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Found 9 results

  1. Hey, Runa again. We're taking a trip to Cyrodiil to get them on our side, and I'm also helping out Sigunn with Rigmor. Last time Legate Tyroni Calleius, General Jura and I crossed the border, met up with Aventus, and talked with Sigunn, Malesam and Freathof. We tracked down Rigmor in the Roxey Inn, a few miles south of Bruma. She was with three men - Grom, a big Nord, Tiny, a small man, and Ser Robere. "A few more drinks and she'll be under the table, lights out. War's over," Grom chuckled. "You wish Grom. I can drink as much as any man!" Rigmor said. "That's not very lady-like," Robere said. "Butt out Bobby!" RIgmor giggled. "Yeah!" Tiny said. "Careful Tiny. Remember who pays your wages," Robere said. As I approached, I was behind her. "Who said I was a lady, anyway?" Rigmor commented. "Who's this? What business do you have with us, friend?" Robere stood and looked at me. "State your business ma'am or I'll be forced to~" Robere started. "Bobby," Rigmor turned her head, "This... this is Runa. One of my guardians from before." "This is her?" Tiny asked. "Oh, please accept my apologies for being rash. Rigmor's told us so much about you," Robere said. "Bobby you go ahead without me. I'll catch up with you later," Rigmor said. "Of course," Robere said, "It's a pleasure to meet you at long last. I'm sure the Countess is in safe hands. Come Grom, Tiny, we have a boat to catch." We walked over to a corner table with two chairs. Immediately Rigmor said, "And where the hell have you been? You have no idea how worried I was for you. You guys promised you would come visit me and for years, nothing!" "Don't just think you can walk back into my life." "I read your letters to my mom, like yesterday. They were at the border station, never got delivered," I said. "Oh really?" "Yeah, I don't know if anybody told you, but while five years passed out here, five months passed in Skyrim. We couldn't get in or out. To mom it's been about a year since we helped you. And... we've been busy. Fighting a war. She's queen of Skyrim now," I explained. "Well, what about you?" Rigmor asked, punching right to the vital points, "I know for a fact you were around during the period of the last five years." I sighed. "Well, I have a new life now. How did you even find me? You'd better not have been going through my things!" Rigmor said. "They gave me a key and I needed to find you," I said. "Is nothing sacred?" She folded her arms, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't slap you and walk away. Did my mother send for you?" "Yes." "By the gods," she said, "She's going to regret that. Well, go on. Tell me what finally brings you to Cyrodiil, to take the time to actually bother to see me now." "Long story. But your mother sent for me to make sure you're safe when you sign the Noble Decree," I explained. "So that's the only reason?" She asked, "After everything we've been through together?" "Well, sorry. I do have responsibilities," I said. "Not as sorry as I am," Rigmor stood, "I missed you so much. Felt so alone. Why did you not come back?" She was just as childish as I remembered. I stood up, about to speak. She cut me off, "Things have changed. As you can see, I'm with Bobby now. Being a Countess has its drawbacks, I have to have a noble match now." Rigmor exhaled and sat back down, "Mother and Malesam wanted me to marry the Count of Chorrol. No thanks. Namby pamby." I sat down again. "I don't spend much time at the castle. I met Bobby here at the Roxey. This place reminds me of Riften. I've been renting a room here, away from that stiff assed court. I need to be who I am. Bobby respects that. He's not a noble in the real sense." "I take it you told everyone about our adventures?" I asked. "Definitely. What have you been doing all this time?" "Mom had a destiny. Turns out I had one too. I'm Listener of the Dark Brotherhood. I reestablished all the sanctuaries in Skyrim and we're doing international work again," I replied. "Wow! The Listener? I read a book about the Brotherhood a while back. You're a dark queen of killers now?" She got wideeyed. "Don't worry, I'm still the same girl," I said. "You changed your entire look. Got taller than me," she reached out and grabbed my braid, "Gods, your hair got so long." I smirked. "You're so beautiful. You look even prettier now than I remembered." I smiled big, "Thanks. You haven't changed a lot. But that's good. I also like your hair." Rigmor smiled, "So what do we do now?" "The Lord Chancellor gave you a week to attend Imperial Court." "At least that gives us some breathing room. I'll need to change into something more... ladylike," she laughed, "How about we go back to Bruma? We've never been here together. I want to show you some of the places I knew as a kid. Would you like that?" "I'd love it," I smiled, taking her hand. "It's so good to see you, Runa. I know it might feel a little strange with how things have changed, how I've moved on, but it's what I want." "I'm proud of you. You seem to be keeping things together. Let's go," I pulled her up out of her seat. Calleius and Jura had been waiting for me outside. Between the travel and the conversation outside, it was almost sunrise. "Who are the old guys?" She asked. Jura bursted out in laughter, "General Jura of Hammerfell." "He's my grandfather. That I recently met. He said his old soldier senses were tingling at this mission and wanted to support me." "Pleased to meet you," Rigmor shook his hand. Rigmor turned to Calleius, "Countess Rigmor of Bruma. And you are?" "Legate Tyroni Calleius of the Imperial Legion, m'lady. It is an honor," he replied. "You're nothing like the ruffians from the New Imperial Legion. You must be an old one," Rigmor said. "Guilty, ma'am," Calleius said. She brought us back to her apartment (her old house) the guys waited outside and I sat at the chair near the entrance. Rigmor changed downstairs and walked up wearing... some kind of tavern outfit mish-mash monstrosity. "What do you think? I made it myself." I raised an eyebrow, "It's ... okay, I guess." "Oh HA HA. Did you look at any of my drawings and poems?" She asked. "Sorry, no. I was looking for whoever ransacked this place." "You're full of jokes, aren't you?" She asked, smirking. She stepped downstairs and got back in her armor, then we left with the boys. "Isn't the Cathedral of Akatosh so beautiful?" She said as we passed it, "You know, when I was a little girl, I always dreamed of getting married there. A beautiful white wedding, music, bridesmaids and all that." "Every little girl's dream," I said, "Except mine, really. I don't think I ever want to get married." "Fat chance of that now that I'm nobility, I have to tow the line. Everything is all arranged." "You? Towing the line? Impossible!" I said. "Yeah well, I'll be lucky to have any say about anything, let alone where I'll get married. It'll probably be in that burned out wreck, Leyawiin if Bobby ever gets off his ass and proposes. I did what you said I should - forged a new life." We walked into the cabinet room and Rigmor's people were waiting. "Ok, someone had better explain to me what the hell is going on that's so important Runa had to be brought to Bruma," Rigmor said. "My dear, do you think your poor mother enjoys taking responsibility in your absence? No, she tires...she endures. We're all tired of your gallivanting and flounting with that... common bandit boy. That common ruffian!" "How dare you?" Rigmor replied, "Might I remind you the only reason you're here is to protect and serve, serve being the apt word here Malesam." "Serve yes, and I do... but to protect? You have no idea, do you? None at all, at just how much danger your life might be in, and come swaggering in like an arrogant brat, whenever you feel you can be bothered to grace us with your presence." "Stop it!" Sigunn exploded, "I can't take any more of this!" And she ran out the door, Cerys following. "Milady Rigmor, I feel I must apologize most profusely for my seeming lack of respect. It was never my intention to bully you or push you away. It pains me to think we've grown apart since our arrival and I would like to make amends if you'd allow me." "It's okay, Malesam. I'm sorry too, and you're right. I have been acting like a spoilt kid. Also, let's ditch this m'lady crap, at least in private." Freathof said, "This better life does come with responsibilities. As you can no doubt see, it has taken its toll on Lady Sigunn. Only compounded by her worrying about your visit to the Imperial City." "When I get back, I promise I'll return to the castle and resume my duties," Rigmor replied apologetically. Cerys walked back in, "She's sleeping. She wants us to carry on without her." "So what's going on anyway?" Rigmor asked. Without rehashing what we said earlier, I'll say that Malesam explained it again, and then he said, "This doesn't feel right. I don't trust any of them. If they know of your ancestry, you will be in peril." "Ancestry?" I asked. "Oh, did your mother not tell you? Her distant ancestor is Morgan Mede, she carried the bastard child of Titus Mede I," Malesam explained. Then he turned back to Rigmor, "You would be seen as a threat to the current Emperor." "I don't even want the throne," Rigmor said, "We discussed it before." Freathof said, "Rigmor, my dear child, you would have no say in where the events would take you if they knew. We can't allow you to go to the Imperial Palace alone or even with a small escort. But Runa and her group..." "Heroes of Wars, Dragonslayers, Commanders and Generals," Rigmor said. "You see, Runa, how Rigmor needs you. Your names carry weight. But we must be tactful and play by their rules," Malesam said. "Sethius cannot be trusted," Freathof added. "Freathof, I'm scared," Rigmor admitted. "We're putting our faith in Runa. You've both endured much worse," Freathof said, "Now, please excuse me. I feel I must retire." I squinted. It's just about noon, old man. "If anything happens at court, I will be there to represent you," Malesam said, "And Robere will be there with his father, Count Leyawiin. Please refrain from any... uncourtly antics, and remember we're there on official business. Act accordingly." "Pff... okay then," Rigmor said. "Come Cerys, it's been a long day," Malesam said. "What is with these old guys and wanting to sleep at noon?" I asked, "Although we didn't actually sleep..." Rigmor giggled, then she said, "So what should I wear, a dress or my armor?" "For the road, armor. For the palace, dress up. You could show it to me," I said. "Maybe tomorrow morning," she yawned, "For now I'm going to my room. I'm not old, but as you said, we didn't sleep." I looked at Jura and he nodded, "I'm going to take in Bruma's sights. C'mon Calleius! Show me something I've never seen before!" "Why're we...?" Calleius whispered. "Shh... let Runa play the protective hero a little bit. Maybe I'll check out your shield-work while the girls rest," Jura slapped the Legate on the back, "Runa, we're going to get a room at the Jerall View if you want to soak again later." I grinned, "Excellent." We walked to Rigmor's room and she laid down without even bothering to take off her armor. I sat in the chair next to her. I sat there for a little while, my eyes getting heavy. Eventually, I passed out in the chair. In what seemed like minutes, I blinked awake, Rigmor poking me in the face. "Hey there sleepy head, it's a beautiful day." She was wearing a blue dress, her hair looking much more kempt. "Is... is it morning?" "Yeah, we both slept like 16 hours," she replied. I stretched, "Argh, this chair was not good for my back." Rigmor smirked, "You slept in a chair next to me. Maybe next time you could just lay in the bed." I smiled back, not having a response. "Cerys and I picked out this dress." "Looks good on you," I replied. "I want to go out in style if this is my last chance," she said. "Don't be so dramatic," I said, "I doubt they know. How could they?" "Sweet Runa. Y'know, all these years since I last saw you. Sometimes I wonder, why can't I just be normal?" "Normal is boring," I said. "It's like a curse. I feel violated by my bloodline. By destiny. And every time I try and hide from it, it always comes to find me. Every. Single. Time," Rigmor said. "Mom felt the same way. Finally she embraced her destiny. But on her own terms. Maybe that's the answer for you," I replied. "Freathof told me a story about a girl once. I don't actually remember any of the details, but I do remember she was trapped and alone, in this cesspit of a world. Her name was Kintyra," Rigmor said. "You're going to make it." "You don't actually have any idea, do you?" She sighed, "Wait for me outside, I need to change and pack." I smirked as I walked out the door, "You act like I've never seen boobies before." I found Calleius and Jura at the cabinet room downstairs. "So... have fun last night?" Jura smirked. "No. I slept in a chair. My neck hurts," I shook my head. I knew he was trying to imply something, but I intentionally didn't dignify it with a response. Rigmor emerged a few minutes later and we started to walk towards the entrance to town, "Alright. Did you guys bring horses?" "Well I didn't bring mine. He kinda just goes where he wants to," I said. "What a weird relationship with a horse," Rigmor said. She hopped on her horse. I turned, "Shadowmere!" "Now that is a cool horse," Rigmor said. "Watch out, he bites," I snickered. "Hey, you guys ride ahead," Jura said, "Going to get horses for us. Don't worry, I'm really good at tracking." "A'ight. Hopefully there won't be any trouble," I replied. We rode for an hour or so, and she stopped at a large tree near the roadside. "I wanted to show you this. When I was a kid, I would climb and just sit in the branches, gazing out over the Great Forest below," Rigmor said. It had convenient ladders affixed to it. "C'mon! Where's your sense of adventure?" Rigmor climbed up. "Adventure? This journey so far has been extremely easy. Not a monster, bandit or dragon in sight," I said as I followed, "Sort of like a vacation to the turmoil up north. Even in peacetime Skyrim is a dangerous, wild land. I think maybe if I ever wanted to get old and infirm I'd move here." I sat down next to her on a branch, "Sure this'll hold my plate-mailed ass?" "Your big ass is safe." "I dunno, I'm going to sit on the trunk," I replied. "I've been meaning to come back here, but never got around to it. I took it for granted when I returned home, all these places would be there for me to rediscover whenever I wanted," Rigmor said, "After everything, there's no place for me to actually feel safe and belong. Seems like the crap just keeps following me everywhere I go right? Here, that little girl is still playing amongst the trees." "My advice is do what my mom did. Make your own family." "That's good advice," Rigmor smiled, "C'mon, there's one more thing I have to show you." She got up and slid down the ladder. I leapt from the top of the tree, making a large dent in the grass. I smiled, "The 'cushioned' enchantment on my cape means I can fall from any height and I'm fine." "Neat trick. Looks like the boys still haven't caught us. We still have time," she led me down to a stream and a pond. "Just as I remembered