathy is the most important thing a noble can possess, and you have immeasurable amounts. You will have advisors, but you will instinctively know what to do.”
“Advisors who probably know a great deal about things and ignore what I say.”
“I will repeat what several people have told you. Listen to your advisors, decide and tell them that is the way it shall be. You are the Countess of Bruma, and they are not. I think Sigunn will be a great help. I agree that if she looked after unruly schoolchildren, the nobles of Cyrodiil should be a pushover.”
“Hahaha! Mum won’t be scared to give them a scolding!”
“Learning the economics of Bruma will be a challenge. That is what everything will pivot around. You might want to do something to benefit your citizens, but the funds are not there.”
“My citizens? I like the sound of that, but I am also anxious. I could mess up many people’s lives if not careful.”
“Listen to the people. They will soon let you know if they disagree with a policy.”
“I am overthinking it, aren’t I?”
“Enter Bruma with confidence and adapt to the circumstances. That is how we handle life without going insane.”
“You are scared. You are trying to sound calm, but I know you too well to be fooled, my silly Dragonborn.”
“Yes, I, too, am terrified. No matter what, I will always be your Guardian. I would still worry if you were going home as a normal citizen. But you are walking into the cesspool of Cyrodiil politics. They are brutal and will have no sympathy or mercy for one new at the game. Use your advisors, but be confident with your decisions! The other players will be like a ravenous pack of wolves and smell easy prey. I want you to rip the throats out of those who get in your way. Only then will they respect Rigmor Ragnarsdottier. Only then will you be able to have friends amongst them.”
“I don’t want to be like them!”
“You just have to convince others that you are like them. The people of Bruma need you to represent their best interests when playing that rancid game. Others will try and move in on your trade deals and other things that could adversely affect your people.”
“I did not think we would discuss politics.”
“I am sorry. Perhaps I am trying to delay the goodbye.”
“We just don’t know, do we? We are saying goodbye without knowing when we can say hello once more. The rings are a wonderful gift, but Our Quiet will not be there to calm us.”
“I don’t think our separation will be longer than a month, Rigmor. Ulfric will be easy, except for the number of deaths added to my tally. I hope the only large battle is for Whiterun.”
Rigmor stood and said, “I will be forever yours. You know that, and never fear it will change. Walk me over to Ren. It is time for the new Countess of Bruma to ride into her future.”
We were halfway to the horses when Rigmor stopped and stared at me. The love I saw in her eyes made me smile.
But then tears formed, and we held onto each other.
I said, “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to be a blubbering barbarian.”
“Everything will work out, Wulf. When together once more, we shall laugh at how worried we were.”
I grabbed Rigmor, lifted her, and we cried together.
We briefly kissed, and then I put Rigmor down.
She stroked my face and then quickly walked to Ren.
She mounted Ren and rode past.
Soon, Our Quiet no longer enveloped me, and my calm dissipated. My imagination took over, and I thought of scenarios where Rigmor would need me, and I wouldn’t be there.
Hashire reached out, “Wulf, she will be okay.”
“No, Hashire, Rigmor will be more than okay. She will be magnificent, and her people will come to love her.”
Rigmor stopped and then turned Ren so she could face me.
She yelled, “I love you, my silly, beautiful, weird and perverted Dragonborn!”
I used my Thu’um and replied, “ALBATROSS!”
Rigmor’s laughter reached my ears, and I fought the impulse to run after her.
Rigmor rode through the boundary gates and out of view.
I walked to Hashire and said, “I must keep busy. You can head back to the island. I will visit Miraak to see if he can join us.”
I then teleported to Miraak’s temple.