it," Rigmor said. I sat on a log. "You like flowers?" She asked, then she cut me off, "No, silly me. I forgot, you're a mighty warrior. Cold-blooded killer." "Ouch," I said, "I'm still a human girl." "I should bring my stuff here, do some paintings. I kinda kill all the flowers I try to plant." She walked a little deeper into the copse of trees, "You know there used to be Minotaurs living around here. What's this?" I walked over and found a small overgrown shack with no door. "Hey, I found a place for you to grow old and infirm," Rigmor laughed, "We can just hide here. Live out here in the forest, forever. No one will ever find us." I shook my head, smiling, "I hear hooves. Think the boys are here." "Alright, let's get it over with," Rigmor said. We turned to walk away, but she turned back and looked at the shack. Suddenly, she took out her sword and hit it as hard as she could, "Fucking destiny! Fuck you! Azura! Where are you when I need you?!" She kneeled, crying a little, and it started to rain. I picked her up gently, "C'mon. Pull yourself together." "Promise me... if they do some shit to me. Kill every last one of them!" Rigmor took a deep breath, calming herself. "Well, I do happen to be in possession of the largest network of assassins in Tamriel," I smiled. When we walked back up the hill, Jura and Calleius were on two brown horses. "Detour, eh? Nice view of the Imperial City," Jura said. "Let's go," I took off on Shadowmere, but then remembered he was really fast. So I let Rigmor lead the way. It took a few hours. We crossed through a couple small towns, then we crossed into the Imperial City, putting our horses at the stables. Shadowmere just kind of started to walk off. "Looks like your horse has better things to do," Jura chuckled. "What can I say? He's probably going to go murder some people," I laughed. As we walked up to the city proper, Rigmor said, "Sorry about back there." "It's ok." "It wasn't ladylike, or called for." We got to the outer ring and Jura said, "Talos Plaza. It even still has the dragon statue." "Talos? This is just called the Plaza District," Rigmor said. "Sir, they changed it after the Concordat," Calleius said. "Dang. I left before they changed that. But wait, the Hotel is still called the Tiber Septim hotel. How does that make sense?" Jura asked. "I think they changed it back?" Rigmor suggested. "Can it be true? Oh the gods have brought you to me!" A strange man yelled from across the plaza. He ran right up to me, "Hi, I'm Bolin! I'm your biggest fan! I can't believe I'm actually standing next to the Lis..." Reflexively, I grabbed his shirt and pulled him to me, "Do not finish that sentence. How do you know who I am?" "Oh my! So strong! So dangerous! I volunteered to work with the Da.... the Bark Drutherhood." "Gods! Be quiet. Just call it the Cyrodiil chapter. That's what you mean, right?" I asked, "Boy, Stabby has a lot of explaining to do." "Oh yes! That's who I contacted. He sent me on a super secret mission. He sent me to kill a man in this very plaza. He described him as pale, but a little dark. Wearing multi-colored clothing, carrying seven daggers, two maces and seventeen swords on his belt. He's got a potion of ultimate stamina in his left pocket." I was cracking up. This was cruel. He continued, "I just want you to know, I love you so much, I will do anything you want. Just name it. I am your eternal servant. I am your batman." "Batman?" I asked, "Like you're volunteering to dress up in a bat costume?" "IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT!" "Sorry, no, I don't need anything at the moment," I replied. "Well if you change your mind. Just call and I will be there..." Bolin said, then he ran away, giggling like a schoolgirl. "I can't believe that just happened. That was creepy. Look! He's still over there, he's waving," Rigmor said. We hurriedly walked inside the TS Hotel, and Rigmor said to the concierge, "We require two~" "We're fine sleeping on bedrolls, right Tyroni?" Jura patted the man on the back again. "Okay, a room with two beds," Rigmor continued, "One for me and my personal batman. We'll be staying a few nights." "Batman? Now I'm a batman?" I asked, "Well I do often hang out in darkness. I do know the terror that lurks in the hearts of men. I've been known to screech sometimes, mostly when I try to sing." Rigmor raised her eyebrow, "You really don't know what that means do you? I was trying to make a joke but you're so dense you didn't even get it." "What? What am I missing here? I'm not cultured!" I said. "Runa," Calleius whispered, "A batman is an officer's personal servant." The concierge replied, "Of course, m'lady, I'll charge your account accordingly. Upstairs on the left. Your batman has full access to the laundry room in the basement. Adjacent to the laundry room is the cesspit, so you'll be able to empty Countess Rigmor's chamber pot." "Ahahaha! It paid off!" Rigmor laughed. She led us upstairs. As we settled in, I said flatly, "I'm not doing any of those things." "Lighten up," Rigmor smirked. "I do have to say though, this is probably the biggest city I've ever been to," I laid back on my bed. "My thoughts exactly. Mind if I take a nap?" She asked. It was only afternoon, but that was a long road. The boys and I sat in the common area with tables that served the whole row of rooms. This hotel's amenities for a single noble were bigger than a lot of people's houses in Skyrim. We ordered some food on the Countess' tab, and about the time it arrived, Rigmor was emerging from the room. "So how long have you known Ser Robere?" I asked. "About a year. Why do you ask?" "Bobby, can we trust him?" I asked. "I think so. I like him. And I'm still young. You think I would be stuck with one of the old noble suitors?" She replied. "Definitely not. Just wondering," I replied. "Hey! Why don't we go grab a drink?" She asked, "I know a great tavern around the corner." "That sounds amazing. Let's go." The four of us pulled into a hole-in-the-wall tavern called the Foaming Flask that barely had enough room to sit. The boys stood by the bar while Rigmor grabbed a table. "What do you want?" I asked her. "I'll have what you're having, as long as it's got alcohol in it." "Two of your most potent ales, please," I told the bartender. "I'll bring 'em right over," he replied. I sat across from Rigmor. "Special brew, we call it," the bartender said. We both downed them. "Wow! What is in this stuff?" Rigmor coughed. "Strong!" I said, "Another!" Being a nord, I wanted to smash the thing at my feet, but I was nice and I just shouted instead. "Remember that time we got thrown out of the Bannered Mare?" She asked. "You mean you got thrown out of the Bannered Mare!" She laughed, "So what happened at the top of Blacklight Tower?" "He tried to jump off. Mom was like, 'whaaat' and I just slew him before he could do it," I replied. "Yeah, I froze too. Not because I was confused, I was just scared I guess. Ever see any of the other people from back then?" "Not really. How about Baa'Ren Dar?" "Moved back to Torval in Elswyer. Comes to visit us about once a year," she said, staring daggers at me. About this time another special brew came to the table and we downed it. Rigmor coughed again, "I guess they don't call it 'special' for nothing." "So you learned some shouts, huh? I thought only Dragonborns could do those," Rigmor said. "Well I am a Nord. I know Unrelenting Force, which blows people away, and one that marks them for death. Watch, I'll do it on these people." "No! Don't you dare!" Rigmor exclaimed, then she realized I was joking, "Ha! You kidder! So you said Destana killed Alduin right? She saved the world and most the people down south don't even know about it." "Yeah, she had to go to Sovngarde." "Wow. I really wish she'd come," Rigmor put her hand on mine, "But I'm enjoying my time with you too. How about another brew?" "Barkeep! Anothuh one!" I shouted. We downed them again. "Watch out, don't want to get too drunk," I said. "This might be my last chance. I'm going to ignore you and have fun," she replied. Three bottles of very good strong ale. About this time, everything started to get hazy and confusing. I can tell you that we stumbled out onto the street. I might have tried to incite a bar fight, though the locals seemed scared by the prospect of brawling. "Think you can handle these two?" Jura asked Calleius, "I've been chatting up a couple people tonight." "You can count on me," Calleius replied. Calleius corralled us back to the Hotel and made sure we made it to our room. He made sure we were safe, then went out. "What a guy," I said, "I think he wants to bang me." Rigmor giggled, her cheeks rosy, her voice slurring, "You should just give him a blowjob or something. Fair trade." "I'm worried about taste like," I said. "What..? You're not talk right," Rigmor giggled again. "You know, penises," I said, trying but failing to explain myself. "We should sleep, I can't even stand," Rigmor said, then she fell on her butt on the floor, "Oop! I missed the bed." I reached down, still unsteady myself, and helped her up. We grabbed onto each other to keep ourselves steady. Then I stared into her eyes. She seemed like she was lost staring back into mine. Then she kissed me. She pulled back and fell onto the bed, my mouth agape. "I am soo sorry. I don't know what came over me," Rigmor said. "We're drunk. Just go to sleep. I'm going to sleep too," I stumbled over towards my bed. I tripped over Calleius, who'd set up his bedroll. I fell onto my bed. "Are you okay?" He asked, now standing over me. "Can you help me get this armor off?" I asked. "Uhh..." He said. "Nothing sexual. It's just uncomfortable," I said, "Just close your eyes and feel around if you're nervous." "Runa... that is an even worse idea," Calleius said. I can only imagine that we were successful, because when I woke up I was wearing a sensible robe. I quickly got dressed and had a huge drink of water from my waterskin. Calleius handed me a plate of food. I could hear Rigmor still snoring in the corner. "You're a treasure," I said, then I froze, "So hey, did anything untoward happen last night?" "You and Rigmor kissed. I helped you undress. You tried to pull me into bed with you. I resisted, like a good gentleman. You're very strong, by the way," he said, "Nothing happened." "Ugh, sorry," I started eating, "Hey where's my grandpa?" "Not sure. He said he'd been talking some people up last night." I blew air out, "Not sure I needed to hear that." Rigmor groaned, rolling out of bed. Calleius handed her a plate of food and some water. "Calleius, you're a saint," she said. After a minute of eating, Rigmor said, "I kissed you, didn't I?" "Gods, just, please, don't speak so loud. Your voice is so high pitched," I said. "Turn around, I'm going to get dressed," she said. "Actually, I'm going to go downstairs. Come down when you're done," I said. Calleius followed, and we found Jura in the lobby, drinking a dark drink. "What is that?" I asked. "Coffee. It's a Redguard drink. Oh, I guess you've never been to Hammerfell. Our ancestors brought the beans over from Yokuda in ancient times. Some call it the daedric drink. Others, the gods' drink," Jura replied. He poured a cup out of his urn, "Here, try it." I took a drink. It was bitter, like but unlike a strong alcohol. In moments, I felt energized. "I like this," I said, drinking more, "So where'd you go last night." "I went home with a couple," he replied, lifting his coffee cup like he was toasting himself. "Oh, when you said you were talking up a couple people..." Calleius started. "I meant a married couple. Everybody needs a little spice in their lives," Jura raised his cup again. Rigmor walked down the stairs, "Would you kindly escort me to the ball?" I downed the coffee and we headed to the Imperial Palace. "Halt! Access to the Emperor's Way is closed. State your identity and your business here." "Countess Rigmor of Bruma. This is..." "No need m'lady. You are expected in the imperial chamber," the soldier said. As we approached the next set of guards, I spied Bolin sprinting at us at full speed. "Well met, my L .... L.... lady! I am filled with such joy to see you once again. How are you on this fine day? I could sing you a song, shine your shiny bits. Anything for you." "Is that a euphemism?" I asked. Ignoring it, he replied, "Just name anything and I will do your bidding. I am such a lucky lucky boy to be in your presence." "I'm the lucky one," I said. "Oh... oh my!" He giggled, "Have a nice day!" Then he ran off. "He's doing it again," Rigmor said. "Hey!" The guard said, "He's supposed to be doing gardening work here. Get back to work!" We stepped into the Imperial Palace. Robere was standing amongst the many counts and countesses, imperial guards, though no emperor or chancellor yet. "Rigmor! You're here at last! You look radiant. Guardian, thank you for escorting the countess here safely. You have my sincere gratitude," Robere said. The Count of Leyawiin shouted, "Finally! The mystery behind my errant son's disappearance is revealed. Countess Rigmor of Bruma, Robere as told us all about you my lady." We walked over to the Leyawiin group. "Looks like the Countess has you over a barrel, Bobby!" The Count chuckled bawdily. "Good morning, Count Leyawiin," Rigmor said. Jura stepped forward, chatting up the Count, grabbing his own share of the court breakfast that'd been provided. Robere whispered to me, "Mind if I have a word with you?" "Sure," I said, and we stepped off to the side, "What's up?" "The Counts are becoming agitated. They just want her to sign the decree so they can go home. They don't recognize her as nobility, they say she is a commoner. Of course, I defended her honor robustly. When the Count of Chorrol suggested Bruma wasn't doing enough to stop bandits sneaking through the Jerral mountains to raid the Northern Counties, my father countered with 'as soon as Bruma signs the decree it'll be signing its status away under international law as a Free City.' Once Sethius proclaims himself Titus Mede III, he will own Bruma. My father said they have plans for Bruma. I don't know what." "Why're you telling me this?" I asked. "I love Rigmor. I have a plan to protect her, decree or no decree. I'm going to publicly propose. This would bring Bruma and Leyawiin into an official alliance. None of the other cities could make a move against us." "Marriage for alliances," I folded my arms, "These people know this game and have played it their whole lives. This might be dangerous." "Is Rigmor not worth it?" He asked, "Look at them, using sweet words on her. They don't know her. Don't think for a second they don't think of my father and I the same way. They think we're bandit scum." "I understand. I was an orphan," I replied. "Could you warn her? I intend to be her knight in shining armor." I nodded, "I'd be glad to." "Thank you. I never forget who my friends are," Robere said. As we returned, the Countess of Chorrol was saying, "Count Leyawiin, please leave the poor Countess Bruma alone. She's blushing! Oh, Ser Robere and Countess Rigmor make such a lovely match, don't you think?" I grabbed Runa's hand gently and whispered to her, "We need to talk, privately." She followed me to an isolated spot, "What?" "When you sign the decree, the Emperor's going to make a move. Bobby said he doesn't know what, but he's going to block them by publicly proposing to you." "Tell me you're joking..." "Nope. He wants to be your knight in shining armor," I said. "Of course! Sethius couldn't touch us if I was engaged and allied with Leyawiin," she said back, "Of course I'll accept. This nightmare can finally end." Blackwell entered the hall, flanked by guards, "Attention! Please accept my sincere apologies. But the Emperor is not available at this time. Please help yourselves to the refreshments provided, then return to the guest rooms provided. The Emperor thanks you for your patience, continued support and understanding." Then he turned to Rigmor, "If my lady would follow me, I can show you to your designated quarters." We walked to a room, and Blackwell said, "Here we are. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you for finally attending, and would like you to convey my respects to Lady Sigunn, upon your return." "Thank you, Lord Chancellor," she replied. All four of us walked inside, to which Rigmor said, "Ugh! Now I remember why I liked living at the Roxey Inn so much." "Stiff assed court crap," I said back. "Blackwell has an icicle permanently stuck up his ass," she said and we laughed. "Wait, did Calleius just laugh?" I smiled. "Certainly not," he was smiling under that helmet. "And what's the deal with the Emperor not being able to attend his own coronation? The thing that's delaying whatever his plans are," I shrugged. "He's probably got a lot to do," Jura said. "Pretty impressive courtly manners out there though," I said to Rigmor, "Want to go back?" "It was all Freathof. And no, that drained me. I'm going to hang out here," Rigmor said. We took yet another break, and later on a messenger told us the signing would be tomorrow morning. We fucked off for a while, then went to bed. I saw some sort of images in my dreams, but I accounted it just to bad dreams. Rigmor got me up in the morning. Just as well. We were definitely more put together today than yesterday. "Nervous?" I asked. "I'm ready to get it over with," Rigmor said. I walked over to Callaius, who was still sleeping, in his armor. "Wake up," I said. He stayed there. I pulled the bedroll out from under him like a magician with a tablecloth. "Ma'am, I don't believe you need my help for a meeting. I do believe I will go speak with the Legion commander here," he said. "Just, um... close your eyes," I said. I pulled off my sleeping clothes, and put on a black dress instead of my armor. We walked into the Emperor's audience chamber again, and got in our places, Jura sitting at one of the benches in the back. This time, Ariel and Morag Sethius were on the dais. Morag stood and started to speak, "Many months ago, we rode into this city. Not on a mission of conquest, but of liberation. Liberation of an empire left buckling under the weight of poverty and recession. An Empire, ravished by pirates and bandits from the lawless border regions." Bandits, like these guys. Trying to pretend they're better than their old contemporaries. "An Empire, threatened by a Dominion, with its sights on reclaiming this land for the Elven Nations. It was left abandoned by its predecessor. In this very room, upon this very floor, lay the crowns of this once great seat of civilization. And by legal right of combat, it was the people of this great city that placed them upon our heads. The old replaced the new, bringing prosperity." "A new era dawns. And with it the creation of a New Imperial Army to protect and serve the six counties of Cyrodiil and the Imperial Territories." Just High Rock. "Provinces and colonies once weak, annexed and lost will be once again reclaimed and the world will tremble and know its place." Oh hell no. That's not going to happen. I can see that they're not going to be very receptive to our proposal. But they're stupid if they're going to start a war with Skyrim, or Hammerfell. "History is to be made this day, this very moment, as the County of Bruma returns to the fold. We shall stand united once again, seven counties of Cyrodill to show to the world our strength, unity and fortitude in our wholeness." Great cheers rang out. She continued, "They shall come to know our resolve, and our intention to be a global force to be reckoned with. They shall come to know of our intention to expend our Empire as is our divine right." Again, fuck no. No need to stir the pot now, but no. Chancellor Blackwell said, "Please, step forward, Countess Rigmor of Bruma and sign the Noble Decree. Would you like to say anything to the assemblage?" She stepped up to the document, "Only that I would like to thank the Emperor for this opportunity. And thank all the noble houses for their openness and kindness since I arrived. You can be assured of house Bruma's loyalty and support." She signed. "The houses of Cyrodiil are united!" Blackwell said, "Long live the Emperor!" Just then, Robere stepped next to the podium. "As many of you might know, Countess Rigmor and I have been acquainted this past year, and I cannot think of any better occasion to tell her of my undying love for her, and to humbly ask her something that's a long time overdue," he kneeled, "Rigmor, it would be my greatest honor if you would become my wife." "By the gods!" Rigmor was pretty darn good at acting, "Yes! Of course!" With that the assembly was dismissed, and Ariel and Morag Sethius filed out with their personal guard in an extreme hurry. Blackwell walked over to me as the rest were milling about, "Bravo. Bravo. Most impressive. I had you pegged for a rube." "I'm sorry?" I asked. "Oh I think you know what I mean. Morag Sethius sucker punched by a stroke of genius. You should be proud of yourself." "I am, but I still have no idea what you're talking about," I replied. "Meet me in the temple gardens tomorrow morning before the coronation. There are some things I would like to discuss," Blackwell said. "My boy," the Count of Leyawiin was talking to Robere, "You certainly don't fail to deliver. What showmanship! Congratulations are in order! More wine! A toast to the happy couple!"
  2. Hey, this is Runa. Recently I got some new weapons and fought Molag Bal with Boethiah's help. Morag Sethius was killed in the blast and we (Calleius, Jura and I) made our way back to Quintus' camp, meeting up with Rigmor, Sethri, Quintus and Camaeus. Sorella and Casius left with his crew and I was surprised to find Chancellor Blackwell, waiting for us, ready to discuss terms. Rigmor and I sat at the table. I said, "You took a risk coming here, Blackwell." "I have no choice," Blackwell said, "I am caught between a rock and a hard place. The Emperor needs me now more than ever, now that Morag has been destroyed." "He's not my Emperor," Rigmor said. "But he is 'the' Emperor, Countess. And as long as there is breath in his lungs, I am sworn to protect him." She sighed, "Call me Rigmor." "I have a proposition for you. The demise of Morag changes things, putting the Emperor in a very vulnerable position. Not only from your army, but Leyawiin. I want to strike a peace deal, or come to an understanding that allows the Emperor to remain on the seat of sundered kings," Blackwell said. "Why's he in danger from Leyawiin?" Rigmor asked, "Aren't they buddies?" "He was always in the most danger from Leyawiin. Haven't you been studying? There's going to be a quiz later," I said. "Ah, geez," Rigmor said. "Leyawiin has the ear of Cheydinhal and Chorrol. Even the Count of Bravil is on the fence and may be swayed. But I fear in defeating you, Leyawiin will descend upon the palace and take all. If that were to happen, we'd all come to our grisly end," Blackwell explained, "Morag's original plan was to seize Bruma and balance the power against Leyawiin. Robere's plan to marry you was a brilliant masterstroke to bring Bruma over to the Leyawiin camp. Now the other counties seek a deal with Leyawiin to destroy you and their payment for backing him is Bruma. And in the future, probably Kvatch, who has remained neutral." "Right back where we started," I said, "I want to level with you, Blackwell. I came to Cyrodiil to talk about peace with Skyrim. I now see Cyrodiil can't even make peace with itself. How could they possibly expect to re-create the Cyrodillic Empire?" "You are, perhaps, correct. We haven't had the manpower to muster a retaliatory strike against Skyrim to take it back, and now I hear you defeated the Thalmor. Of course, part of that move might've been our forcing the Thalmor from our borders in a similar time frame." "If so, thanks for that. But I think they were using teleportation to move their armies to the borders, then chronomancy to assault our towns. We've seen the worst of their might up there. They probably thought they had you beaten and they'd move in for High Rock and then pincer Hammerfell before moving to the East." "In any case," Blackwell continued, "You'll hear nothing of alliances if the Imperial City is burned to the ground." "Alright. Continue," I said. "Bravil is reluctant and the weakest link. Chorrol will only commit if he thinks there's a chance to defeat your army. Cheydinhal has reinforced Leyawiin at the siege of Bruma," Blackwell turned to Rigmor, "Already your garrison has been forced back inside the walls. It's only a matter of time." "What's your proposition?" Rigmor asked. "Marry Robere de Medalius," Blackwell said. "No way!" Rigmor said. "Here is our plan. Allow Leyawiin the power he desires without a fight. It frees Robere, and with Bruma, Leyawiin will no longer need to split his winnings with Chorrol and Cheydinhal. They'll return home. With Bruma and Leyawiin in an alliance he'll make his play for the Imperial Throne. We will deal with the Count of Leyawiin, and Bruma will be exonerated of any accusations. Quintus will likewise be pardoned. If this all goes through, the Emperor has promised to offer you the position of Countess of Leyawiin, Runa." "I don't know..." Rigmor said. "This sounds fishy. I figure Bobby would suspect something if his dad was killed," I folded my arms, "I have another solution." "What's that?" Blackwell asked. "I'm tired of all this maneuvering. We're going to defeat Leyawiin in battle. And anyone else that gets in our way." "That'd be a roll of the dice," Blackwell said. "Would you stand in the way of the Gods and Destiny and Prophecy?" I smirked. "Who are we to interpret the will of the gods?" Blackwell replied, "As you know, my loyalty is to the seat of the Empire. Whatever will be, will be." Rigmor stood, "I say screw the gods, and the prophecy." She walked out. "You know what's a better way of picking rulers? The ability of a person to rule. Not some god telling you you're destined, or some lady giving you a sword from a lake or whatever. Skyrim is more a rule-by-the-strongest, but we're on our way, I think," I shrugged at Blackwell, "But, concerning this deal, I guess we'll get back to you." "I want the Leyawiins out of the picture. Sethius, for all his failings, isn't a bad Emperor. He's brought stability and prosperity to Cyrodiil," Blackwell stood to leave. "One thing. You guys should stop thinking of this as the Empire. It's not coming back. Gods be damned," I stood as well. Blackwell sighed and shook his head, "We'll see what strings the gods pull. You know, I like you and Rigmor. From what my spies tell me, you're one of the strongest warriors in Skyrim... and one of the best assassins. And Rigmor was given her seat by Titus Mede II himself. You have my word that no harm shall befall her, come what may." He walked out. I thought about the options presented, but I had already made my decision. I walked out of the tent to find the whole command group waiting for me. They waited for Blackwell to round the corner, then Quintus said, "What did he want?" "Give me a minute. Going to talk to Rigmor about it," I said. I walked into Rigmor's tent. "You should never show your enemy how you feel," I said. "Sorry. I'm bad at this. So what now?" She asked. "This is a lot more messy. I wish he hadn't come. It was simpler to just kill everyone," I said. "Yeah, I'd prefer to be done with this," Rigmor said. "Done with what? You being the cHoSeN quEeN?" She pushed me, "Stop it." "Well, what do you want to do?" I asked, "This is your life." "Do you trust Blackwell?" She asked. "I do. He's just on the wrong side, doing his job," I said. "I don't think I could even look at Bobby again," she said. "That's fair," I nodded, "Me neither. And I wasn't nearly as betrayed as you were!" "You decide. I'll go along," Rigmor said. "Kill em' all, let the divines sort 'em out," I smiled. "I'm going to sleep a little. We stayed up all night," Rigmor said. I returned to Quintus. "So what did he want?" I explained the situation. Quintus said, "Well, if Chorrol has joined him, that leaves us exposed if we take the Gold Road." They talked for a few minutes about possibilities, during which Camaeus said, "If I may, the Elder Council's signature on the decree allows me sanctioned use of my forces within Cyrodiil." "How do we know this isn't just a way to have a large Thalmor army in Cyrodiil when the chips fall and all the noble houses are low on men and tired?" I asked. "For now, you don't have a lot of options," Camaeus said, "Did you say Yngol's men were forced back into Bruma?" I sighed, "Yes..." They spoke for a few more minutes, Jura and then Rigmor walking in and adding their two cents. It sounded like it was going to be a long campaign, with us taking Fort Ash with a small strike force, waiting for Leyawiin to move, then Yngol and Bruma beating down Cheydinhal's forces and drive our way to the Imperial City. "Let's go!" Rigmor cheered as we all stood up. She looked at me as I turned toward her, "Runa, are you okay? You don't look so good." "I'm... fine..." I said, then I collapsed onto the rug at my feet. Usually not sleeping doesn't lay me out. A few minutes later, my vision dark, I heard them talking. Sethri said, "Looks like the Living Death." "But she took some of the potion," Rigmor said. "Looks like it isn't strong enough for the 'kiss of death' from a broodmother," Sethri said. "What do we do?" Rigmor asked. "Give her more, carry her with us. Nothing more we can do out here," Sethri said. "Please... don't die..." Rigmor said, and all my senses went numb. I awoke in a blank, dark room, casting a light spell as I stood. It didn't help. Just white stone. I moved forward through the door before me, finding a broken bridge over an infinite-depth chasm. This is one of those times I wished I had the Whirlwind Sprint shout. Or I could fly. Luckily I can jump good. I took a few steps back and leaped, barely making it across. There was a cage with a child on the other platform. I picked the lock, and the door swung open. "Who are you?" I asked. "You came. This way, dark to light. Follow me," she said. We walked around a corner, then onto a platform with another long bridge. "What's happening?" I asked. "She sent me because you're dying. She wants to see you," the child said. "Who?" "Al-Esh. You are between the dark and the light. Akatosh brought you here," she said, "Your friends need you." We stopped on another platform before more bridge and the child said, "Cross the void. Head towards the light. They will be waiting for you. Do not vary from the path. I must go now." I pat her on the head and she smiled, fading away. Then I continued on the bridge until it ended, finding a dark void and clouds in the distance. I took a meek step forward and found I could walk in the darkness. When I reached the clouds, I could continue walking on the clouds. Great mountains were below me in the distance, and a purple spiraling sky above. I felt, like this was a place of comfort. I could feel in my heart... this was Sovngarde, but I'd been brought here in an unusual way. My mother described it as being a great wilderness and a mead hall where heroes of old feasted (and fucked) forever, and I was sure that's what I was looking down on. I continued walking as I thought, finally coming to a shining lady, surrounded by children. "Alessia," I said, remembering her form from the cabin, "So I'm dead, then?" "Hello, Dragonchild. Don’t worry. I’m right here," Alessia said. "How does everybody know I'm the Dragonborn's adopted daughter?" I asked. "That... is not why I called you that," she replied. She stepped forward as I walked to her, then she said, "It's not your time yet. Lord Akatosh will send you back." "But... I have so many questions," I said, "Like..." I looked over to the ghost children surrounding her, then I whispered to her, "Am I going to have this giant thing in my pants forever?" But she touched my shoulder and everything went black. I swear I could see her pursing her lips as she did. "Runa! Wake up!" Rigmor shouted, "We need you!" I shook the dust off my consciousness, standing up from a hay bedroll, and found myself in the pouring rain, surrounded by Rigmor and other friends. "We took Fort Ash, joined up with Yngol at Fort Empire. Quintus is holding Leyawiin down at Fort Nikel. Camaeus is holding Chorrol at Fort Ash. Bravil abstained. They say some old court wizard told them they should stay out of this. And you'll ever guess what happened at Bruma!" "What?" I asked, still coming to my senses. "An airship just showed up and started blasting the people at the siege. Like, a ship, flying in the air! I didn't know such things existed. They were too high up for the New Imperial Troops to retaliate and forced them to retreat. Then a larger force from Skyrim led by General Sialius joined." "I bet this is my mom's doing. But who the heck has an airship?" I asked. "I don't know them, but they say they know you," Rigmor replied. Then she hugged me, "I thought you weren't going to make it." "Alright. Where are we? What's going on?" I asked. "If we take the farmhouse ahead, we have the middle ground. Then it's a straight shot into the heights, then the Imperial City," Rigmor replied. The fighter's guild members with Calleius were fending off the few New Imperial Troops who dared approach where we'd boxed in. Calleius hugged me after killing the one he'd been fighting, and I grabbed his butt. He jumped. Jura yelled, "Glad you're up! Ready for some combat!?" I cracked my neck and took out my sword, "Game on!" We ran forward to find Yngol and his men, getting ready for the charge. The rain sprayed, drowning out the clamor of men in the distance. Catapults and trebuchets were firing, hoping to find some purchase in our makeshift base. "She's up!" Jura yelled. "Good! Jura's a bit too slow for a useful point man!" Yngol chuckled. Jura jabbed him, laughing back. "Men! It's time to show these New Imperials how the Nords fight. Onward, to victory!" Yngol yelled, and we charged forward. The first base was just a fortified wall with archers set up by a windmill. As the two forces clashed, I did what I usually do, and threw an Unrelenting Force at the archers to knock them off-balance. Then I ran up around the wall and started laying into the archers and backline. Rigmor and Calleius joined me. This time the enemy was ready for this tactic, because a large group of New Imperials engaged us as I rounded the wall. We fended them off for a minute before our forces entered the main gate (a small opening in a small wall) and rammed into the backs of the remaining New Imperial troops. And as if the gods smiled on us, the rains vanished as we fought them off. We kept pushing to a catapult, and I threw down heals as the men engaged. I even killed the leader of the catapult team myself. As we finished them off, Rigmor said, "The farm is ours. We need to push on and take the heights." Runa and Co, Pushing for the Imperial City We streamed to the heights, fighting our way up a road and past an over-turned carriage. As we reached the hills, I aimed to use the same tactic as before, taking down the archers. I ran in through one of the huge openings near the back of the wall while the men fought the enemy. I found one guard rushing at me, but I shot a "FUS!" At him and continued straight for the arrow boys. This time another group of New Imperial Troops engaged me, but I was alone. But I felt powerful. My blade, though large, seemed to dance and block their blows, moving and striking faster than I thought possible. I spun and struck them, dodging out of the way of what might hurt me. Heck, even when they did hit me, my armor threw their blades aside. Was this some kind of battle lust? They finally managed to put a dent in me and I just healed myself, hands-free. "Runa!" A soldier yelled as the troops joined me, "You're like a demon up here, fighting them all by yourself!" When we had the heights, Jura shouted, "We have the momentum, now push on to the bridge!" And we charged north toward the Imperial City. We got back on the road, our dwindling forces colliding with their now scattered troops. I moved around, throwing heals and killing. At one point, I was faced with five NI Troops, but I felt a sudden burst of speed, my massive blade cleaving through them faster than any of them could see. "Sithis? Happy with me to fill the void? Akatosh? Wanting me to fulfill destiny? I don't care which!" I shouted. Runa and Co, Pushing for the Imperial City Pt 2 We pushed for the bridge, only our command group and a few soldiers left. As a group of NI legionnaires turned a corner, I shouted to Yngol, "Now's a good time for some reserves!" Our small, motley group fought them off, with some trouble. "We hold the bridge," I said, "What now?" "We're going to enter the Imperial City," Jura said, grabbing mine and Rigmor's shoulders, "Quick, before they regroup." We three ran into the city. None of the Praetorian guard stopped us as we ran all the way to the palace. At the door, Rigmor said, "Runa, wait." I turned to her. "Before we go in, what do I say to them?" "You can leave the talking to me," I said. "Well I'm certainly not going to marry that asshole Robere, so check that off the list. The best he can hope for is his freedom," Rigmor said. "We've got the upper hand," Jura said, "Relax." "Something I didn't think about," Rigmor continued, "What if they want me to marry the Emperor, to cement his throne?" "No deal," I said. "They'll stoop to the lowest of the low just to get power. That's what really pisses me off. The power doesn't belong to them. It belongs to the citizens," Rigmor said. "Well said," I commented. About this time, Calleius joined us, "By your leave, I will help protect you." "Good. We were waiting for you," I smiled at him. He knew I was joking. We walked inside. Rigmor and I stepped to the top of the stairs in the entryway, and still, the praetorian guard stayed their weapons. I wasn't sure what was going on. "You fools have allowed them all the way to the audience chamber? Men! Kill these traitors!" Sethius stood from the throne. He started to walk down the stairs. "Blackwell! Order the men to kill these traitors!" "Hold your swords," Blackwell said flatly. "I am your Emperor!" Sethius shouted at Blackwell as they met eye to eye. Blackwell made no motion to comply. Sethius turned to one of the nearby men, voice getting frantic now, "You! I demand you kill them, you... you must obey me!" He continued, "You will cut them down this instant! You! Cut them down! Cut them down I say...!" Sethius slowly walked toward us on the stairs, look of hopelessness in his eyes. I smirked at Blackwell, who returned a rare smile. These men knew everything. They'd been killing children. They'd been giving humans as food for the Akaviri. The few amongst them who had to see it firsthand had had their fill and were done with this dynasty. "Then... I am undone," Sethius still walked toward us, slowly, "I-I-It wasn't me... I am innocent. It was her... Morag... she murdered the children, not me!" He took a step up the stairs, "You can keep the crown... here, here, take it." He took another step, "Please... quarter... quarter... mercy." Rigmor's face filled with dread, and she bent over to puke on the pillar to her left. I looked back at Jura and Calleius, like, 'Is this guy serious?' When I turned back, Sethius was nearly upon me with a dagger. Jura, fast as a ram drew his sword, "You can't win this!" I could feel the fatigue of the long string of battles and the Living Death get to me as I put my hand on my sword. Taking it out was like slow motion as Sethius slashed me across the chest. "You're taken your last breath!" Jura yelled, stabbing Sethius in the side. Still, Sethius tried to slash at me frantically. Calleius stepped in front of the blows meant for me, slashing at Sethius' hands to try and disarm him. I finally had my big honking sword out, and I blocked a slash from him. Then Jura came from his side again, dealing the final blow. Sethius slumped to the ground, dead. I put away my sword, casting a heal on the men and myself. "It's done then," Jura said as they sheathed their swords. I rushed over to Rigmor, put my hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?" I asked. She took a deep breath and whispered, "I'm okay." "The Emperor is dead!" Blackwell shouted, "Long live the Empress!" The praetorian guard shouted, cheering in unison. Runa and Rigmor Reach the Audience Chamber "Wait! Wait wait wait!" I shouted. "What is it?" Blackwell asked. "I didn't do anything here. I was too slow getting my sword out. My grandfather, general Jura dealt the killing blow," I explained. Blackwell turned to Jura, "You know the rule. Just as Titus Mede and Tiber Septim before you, whom so ever takes off the head that wears the crown, reigns supreme. Take your rightful place upon the Ruby Throne of Sundered Kings!" Jura smiling triumphantly, but saying nothing, walked up the steps and sat on the throne. Rigmor and I followed, she sitting at the throne on his left, and me standing between them. "Tyroni Calleius, get your ass up here!" Jura said, "Ever wanted to be an Emperor's personal guard?" The crowd of guards went wild. So many of them had seen him in battle, or had heard of him from the Great War, or knew who he was by reputation. There was much cheering, and Jura dismissed the guards after a few minutes. "Emperor Jura. Like the sound of that," Jura smiled at me, "So this means, since I'm your grandfather, you're Princess of two nations now. And Rigmor. Since you have the rightful claim to the throne, you're also a Princess here." He turned to Blackwell, "I can do that right?" "Technically, you can do whatever you want. Make a decree, highness," Chancellor Blackwell said. "Alright," Jura cracked his knuckles, "By Imperial Decree, Blackwell, you're to remain the High Chancellor. Rigmor, you're a Cyrodiilic Princess. Runa, you're a Cyrodiilic Princess. Et cetera." A day or so passed with us staying at the Imperial Palace. The Counts and Countesses of Cyrodiil coming in to grovel and swear their allegiance. Blackwell informed us that he'd had the traitorous Counts of Leyawiin, Cheydinhal and Chorrol 'taken care of,' which annoyed Jura. "Don't do that without my permission," he commanded. Then he looked at me, still talking to Blackwell, "And don't kill any more Dark Brotherhood." Jura went on to reorganize the Imperial Legions and pardon Quintus, and finally General Sialius came to see what had happened with the invasion. "Oh my gods," Sialius said as he approached the Emperor's dais, "Holy shit." "General," Blackwell said. "Oh, I mean, your most grand imperial majesty," Sialius bowed. "Cut the crap Sialius," Jura chuckled, "Do you want to return to Cyrodiil?" "Well.." "Before you answer, keep in mind I won't take it as an insult if you don't," Jura said. "I think... I'd prefer to stay in Skyrim, crazy as that may sound. A lot of my men have set down roots there. And we generally like the wildness of it." "I know what you mean, Sialius. Fine. You can stay in Skyrim. And you can have free passage to move between the two nations," Jura said. "Thank you," General Sialius bowed. Later that day, Yngol visited, and he had much the same reaction. "Well I'll be a son of a bitch," Yngol said as he entered. "Oh, hello, Jarl, didn't see you there," Jura laughed out loud, acting like his friends being a Jarl was old news and small potatoes. "You old dog," Yngol said finally. "Hey, Yngol, who should I make the new Count of Leyawiin?" Jura asked. He shrugged, "I think Casius Veron would be good." Blackwell chimed in, "Excellent choice. His naval expertise would suit the county, and protect the Niben Bay. Especially as the disbanded bandit army has gone to ground in the border regions." "Sounds good," Jura said. "Sethius did have one bright idea," I said, "I say we should offer the bandits their jobs back. We're going to need them." "For what?" Blackwell asked. "The whole point of me coming here was to ally against the Thalmor. There's an enemy everyone in Cyrodiil can get behind," I said. "So I'm guessing I should answer no to the letter from the Thalmor asking if we will reinstate the White-Gold Concordat?" Blackwell asked. "Fat chance," I said, "Skyrim fought an entire war over that." Jura nodded, "Blackwell, I want you to send out couriers and invite the bandit legion back. Tell them they'll be pardoned if they want to fight for us. Give them the details." "Of course, your majesty," Blackwell said. During another break, Jura said, "Blackwell, please take a letter." "What should the letter say?" Blackwell said, producing a pen and a scroll from his pockets. "To the King of Sentinel. You can take my job and shove... actually, just tell them I'm tendering my resignation, and give them the details of my new office." "Indeed. I will also take the liberty of sending correspondence to the other Royal Houses in Tamriel. They'll be invited to the coronation. I suggest the three of you take new surnames, as well." "What do you mean?" Rigmor asked. "Princess Rigmor, you should take the name of the House of Mede. Princess Runa, perhaps Stormcloak?" "Meh, I dunno," I said. "Think on it," Blackwell said, "Only a suggestion. Your majesty, do you have a surname? Perhaps you can give yourself a title. Similar to but better than Thules the Gibbering." "How about Jura the Foxy Grandpa?" He smirked. "Think on it," Blackwell said, but I could see him starting to smirk, "Majesty, tell me if I'm overstepping my bounds." "Oh, no," Jura said, "You're doing a hell of a job. Hopefully you keep doing this job long after I'm gone. I want you to fill me in on all the things Ariel Sethius and Titus Mede II did right. You have a lot of experience and I'm going to be the best damn Emperor you've ever seen." For once, Blackwell smiled really big. To have an Emperor that listened to his advice, he knew it was going to be a good dynasty. Rigmor sighed, "I think I want to go home to Bruma." "Indeed, Lady Rigmor, take this opportunity to relax as best you can. Of course, return home. But soon, you will need to adapt and come to terms with your new situation," Blackwell said. Rigmor sighed even louder, "I put up with this crap from Malesam. Not you too!" "There's something big we need to get out in the open," I looked at Rigmor, and she immediately knew what I was talking about. "What is that, your highness?" Blackwell asked. "Well, according to the prophecy, and a lot of gods, aedra or whatever, she is supposedly pregnant with my child," I said. Blackwell raised his eyebrow, "If this is indeed possible, through some form of immaculate conception, then I suggest you two get married." Rigmor grimaced, looking at my reaction. "To be honest, I was prepared for that answer," I said. "If you find that arrangement to be impossible for whatever reason, there are alternative ways to proceed," he said, "A partnership ceremony for the child's sake, it would not be binding and you could both live separate lives." I shrugged, "We'll have to get back to you." "In the mean time, when you get to Bruma, please appoint a lady-in-waiting and send her here to the palace to arrange the new royal suite," Blackwell said, then he turned to me, "Before I forget, have you decided the fate of Ser Robere?" I blew the breath out of my lungs, "Well, I'm probably gonna kill the slimy bastard, but I haven't done it yet. "Then I leave his fate up to you. If you will permit me, I have matters to attend to. I shall send word if you are needed," Blackwell said, then he walked out. "Would you mind escorting me to Bruma, Runa?" Rigmor asked. "Of course, Princess," I smiled. "After you, Princess," she smiled back. I walked over to Calleius and kissed him one more time before I left, "This isn't goodbye. I swear we'll see each other again." "Count on it," Calleius said. We walked out the main gates and found Shadowmere waiting for us, riding to Bruma at breakneck speed. When we reached the gates, Rigmor said, "So what are we gong to tell my mom? I'm pregnant, which defies logic." "Did you actually test?" I asked. "Yep. The test tasted sweet. I'm definitely pregnant," Rigmor replied. "I guess the truth?" I shrugged. "Ok, leave mom to me. I'll tell her," Rigmor said. We passed through the gates and found that airship, hanging in the air above Bruma Keep. We walked into the keep, finding Sigunn, Freathof, Malesam and Cerys in the meeting room. "Rigmor!" Sigunn shouted, and they hugged. "Mom!" "Aaaahhh..." Malesam started with his customary noises, "Yngol informed us of Leyawiin's defeat. There seems to be some confusion of the outcome of the war." "The Emperor requested parley. He attacked Runa," Rigmor said. "Gods, what happened?" Sigunn asked. "I take it things didn't end well for him," Malesam said. "Jura stepped up and killed him. And you know what they say - he who takes off the head who wears the crown reigns supreme. Jura's the emperor now," I explained, "By the way, whose airship? Rigmor said they know me?" Malesam replied, "Delegation from Skyrim awaits you on the airship. The pilot claims to be your brother." "Wow. We have a fucking airship now," I pursed my lips, "Fenrir or Damien?" "Oh, your highness, I believe both are aboard, and several others," Malesam replied. "Princess Runa, Princess Rigmor," Freathof nodded. "This is quite a shock," Malesam said. "You got that right," Rigmor said, "Blackwell suggested we change our surnames." "What do you mean, child?" Freathof asked. "Rigmor Mede," Rigmor replied. "Might I make a small suggestion?" Malesam asked, "As you know, Cerys and myself have always worked tirelessly to protect and serve the descendants of Morgan of Winterhold. You could respect her memory by assuming the name of Rigmor Morgan-Mede. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" "Y'know, I really like that," Rigmor smiled. Then the smile drained from her face as she remembered the other news, "Mom, I need to talk to you. In private." "What is it dear? Is something wrong?" Sigunn asked, then she complied, going with Rigmor to their bedchambers. The others turned to me. Malesam asked, "What happened majesty? And what about Morag?" "We defeated Morag at Table Mountain. She summoned Molag Bal. We summoned Boethiah." "Who would ever conceive of such an epic event?" Malesam mused. "Did you by chance pick up a red diamond?" Freathof asked. "Red? No..." I replied. "Apparently the destruction of the Bridge of Sighs would ultimately cause it to collapse in on itself," Malesam explained, "Didn't Sethri tell you about what would occur if the soul gem reached it's zenith?" "No." "If the soul gem were allowed to reach its zenith, destroying itself, it would have caused a rift, created a black diamond. If an amulet of kings made with it would have been able to reverse the sacrifice of Martin Septim, allowing daedra to interfere much more directly once again in mortal affairs," Malesam explained. "Whew. Dodged that arrow," I said. "But since it was stopped, it should've produced a red diamond," Freathof said, "No telling what it could be used for." "Well, time to tell you what Rigmor is talking to Sigunn about," I sighed, deciding to just blurt it out without preparing them, "Rigmor might be with child. My child." Malesam's brows furrowed, "But you're a woman... correct? How is that possible?" I raspberried my lips, "Well, the gods gave me an extra 'blessing,' I guess. They were very intent on us having a child. Though I have no idea why I'm so special. Please, don't ask any more questions." "Majesty...? By the gods!" Freathof returned a face of confusion. "I'm going to ask Sigunn for her blessing, probably going to marry her. Or have some kind of ceremony," I said. "No one need know lady Rigmor is pregnant," Freathof said. "Not that anybody would believe this," I chuckled. Neither one of them were amused. Rigmor walked into the room as Cerys was walking out. "Runa, I'm going to collect my thoughts at the cathedral," she said dejectedly, "Maybe find some solace." Malesam turned to me when she'd walked out, "For now, it'd be best to speak with Sigunn." I walked to her room to find her sitting across from Cerys, who said, "I'll leave you two alone and wait in the hallway." "So did Rigmor tell you?" I asked, sitting across from her. "Yes, though I don't quite understand it. I've only ever wanted what was best for her, and because of you, we can all live, normal, happy lives." "I guess, I've come to ask for your blessing," I said, "For marriage or.. whatever we decide." "You will always be part of our family. Of course you have my blessing," Sigunn responded. "Thank you." "This is so exciting. Have you decided where you'll have the ceremony?" "She wants to have it right here in Bruma," I replied. "That's lovely. We can hold the banquet and celebrations afterwards here at the castle," Sigunn said, "It's a pity Ragnar isn't here to escort her. He'd be so proud. But don't worry. Go make sure you choose the right dress. The best place is at the Imperial City. Who do you think will be your man of honor?" "I don't know yet," I said. I walked out and found Cerys waiting. We looked at each other for a long moment. My feelings were a mix of uncertainty, not wanting to be chained down, but actually caring about Rigmor... and I couldn't take my eyes off Cerys. "Hey, um... Cerys," I stammered. "Yes, your majesty, is there anything I can do to help you?" I blinked out of my daze, "We need to pick out dresses and such. I'm not great at that. I mean, I know what looks good on me, but that's about it." "Please, let me help. I know exactly the dress she would want to wear at the ceremony. I have to travel to the Imperial City to speak with Blackwell, and to pick up some items for my father. Lady Rigmor appointed me her lady in waiting." "I assumed as much," I said. "Do you have a ring in mind?" She asked. "Not yet," I said, still not at all sure about this, "Figured somebody had some ideas." "Oh well, do you need help with anything else?" Cerys asked. I dragged my hand across my cheek, still staring at Cerys' perfect skin, "So, Cerys..." "Yes?" "I remember you used to wear full robes, when I first met you," I said, "You remember when I first saw you when I came to Bruma?" Cerys seemed a little flustered, but she smiled at me, "Yes. But you were a girl when you first met me." "We're both women now, though," I smiled, "I guess... you know the strangeness of my situation?" "Yes, Rigmor hinted to Sigunn and I that the gods had.. equipped you," she said. "Yeah well, I don't know what to do with it, really. I feel like I have many more urges than I had before. Maybe what I had before wasn't... hooked up right, if that makes sense," I said. She stared at me, resting her hand on her hip. "Don't get me wrong, I still am attracted to men. But I was attracted to you even when I was a little numb to the whole attraction... thing. And I just cannot stop looking at you," I said. Finally she tilted her head and smirked a bit, "I think I can help you alleviate some pressure. But I'm not letting you near my womb with that thing. I see what happened to Rigmor." She pulled me around the corner and undid the buckles on my armor, letting everything fall to the ground. She put one hand on my right boob, and started stroking me with the other hand. After a minute, she pulled what little clothes she had off as well. She stroked me, then got on her knees and stroked me. Then she took me in her mouth, and I didn't last very long. Cerys was very good. She smiled at me as she stood, face and breasts with my cum streamed down them, taking her leave. I definitely came a lot. Probably by design. I walked outside, deciding it was a good time to visit the airship. I found the rope ladder and climbed up. At the top, Fenrir was having a spirited conversation with two khajiits about telekinesis or something. "Hey! Bro!" I shouted. He ran over to me and hugged me, picking me up. Fen had always been taller than everybody else in the family, even with Ulfric. "I'll go get everybody," he said. He returned with Mom, Damien, Sofia, and another woman I'd never met. "Mom! Damien!" I hugged her, then Damien. "Sofia, how've you been?" I asked. "Well, I was in a Thalmor prison in Elswyer for a while. Otherwise, can't complain," Sofia said, "Though I'm getting really weird vibes from this town. Can't quite put my finger on it." "And who's this?" I asked. "Hi, I'm Valiana Direnni," she replied. "Nice to meet you," I said, shaking my hand. Her grip was strong. "So what's the news?" Mom asked. "Well, there's a lot," I said, "I think you're getting your alliance." "Why's that?" Damien asked. "I'll give you the summary. The new Emperor was in bed with a child-killing monster who had ties to the Akaviri. We killed her, and with your backup stopped all the in-fighting. And when we got to the palace? He groveled and apologized. Then he attacked me. Grandpa killed him." "That means..." Mom started, and I finished, "Yep. By right of combat, it's Emperor Jura now." "So you're saying we have our Cyrodiilic alliance?" Fenrir smiled, folding his arms. "Yep. Also, there's some... weirdness I should discuss," I said. "Hon, I'm the queen of weird. Lay it on me," Mom said. "Well, the gods really freaking want me and Rigmor to have a baby for some reason. So now we are. No more questions, next topic," I said. Damien and Valiana shared a glance, but they didn't add anything. I continued, "I'm a Princess of Cyrodiil by Imperial decree, and Rigmor is also because she's a Mede." "Hey, um, Runa," Damien said, "I might be able to shed some light on why the gods are being so picky." I tilted my head, "You know something about my situation that I don't? Gods, Damien, how do you always do this?" "Well, this might've been my ... fault? Maybe?" Damien said. "How so?" I asked. "Well, allow me to summarize now. Of course you know I went to the past and became Hero of Daggerfall. I brought back Brisienna, but I also brought two other people. There was a slight hiccup. They got stranded in the year 175. And you know, as people do, they settled down and formed a family. They had a kid, and that kid had a kid," Damien said. "What are you getting at?" I asked. Damien turned to face Valiana and myself, "Without rehashing her past, I'm going to say that at about 196, Valiana had a daughter and gave her to the Honorhall Orphanage. "Are you saying....?" I asked. "Yes, Runa. This is your birth mother," Damien said. I looked at her, "Well, she looks like me." Then I squinted at Damien, "But how can you be sure?" Damien replied, "I went and checked Constance's immaculate records, and indeed, it was you." I could feel my brow furrowing. I asked Damien, "So you're the reason I even exist?" "I blame destiny. Who's to say?" Damien surmised. I turned to the woman. An old, strong, beautiful woman. Strong. Even stronger than me. I asked, "How do you feel about all this?" "Well, beats raising a rugrat," she chuckled. Then realizing I wasn't amused, she said, "Honestly, I've been a fugitive for twenty years. I've really never been attached to anybody expect my own mom. My dad died when I was very young. So if you want to get to know me, that's fine. If not, that's fine too." Mom (Destana) said, "Well, this is dour. I thought you'd be happier about this." "I mean, make no mistake. You're the one who raised me. You're my mom. This is Valiana, a woman I just met. Why'd you give me up, anyway? Couldn't hack it?" I asked, knowing I was probably being a little rude. Valiana's lips tightened a little bit, "I knew this was a mistake." She walked away, sliding down the ladder to Bruma. I raised an eyebrow, "What's her deal?" Fenrir sighed, "I'm not sure you want to hear this." "I just uppercutted Molag Bal and toppled an empire. Just tell me," I said. "She was raped," Fenrir replied. "Okay," I blinked, "That was a sucker punch. Now I feel bad. I'm not going to get all in my head or anything because I'm a product of rape. Nobody chooses where they came from or who their parents are. But damn, now I feel like an asshole. Who was the dad anyway?" "Beorlin Silverblood. Uncle to the ones you know," Damien replied. "Well, I'd like to sucker punch him. Like when your dick misbehaves and it becomes back to slap you in the face. His own bloody offspring kicking him in the balls," I said. "We already killed him," Fenrir said. I shook my head, "So why do you think the gods want Rigmor and I to produce offspring anyway?" Damien replied, "Her mom was Medora Direnni. Her dad was... Calaxes Septim." "Septim? Like... Uriel, Tiber? Those guys?" I asked. "Yep. The other misplaced bastard of Uriel Septim VII was Calaxes Septim. Less well-known than Martin Septim. He disappears from the history books because I brought him forward in time," Damien explained. "So I'm a fucking Septim?" I asked. "Yeah," Mom said, "Which means your kid with Rigmor will be Mede-Septim." "Joining a dynasty of strength and one of ancient dragonborn," Damien said. "I'm starting to wonder if that is why I've learned shouts just a little faster than other Nords do. I'm mean, I'm half Nord. Quarter Imperial. Quarter Breton?" Damien nodded. "Ah, Talos. That means one-eighth elf," I said. "You're a mutt, sis!" Fenrir smirked, and I slugged him in the shoulder. "Hey, who is her best friend here?" I asked. "Fenrir," Damien smirked at him, and he rolled his eyes. "Why do you ask?" Fenrir asked. "Well, I think I should apologize, and I'm going to take you as a mediator," I said. We both slid down the ladder, but the others followed us into Bruma. Guards said, "Skyrim delegation, right? She went into the keep." We walked in, and I found her, standing in the Great Hall, just outside the audience chamber. "Hey, Valiana," I said, "I'm sorry. I was an asshole back there." She looked at me for a few seconds, then she said, "S'alright. I've had a pretty shit life. But you seem to be doing very well for yourself. Like I said, You can accept me or not." "Well, maybe I'd like to see what you can do with that spear. We should go on an adventure sometime," I smiled. She smiled back, "I can skewer a man from two paces away before he can even reach me." After a huge period of adding nothing to any of this family reunion, Sofia did what she did best, and made a joke, "I'd bet you could split me open with that weapon." "Young lady!" A voice called from inside the audience chamber. Sofia squinted, like there was an itch she couldn't scratch. "That voice sounds so familiar," Sofia said, "But I've never been to Bruma." Whoever had been talking to Sigunn had already cleared out, leaving the audience chamber open. Freathof and Malesam flanked Lady Sigunn. Sofia walked into the chamber, "What did you say to me, old man?" Freathof squinted at her, "Do I know you? Those vulgar comments sound so familiar. Come closer, young lady." "No way, creepy old man," Sofia said. "Now, now, we're the delegation from Skyrim," Mom said, "Try and act cordial, Sofia." "Sofia?" Freathof took a step down the stairs, then another, until he was right in front of her and she was recoiling at the man's weirdness. "Could it be?" Freathof asked, "But it's been fifteen years... she would be in her early thirties by now..." "Hey! I'll have you know I'm 29!" Sofia said. Mom said, "Sofia, you're not fooling anybody! You're thirty three!" "Who is this?" Sigunn asked. "My lady, Sigunn, this is..." Freathof stammered, "This is the former Countess of Bruma's long lost daughter... Sofia!" "I'm....?" Sofia blinked. "Well, what's the first thing you remember?" Mom asked. "I guess... being an adventurer in Skyrim," Sofia replied. "Usually people remember their childhood," I said. "You have her face. Her beautiful eyes!" Freathof shouted, "This is her! The rightful heir to Bruma!" Sigunn folded her arms, "Well, what does this mean, then, if this is true?" "Ahhhh," Malesam said, "It occurs to me that Lady Rigmor is no longer Countess, but a Cyrodiilic Princess. So the position is once again vacant. Perhaps I can broker a deal here. Excuse me, Sofia, do you have any interest in being Countess of Bruma?" "I mean... I guess," Sofia said, "I don't know anything about being a Countess though. If I was once, I've forgotten everything." "Lady Sigunn, do you intend to have any more heirs?" Malesam asked. "I'm far too old to be having more children," Sigunn replied, "I could, but no thanks." "Lady Sofia, the former Countess allowed Lady Sigunn to bear the brunt of the responsibility of the job for her. Would you be willing to let her, and her staff stay on to assist you?" "Sure," Sofia shrugged. "It appears we have an accord," Malesam smacked his hands together as if washing them, "Lady Sofia, do you have a spouse?" "His name is Inigo. He's training with the Blades right now. Though I ... don't think we can have children. He's a khajiit," Sofia replied. "Hrm..." Malesam said. "I know what you might be thinking," Mom said, "But Inigo is one of the most honorable, trustworthy men I've worked with. And to be honest... except for the occasional off-color jokes, you might be better off having Sofia as a Countess than Rigmor. She's got a lot of life experience and has her act together." Sofia smiled at Mom, "I didn't know you felt that way." "Yeah, well, don't let it go to your head," Mom smirked. "Destana, besides this happy occasion, what brings you here?" Sigunn asked. "I came to see how things were going. I also realized one year passed in Skyrim while six passed out here, so I thought a visit was overdue," Mom replied. "You should go see Rigmor. You know the girl adores you," Sigunn said to Mom. I blinked, "Ah shit, Rigmor asked me to meet her in the Cathedral!" That was hours ago! I ran out of the audience hall right away. It was already dark, with purple auroras dancing in the night sky. I paid little attention, finding my way to the cathedral straightaway. As I walked in, Rigmor said, "Hey Runa, what took you so long?" I mentally checked off a list of, 'Got reunited with my birth mother, saw the family, found the long lost heir to Bruma, oh and I got a blowjob. My first ever!' But I said, "Sorry, those old guys really talked my ears off." Then I sat down beside her. "I was just thinking, y'know, how we ended up here. It's strange, because all we just went through, just seems like a dream," Rigmor said, "But I feel this sense of overwhelming peace. Like everything's going to be alright." I stared at her for a moment, then I said, "I guess I should do this officially. I have Lady Sigunn's blessing. Rigmor Morgan-Mede, would you do the honor of being my... wife?" "Runa..." "Runa Septim. Silverblood-Direnni-Septim? No, just Septim," I corrected, "I'll tell you all about it later." "You know you don't have to do this," Rigmor said. I smiled, "I think... I might want to. I never thought I would ever say that. But I think I'm okay with it." "Well as long as you're okay with it," Rigmor rolled her eyes, standing up. "You know what I mean," I said, standing to follow her. "Yeah, and the answer is no. We're not going to get married until we're ready. Until you're ready. We can do the partnership ceremony now," she smiled, "And know that it doesn't mean I don't love you. I do love you. But I want you to want me like I want you." I smiled a little, "I can accept that. But hey, either way we need good rings. Have anything in mind?" Rigmor, who'd been pacing, said, "Have you ever heard of the legend of the White Gold, Diamond and Ruby-encrusted ring of the lost Ayleid Princess Pilvi-Hinnesh?" "That's an oddly specific request. Like asking for the Mace of Molag Bal as a wedding gift," I smiled. "Oh, you're right. Don't worry about it," Rigmor said, "Well I'm going to bed now. You kept me waiting way too long." I found the family again on the airship, getting ready to sleep. "Where are you guys headed after this?" I asked. "Tomorrow I'm going to the Imperial City to talk to Emperor Jura," Mom said, "Of course, then I'll head back to Skyrim and tell Inigo about Sofia. And the Jarls and Ulfric about Jura." "Headed back to Skyrim, my work here is done," Damien said. "Going to go on some more adventures with Valiana before we get ready for the invasion," Fenrir said. "Well, there's a legendary ring I think I want. It's a treacherous path, probably lots of monsters and danger," I said. Fenrir frowned expectantly, "Sounds like a job for us. Val?" "I'm in," Valiana smirked.
  3. Hey, this is Runa. I'm carrying the Eye of Boethiah and Scourge, Malacath's mace. Continuing on our journey to Table Mountain, Calleius, Jura, Rigmor, Sorella and I found Casius' camp near the Cyrodiil-Hammerfell border. It was pouring rain, it was the middle of the night, we'd fought two battles at Bruma and a small skirmish on the way. The men were dead tired, setting up the big tent and going to sleep immediately. I sat with the girls and Casius, finding a strange sort-of energy carrying me through. We all grabbed hearty soup Casius had prepared. "Glad you made it. Run into any trouble?" Casius asked. I sighed, "We met some New Imperial troops." "Did you conceal the bodies?" Casius asked. "We didn't have time," I said, "But they were off the road. Hard to notice." "Good. Make yourselves at home. We'll rest until morning. We need to be properly prepared to cross the mountain ridge." "How's Quintus?" I asked. "He's well. I didn't even need to persuade him. My marines are with his Legion and they await our arrival. Also, Sethri infiltrated the area. He should have info for us when we get there." "Excellent. Have you met Sorella?" I gestured to her. "Not since she was a little girl," Casius turned to her, "You're very brave coming all the way here. But I bet you don't remember me." "You know Yngol? My father?" Sorella asked. "Yes. Want to know how I met him?" Casius smirked. Sorella nodded, and Casius started, "It was a cold, dark night. Just like this one. We had been attached to the 4th Legion patrolling the road between the Imperial City and Bravil. A citizen ran up to us, out of nowhere... 'Quick! Come quickly! They're all dead!' he says. We follow him as quickly as we can. Our torches ablaze, our hands sweating, gripping tightly to the hilts of our swords, not knowing what danger could appear in the darkening gloom. We arrived at a farm... there was blood everywhere. We thought, what could have done this terrible crime? The culprit comes out and we draw our swords. We see the chickens in his pockets and realize, it was a chicken thief. It was chicken blood. Your father...from then on he was always known as 'the Fox." Sorella giggled, "Whoa! What happened then?" "They beat him with sticks and let him go," Casius chuckled, "It's the truth. You can ask him when you get home." Sorella laughed, "Oh my gods." "Come on, Sorella. Let's get some sleep. We've had a long day," Rigmor said. And they slipped into a tent. "So what did Yngol say about all this? I bet he wasn't happy." "Nah, he was pretty pissed. He said you're personally responsible for her safety," I said, "The only way Angi would agree to this is if you're her protector, and you don't engage in the main battle." "Hmm... I expected as much. How goes the siege?" Casius asked. "Thanks to my friends, we captured Robere, who happened to be the commander at the time. We broke the siege for now with Yngol's help. But they'll send more," I replied, "This is a dirty business. Scheming, power plays, machinations, not knowing who your friends are. At least when we fought the Thalmor, they're gold and we're blue. Or red, thanks to Sialius' Legion." "Welcome to civilization." "If Skyrim is savagery, I prefer savagery," I chuckled, and so did he. Casius nodded, "When Sorella fires the shot, I'll be sure to get her out of there, to my ship, and back to savagery at Falkreath. You'd better get some rest. This is a hard road." "What about you?" I asked. "I had a good sleep before I trekked up here. And I haven't had a bunch of battles in the last few days. Go," Casius replied. I hadn't noticed we'd been sitting there for a few hours at this point. Time flies. Jura, then Calleius got up, and I went and laid in the small tent in the middle. The boys ate and talked, but I was dead to the world in the meantime. In just a few hours, we got up and got moving. It was a clear, new day that filled us with hope. "We should keep a steady pace and not falter. Conserve your energy for the climb," Casius said. We made our way up into the hills, finding a good view of Bruma and the Imperial City in the distance. Then we took a long, winding path up the mountains. After a few hours, we got a fantastic glimpse of Hammerfell, and took a break to take it in. Rigmor sat with me for a few minutes overlooking the Imperial City. She rested her head on my shoulder for a minute, "Hey, when this is all over, where will you go?" "Probably back to Skyrim," I said. She sighed, then she put her hand on my face, "I think I'm going to miss you even more this time. We were just friends before. I feel like this is more now." She kissed me softly. I wasn't sure how to feel at this point, "I don't know how I feel. I've said before I never want to get married. We're still young. We have our whole lives ahead of us to be trapped in marriage. I just don't know yet." "That's... fair," she said. "I do know I want you to be happy though," I said. We didn't really say a lot after that. She went over to talk to Sorella, and Calleius came over to stand next to me. "Eavesdropping?" I asked. "I am known for my keen senses," he replied. "I wish this was as easy for me as is it for my mom. She just throws herself into every relationship with her soul out for the world to see. I feel like I'm... living in a suit of armor," I said. Calleius hugged me and I laid my head on his shoulder. "Want another friend kiss?" He asked. I couldn't help but laugh, "Maybe a little." So he kissed me too. "I like the new helmet. Easy access," I smirked. When we stopped, I noticed Rigmor was watching us. We got on the road. A few miles down the other side of the mountain, we found a carriage with a dead horse and dead driver. I hopped up on it, finding their cargo ransacked. "Border thieves," Casius said, "Let's go." We found them a stone's throw down the road when they attacked us. We dealt with them handily. Saying nothing about it, we continued down the road until we reached a supply cache Casius had hidden off the road. Rigmor turned toward a waterfall a bit upstream, "Casius, can we stop for a little bit? I haven't washed myself in a few days. Feel like the enemy'll smell us coming a mile away." "Not sure this is such a good idea. There are more raiders in the hills," Jura said. "It's alright," Rigmor grabbed my arm, "Runa'll come with me." Casius sighed, "Just hurry. We'll pack up the supplies." Calleius and Jura exchanged a glance, but said nothing. I chased after Rigmor, and found her running down the riverbank towards the falls when I crossed over the mound we'd been standing on. I ran after her. "Hurry up, slowpoke!" She said back. Near the waterfall was a Shrine to Mara. We stopped in front of it. "Hey, check it out," Rigmor pointed, "This shrine's been cleaned recently." "Huh," I said, leaning on the shrine, "Well, what are you waiting for? Go take a dip. I'll watch." "What do you mean you'll watch? Don't get any weirdo ideas," Rigmor smirked at me, "Turn around." "I mean I'll keep watch, you dummy," I said as she walked out to the water, stripping off her armor, "It's not like I haven't seen it." "Gods!" She shouted. "What?" I turned toward her, hand on my greatsword. "It's fucking cold!" Rigmor said back. I leaned back on the shrine again. "When you carry the load of others, as well as your own, the Nine shall help carry your burden," a voice spoke softly from behind me. I whipped around, hand on sword again. It was the strange priest from the temple in Bruma. "Hey, um... I already figured out you're not who you say you are. What are you, some sort of ghost?" I asked, ready to spring into action. "I am whom so ever you want me to be," he replied. "That's the worst possible answer," I said, "You know I try not to make a habit of killing good people, but if you don't give me some answers, I might have to make another mark on my list of exceptions." "Who are you talking to?" Rigmor shouted, "Is something wrong?" I looked over, then turned back to the priest, "Can she... not see you?" "She does. And she calls out," the priest said. "Everything's fine!" I shouted back, then I turned to the priest again, "This cryptic speech is starting to get on my nerves, old man. So, if you won't tell me who you are, or what you're doing, I'll just say - I'm not going to let you harm her." "She is in no danger. The Nine have listened and granted you your wish," the priest said. "How... so?" I asked. Rigmor called, "Hey! Why don't you come in with me? I was just playing before! You can probably just shout at raiders if they come!" The priest continued, "She is released from her curse and can live a normal life." Rigmor yelled again, "Runa! Y'know talking to yourself is the first stage of madness." "All you must do is touch the shrine," the priest said finally. "So her being the 'Chosen Queen' or whatever nonsense... that goes away? But how? Are we just resigning Cyrodiil to continue this path of war?" I asked. "Another chosen queen will be born," the priest replied, "When the time is right. And you will be her guardian." I wanted to ask how he could be sure I gave a shit about a new chosen queen. But I didn't say anything. He was probably just going to make another useless cryptic statement. "Runa, help!" Rigmor yelled, and I turned to her. She was in no danger. I stared flatly at her. "That got your attention didn't it?" She smiled. The priest continued, "You will fulfil your destiny, as it has been written. You will soon see clearly." When I turned to look at him, the priest was gone. Of course. I walked over to the shrine. He said I needed to touch the shrine, to free her, right? But it would doom some other child to this annoying fate. Certainly, the gods had some sort of plan... Gods, there were too many variables. I shrugged, and touched the shrine. I felt the Blessing of Mara wash over me, just like it normally would. I squinted, slowly shook my head, not sure if that was what was supposed to happen. I turned toward Rigmor, and she was on the shore, getting dressed. "Runa, I don't know what's with you. You're so godsdamn hot and cold. I was inviting you to come join me. Maybe something would happen, maybe not. I figured at least you'd want to get clean," Rigmor shrugged, "Who were you talking to? Whoever cleaned the shrine? I don't see anybody." I sighed, "So, something. I was talking to something." "You don't know?" "Not really. But it seems.. benevolent. It said that if we touch the shrine, we'll be released from the prophecy," I said, thinking I might've misinterpreted it when he said 'you touch the shrine' to mean me. He may have actually meant 'both of you.' "What does that mean? Tamriel at war forever?" She asked as we walked over to the shrine. "Apparently, another chosen queen is chosen. And I... or we... would be her protectors," I replied. "So we'd be stuck together forever?" Rigmor asked. "Well, that wouldn't be so bad," I said. She smiled, just a little, "I'm finally getting your tough shell to crack a little." "So you want to do this?" I asked. She grabbed my hand, then she asked, "Do you?" "Yeah, ok," I said. Then she put our hands on the shrine. We both received a Blessing of Mara. "Easy enough," she smiled at me. Then she said, "You know I worry about you sometimes. All this destiny crap is really getting to you." "I now see why my mom told the Greybeards they could cram her destiny up their asses," I laughed. We made our way back to the camp, and they were already packed up. "Ready?" Casius asked, throwing us some rations. We made our way along the river for some miles, seeing a small fort in the distance with a ship parked adjacent to it on the river. The gates swung open, a welcoming party with Zan (from Casius' ship) and a few of the Marines and Legionnaires waiting for us. Zan hugged Rigmor and one of the soldiers said, "General Quintus is expecting you." He pointed to the command tent on the left. Casius nodded to me, "I'm going to rally my men, you go ahead." Rigmor hugged Sorella before she went with them, "You do everything Casius tells you to, okay?" "I'll be brave," Sorella replied. "And guess what! You'll be getting a ride home on a pirate ship. How cool is that? When this is over we'll come see you in ...happier times," Rigmor said. Jura, Rigmor and I stepped into the tent with Sethri and Quintus, Calleius going off to speak with some of the Legionnaires. "Guardian. General. Countess," Quintus nodded, and sat beside Sethri. "Allow me to offer you a..." Quintus said to Jura, but he responded, "It's ok, I'll stand." "Well met," I said, "How are things?" "It's been years. You've both grown up," Quintus said. "Pity the reunion isn't under more pleasant circumstances," I replied. "Indeed. Sethri told me everything. I couldn't figure it out at first, but the Emperor, so called, sent me all the way out here. And we're not allowed to pursue the raiders, just prevent further excursions into Cyrodiil. The real reason is because they don't want word getting out of the depravity at Table Mountain," Quintus folded his arms, "I thought they were just slavers. But now it's clear. My sword is yours to command. Damn the consequences. If this is what our Empire has become, damn the Empire." Sethri started, "There're raiders at the base of the mountain, and mercenaries defending the ruins that hold the Bridge of Sighs. An army of leeches are down there. The soul gem is protected by an elite group of Tsaesci, and General Oxi-Amaka." Quintus said, "We persuaded the Count to allow us to build a pontoon. None of the noble of the Gold Coast know the truth. I told him it was imperative to stop the slavers. So this makes crossing the river easier for us. We've also been sending small parties across the border. Our presence won't alert them immediately if we're seen. Also, Sethri was able to get a map of their defenses." "So if we're going, we need to go full force, strike them all at once. They won't suspect anything until we're right on top of them," I said. "Agreed," Quintus said. Jura folded his arms, "Once we hit them hard and force our way into the mountain, you guard our rear and baby girl while the core group pushes into the Ayleid ruins and takes down the Akaviri." "Is Morag Sethius there?" Rigmor asked. "She's been in there a few days," Sethri replied, "And, just to let you know, I managed to get my hands on some of the curative for the Living Death and we made a huge batch. The soldiers all have a bottle." "Excellent," I said. About this time, a runner entered the tent, saying, "General, there's an envoy here to see you." "Who is it, soldier?" He asked. "Not sure, sir. But they're asking for you, the Countess, and Princess Runa." "Hmm... princess," I said. That really hasn't been brought up here. This envoy must know me. We walked to the gate, which swung open at Quintus' command. A small contingent of Thalmor, a few on horses. I put my hand on my greatsword as we approached, "What do you want?" "Greetings, to the Princess of Skyrim, and... the Princess of Cyrodiil. We have a dossier on you milady worthy of its own library shelf." "Like Runa asked, what do you want, justicar?" Rigmor asked. He dismounted, "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Valeronin Camaeus of Lillandril, envoy of the Aldmeri Cominion, Commander of TESO, ahem... the Elven Special Operations. The mercenaries at the summit of Table Mountain are Thalmor criminals and defectors. I have been sent here to offer my services. As a gesture of good will between the Empire and the Dominion." "Fuck off," I said, and Rigmor said, "No deal." Almost in unison. Quintus and Jura exchanged glances. "I don't ask they you like us, I only ask for your trust," Camaeus said. "Trust? Wherever the Thalmor tread they leave a trail of misery, torture and death. The only good thing Sethius did was kick you out of Cyrodiil," Rigmor said. "Are you aware the Thalmor just fought a whole war with Skyrim? And you guys kidnapped my mother and tortured her. NO. FUCKING. DEAL!" I said, I took a deep breath, "F~.." Jura put his hand on my shoulder, stopping me. "We owe you a debt of gratitude for taking care of the New Order. I want to take this chance to personally apologize for the suffering you endured at the hands of that traitor Thalmor General..." He said to Rigmor, then turned to me, "And for the traitor Interrogator for your mother." "Oh, now he's a traitor when it inconvenient for you to be associated with him. This reminds me of the Moons, the Hist and the Oblivion Crisis. Thalmor always making the facts line up for their own benefit," I said. "Nothing can excuse the Thalmor's cruelty," Rigmor showed her teeth. "My apologies for my insensitivity. Please, General Quintus, General Jura, Countess, Princess. We have a common enemy in what lies at the Bridge of Sighs. My special forces are at your disposal. At the very least, please offer me the courtesy of parley. This letter of introduction should suffice to prove my intentions are genuine," Camaeus said. Quintus took the letter and read it, "Gods. This is signed by Baa'Ren-Dar. Emissaries from Valenwood and Elsweyr. And the Elder Council... in Exile?" I raised an eyebrow, "In Skyrim we got told they were all dead." "That's what we thought as well," Quintus said, "But I've seen at least a couple of these signatures before. They're genuine." "What makes you so special you got all those signatures?" Jura asked. "Quintus, you can't trust this asshole. He's a justicar, a Thalmor," Rigmor folded her arms, "I don't care about the document." "Ahem... it's pronounced Justiciar." "We should give him a chance," Quintus said. Rigmor replied, "Whatever. I think I'll just go take a walk. The air around here has become... unpleasant to say the least." She walked away. Jura put his hand on my shoulder, "You know we could use their help." I growled at him, "They'll stab us in the back. You of all people should know that." "Usually, yes. I fought the Thalmor in the Great War. Then again in Hammerfell. Then again in Skyrim. I hate them as much as you do. But this may be the one exception," Jura said. I held back my rage and said, "I'm going to go take a break. Could you get the Count up to speed? You're the General here, so ultimately I'll go along if you think it's right. But! If they betray us, the blood will be on your hands." I turned and walked away. I saw Calleius sitting with the Legionnaires, eating a meal. "How goes it?" He asked. "You'll see," I said. He turned his head to the procession walking into the camp. "Gods, the Thalmor?" Calleius looked up at me, and I grabbed the slab of meat he'd been eating and took a big bite of it. Then I handed it back. "Need another friend kiss to calm you down?" Calleius smiled. I laughed, "Now you're just milking this." "Maybe," he said. I leaned over and kissed him, and this time he grabbed my cheek and held me there for a minute, working his tongue around mine. I wiped the sauce off my cheek and stood, deciding I would go find Rigmor. But as I stood up, I felt something strange. "You ok?" Calleius asked. "I dunno. My skirt feels tight. Weird pressure in my..." I whispered to him, "Crotch area." Calleius smiled, "So, you're aroused then?" "I mean, I guess. But it feels weird. Different than normal," I replied. Then I shrugged, "I guess I'm going to go find wherever Rigmor stormed off to and storm there as well." I searched the tents, and finally found hers. Rigmor sighed as I walked in, "If you're here to talk some sense into me, don't waste your breath." "Oh, no. I completely agree with you. But I think Quintus is going to end up taking their help and get all of us killed. I guess on the bright side maybe we can use them as human shields. Elven. Elven shields." "I don't trust them. Damn elves," Rigmor said, "The enemy of my enemy... is still my enemy." She stood up and started pacing as she talked, "They murdered my father in the worst way possible. Paraded him around the streets of Alinor... People spat on him, kicked and beat him. Publicly hanged him. They tore my family apart, enslaved us and flogged me to within an inch of my life. I will not forget it. I will not forgive." "What did he mean," she looked down at me, "What happened to Destana in that war?" I shut my eyes and said, "At the Battle for Riften, we lost her in the turmoil. They took her to a prison and used their chronomancy to torture her for three months while we looked for three days. She said it was every torture we could imagine... and she even described one that I couldn't possibly imagine. They used some kind of beast... she said when she got out it attacked the Thalmor and they died instantly from the pain alone." Rigmor stepped up to me and held my head against her stomach, "I know you. You're blaming yourself aren't you?" "Maybe..." I said. Rigmor said, "Now's my chance to comfort you. It wasn't your fault." She held me for a moment, then she leaned down and kissed me. It felt good. When she tried to pull back, I held the back of her head and pushed harder. She pulled back, blinked and stammered, "Runa..." Feeling captivated, I guess, she wrapped her arms around me and sat on my lap, continuing. We sat there a few minutes until she pulled back again. "Um... ow," she stood up, "Your armor hurts a little bit. Very pokey." "We should probably talk to this asshole," I said, and I stood. That tight feeling was back. What the hell was going on? I looked down, started messing with my armor to try and get it to fit right. Rigmor sat down where I'd been, looking through her pack, "Have you seen my hat from Roscrea?" "Umm..." I said, "Umm... " "Are you okay over there?" Rigmor asked. "Hey, can I show you something?" I asked, "I need you to promise not to freak out. Because I'm 100% freaking out." "Ok... sure. I can pretend to be strong for you," Rigmor chuckled. I pulled the straps on my chestpiece and undid the buttons on my skirt, then I let them fall on the floor, kicking them away. Then I turned around. "Okay. You didn't need to be so dramatic to show me your naked body. You're hot. Whatever." I stared blankly off at the tent behind her and said, "No. Look down." "That's completely... oh my gods! What the fuck!?" She covered her mouth. "Well, I don't know... if this is a gift... from Mara... or that weird priest guy. But I don't think I want it," I said. It was a penis. I held the penis in my hand, let it flop back down. "Oh... um..." Rigmor said, "It's getting bigger." I looked down at it. Rigmor took it in her hand. "Oh wow," I said. "What? I'm dumbfounded. I need to make sure it's real," she said. "Sure... you do," I said. I wasn't stopping her. It felt really good to be held. Like this was a greatsword growing from my body, but her touching it was like drawing the string back on a bow or loading a crossbow. It felt powerful. It felt tight, like I wanted to use it. Gods, it was intoxicating. She let it flop down again, but it pointed straight out at her. "If it feels like one... I wonder if it tastes like a cock," I said, then I covered my mouth, realizing I wasn't thinking when I said that. Rigmor rubbed it on her face, "Well it smells like one." She licked the head, and it reminded me of having my clit licked, though more spread out. I moaned a little. "Yeah, it tastes like one," she said. "You're... evil," I said. I could feel myself starting to breathe hard as she swirled her tongue around. "Wanna test this thing out?" Rigmor asked. My brain was mush as she started to take her armor off. While she wait for me to doff, she put her hat on. I squinted, smiling. "What? My head is cold," she laughed. She got on all fours, not even bothering to take her underwear off. But I didn't care. I felt like a ravenous dog hungering for some meat. I pushed it aside and slid in. "Gods! Not so hard!" She said. "Sorry, I don't know how to control this thing," I said. I thrusted for a while and we both enjoyed it. Then I emptied my... balls? Yes, I had balls. They were sensitive too. I flicked one and winced in pain. Gotta remember not to do that again. She sat down on the chair again, letting out a breath in relief, "Well, I'm less pissed now." "I have so many questions," I sat down next to her. "Does it feel better or worse than doing that with a vagina?" Rigmor asked before I could continue. "Don't get me wrong, it feels very good. About the same really, just different. I don't know that I have enough experience with my vagina to make a judgment call on that one." "Really?" Rigmor asked, "I'd think a girl like you has had like... sooo much sex." "Only like a dozen times with a vagina," I replied, blushing, "And all the same two men. Mostly on the same couple days." "Who? Aventus and Calleius?" I nodded. "So what are your questions?" Rigmor asked, "Not that I could answer them." "Well, first, is this thing going away? Do I need to use it a requisite amount of times before it does, or am I stuck with it? Why the fuck did they give me this thing?" I pressed on my stomach, "Do I still have a uterus, or was this a total conversion? If I have both, where do I pee? Do I still menstruate? If so, where does it come out? Is my anus a cloaca?" "Those are all valid questions," Rigmor said. "Oh, what the hell... am I supposed to do with this, in a skirt?" I grabbed my penis and flopped it around again, "Ah great it's getting hard again." "Most men would kill for that refractory period," Rigmor said. "The legion armor has a tunic that looks like a skirt. Could you... get Calleius for me?" I asked, throwing my armor on. "Sure," Rigmor smiled. When Calleius entered, I was fully dressed, "Hey, I want to ask you a strange question." "Sure," he said. "In those imperial uniforms, how do you keep your junk from hanging out the bottom?" I asked. Blinking, maybe thinking it was a joke, he answered me with a straight face, "Mine's not nearly that long. But we did have some men who had to tuck theirs up into their belts." That is true, the imperial skirt-thingy was definitely longer than mine. Damn my want to show off my legs and be able to squat and pee. Guess I wouldn't need to squat anymore... and that was a plus. I waited until he awkwardly shuffled out, then I tucked mine up into the belt of my armor. "Not exactly comfortable, but it's all I got for now," I said to Rigmor. We walked out, it now being nighttime, and then into the command tent. Quintus looked up at us, "We've decided we're going to attack the base camp with a pincer movement. We don't have to mix, and also we can be of help to one another." "Yeah, fine," Rigmor said, quite a lot more docile now. "I suggest my forces accompany the Countess' group for the ascent. We can offer protection and take out the renegades," Count Camaeus said. "Sounds alright," I said, then I stepped up to him, "But if you step out of line for one second, I'm going to kick your ass all the way back to Alinor." "Fair," Camaeus replied. Then he turned to Rigmor, "Please excuse my rudeness, Countess. But, are you with child?" "What?" Rigmor asked. Jura slapped his forehead, "You really are the charmer, Count Camaeus." "The fuck is wrong with you?" I asked. "As soon as you've dealt with your renegades, I want you out of here," Rigmor said. "My apologies, I assumed..." Camaeus started. "Assumed what?" I looked around. "I'm sorry, can we talk in private? I can explain," Camaeus said to me. "Okay," I said angrily. We stood out by the horses and he said, "I didn't handle that in there in the most delicate way." "You don't say," I said. "A man claiming to be the priest contacted me some time ago," he said. "Ahh. Do you know anything about him?" I asked. "He wouldn't reveal who he was, but he seemed to know way too much about me, told me of my 'destiny.' He also told me about the Countess, and you. He said she would be with child. I had assumed it would be with you, not having met you, I thought you might be a man. But now I'm not certain how what the priest said could play out," Camaeus said, "But it's none of my business." I groaned, taking a wild guess now what this thing in my pants was for. I asked, "Is he a god or something?" "Perhaps. Or an instrument of them, such a minor Aedra. We are just pawns in a game not of our making." "I agree with you. Damn this business," I said. "I was chosen by the priest to gather a force to help you. He set the wheels in motion, even those to convince you to accept our help," Camaeus explained. "Well maybe I should just refuse your help. Do it on our own, or go out fighting. Spit on this destiny," I said. "You blind fool! You would choose death over help? Do you even know who you are? No. No... of course you don't." "Tread carefully," I growled, "I don't care what the damned Aedra told you about us. You don't know anything about me or Rigmor." He growled at my obstinance. He said, "Runa Fair-Shield, adopted daughter of Queen Destana of Skyrim. Listener of the Dark Brotherhood. Rigmor, child of Ragnar. Chosen of Azura. Countess of Bruma. Princess of Cyrodiil, descendant of Morgan Mede. She is born to reign. She is destined to bear a child. Auriel.... sorry... Akatosh wills it, and it will be done. It's too late to defy the gods now. You've chosen your path. Rigmor is of the Mede bloodline, and will take her rightful place. Have you spoken with her about all this? You should trust her and stop treating her like a porcelain doll. You may come to find that actually, she does have what it takes after all." I folded my arms as he started to mount his horse. "The child will be a Septim and she will be called Kintyra. Who you are should be as plain as the nose on your face. Until next time," he said, then he started to trot off. Wait, Septim? "She's a Mede!! Not a Septim!!!" I shouted to him, but he was already gone. Must've gotten his prophecies crossed. I found Rigmor laying down in her tent. I sat down beside her as she sat up. Before I could say anything, she said, "So, what did that voice say about the chosen queen? It seems like the gods gave you your... gift for a reason." "Well, Camaeus just said you were destined to bear a child. He didn't have all the information, but that's why he thought you might be pregnant," I pursed my lips, turning my head slowly towards her. Rigmor looked down, "Well, shit. I guess we know why they equipped you." "Another question - if you did have a child, what would you name them?" I asked, fiddling with my fingernails. "If it's a boy - Ragnar, like my father. If it's a girl - Kintyra," she said. And I laid my head back and laughed. "What...?" "Fucking gods. They released you from your curse of being the chosen queen. By giving you an heir and a whole new burden," I said. "Well, if I do have a child.." Rigmor smiled, "At least it's with you." I smiled back, "I think Quintus said we're going to attack at midnight. Let's get some rest." We cuddled for a while, until Jura woke us up, "Let's go!" We traveled out to the field, moving into position by about 2 am. Quintus said to me, "Runa, the men are in position and await the call. So far, the enemy has ignored us. We have the element of surprise." "I'll take your Legionnaires with me. Once we've reached the summit, bring up Casius and the reserves with Sorella," I said. "Alright. Let's get this show on the road," Quintus said, "Signifier, call the assault." We rushed over the hill under cover of darkness and attacked a small contingent just off the main base. They weren't expecting it, and fell with minimal casualties. I casted a light spell as we ran over the hill, sleeping New Imperial Guards still waking up from the commotion we caused in the distance. We did the same, beating them while not suffering many casualties. "So far so good," Jura said, "Let's move uphill." We kept going and found the mercenaries. Seeking speed and not stealth, we charged into their campsite, this time being joined by Camaeus' elves. A few of these guys had some nice looking glass armor. I threw down a heal as we were finishing them off. "Alright, Quintus. I'm on point. You follow me, Camaeus on the flanks. Let's move out," I said. "Of course," Quintus said, then he turned to the men, "Look lively. You know the drill. No quarter, no prisoners, show no mercy. There are not men or mer. They are monsters to be slain!" We made our way into the Ayleid ruin, finding piles of human entrails strewn across bodies. Quintus said to the men, "Look. We're up against devils." We came to a large open room, and I spotted some of the Akaviri. I took out my rarely used bow, and shot at one from the stealth of the shadows. Surprisingly, it clipped him in the neck, but didn't put him down. The soldiers at my back rushed forward, taking that as a signal to charge. The Akaviri drew their weapons and fought back. I stayed in the middle of the pack and threw group heals to keep our men up. We had no casualties. When they were down, the men mustered up and I took the lead again. I passed through another passage which opened up into a cave filled with shallow water. Quintus and I crept forward into the water, finding nothing. Suddenly, Akaviri burst out from everywhere. This time, I got involved. Throwing heals, shouts, killing the horrible snake men. Throwing honor out the window, Jura and I fought General Oxi-Amaka together. As their forces faltered and ours pulled toward triumph, we were joined by Calleius and Rigmor. We sustained fairly heavy casualties, and I healed those who were still up. Jura grabbed Oxi's katana, adding it to his collection. Our core group ventured to the mouth of the next tunnel and we knew we were at the end. This one opened up to a massive room with a great stone bridge before us. And a sheer pit below. "There it is, the Bridge of Sighs!" Rigmor said. Camaeus said, "Careful. I have a feeling we're not alone." Quintus said, "You can feel it. Like a tinderbox, ready to explode." I approached the stairs, Rigmor to my right and Calleius to the left. On the platform there were three old rusted out Oblivion gates and small glowing pillar. Rigmor said, "We can just take it. There's noone here. Go get the soul gem." Morag Sethius emerged from behind the glowing pillar. "Of... course," I said. "No, I don't think so. I underestimated you. It pains me that you've come all this way just to die," Morag said. "So you're going to kill all of us?" I asked, "You have some of the strongest warriors in Tamriel in front of you." "Aww... we could have made such a lovely couple..." Morag said. "What the... fuck are you talking about you crazy woman?" I asked. "Over my dead body!" Rigmor said. "That can be arranged, peasant wench..." I cut her off, "First of all she's not a peasant. What are you even talking about?" "I shall enjoy disemboweling you and devouring your entrails... just to make sure, after my children have had their fill ravishing you again and again." "Alright," I said, pulling out my greatsword. "But you, manslayer. You have my full attention. We've reached a stalemate you and I. But I have a proposition that would benefit us all." "Don't trust her!" Rigmor said. I raised an eyebrow, looking at Rigmor, "Yeah. I know." "Quiet whelp! Know your place!" Morag said, "Come forward so we can speak intimately. Let me enlighten you on all the questions you want answered." "Believe me, I have a lot of questions you couldn't possibly answer..." I stepped forward onto the small steps, "Here's a question. What do your insides look like? Think Eternal Abyss can answer it for me?" "How about this question? Is the mortal world even worth saving?" Morag folded her arms, "The gods are crueler than any daedra. They meddle and plot in everyone's affairs. Mortals murder and commit atrocities in the name of their foul gods. What would you give to curse and banish the gods from this world?" "More nonsense. What do you want, anyway?" "I want you. I would have you lie by my side in a heartbeat. I would carry your child. I would slay the false Emperor and place you on his throne, next to mine. I would have them forge a new Amulet of Kings and relight the dragonfires, not to banish the daedra, but the gods themselves," Morag said. "I don't think any of this works like that. The Amulet is from Akatosh." "Who here has the ear of a powerful daedra and is hundreds of years old?" She asked, "Destroy the pillar and the children are freed." "But there's the whole Molag Bal thing. He's the daedric lord of rape. Not so good for this world," I said. "It'll be a new world, where everyone is equal under the great Lord Molag Bal. You and I will reign supreme over all..." She said. "You're deranged," I put both hands on my greatsword, but something... stopped me. "What the hell... are you doing...?!" I said, and my sword clanked to the ground. "Come to me... my love," Morag said, and I stepped forward, not of my own volition. She wrapped me in her arms and kissed me. I pulled back as soon as I was able, gritting my teeth, I took a deep breath to shout, but then I coughed blood on the floor. Morag touched me on the shoulder, wielding some form of dark power... and I flew into the air. As she cackled in my distant reckoning, I slammed into the cold stone, knocking the wind out of me. "Runa! No!" Rigmor shouted. Someone else yelled, "Take the shot!" Morag, who had been looking down at my crumpled form at the base of the stairs, looked up and found a child. "No!" She screamed as Sorella took the shot and hit it! Deadeye shot straight into the pillar. The dais erupted into flames as Morag screamed. I finally collected myself as the others had moved up to shield me from whatever the witch was going to pull next. I took a step back, sheathing my sword and used Quintus to steady myself. Coughing, I said, "Quintus, get the hell out here!" "Runa..." "I'll be fine!" I replied, "Take Rigmor with you. She's going to need you if I don't make it." Behind us, the flames beat back Calleius and Jura while Morag slowly, weakened, made her way to the top. Rigmor found me, "Runa!" "I don't think we can stop this now. We freed the children. But Molag Bal is coming," I drew my sword again, "Go with Quintus. It's the only way." Rather than protesting me, she said, "I love you." "Don't worry. Azura, Sithis, Malacath and Boethiah are all behind me." I imagined Sithis hearing his name and shrugging (as much as an incomprehensible over-deity of change and death can shrug), Malacath wondering what we were doing with his mace, Azura being interrupted in a conversation with the Nerevarine, and Boethiah eagerly awaiting me to activate the Eye. Rigmor nodded, and left with the rest, leaving Calleius, Jura and myself to deal with this world-shattering problem. Jura put his hand on my shoulder, blasting me with a top-notch heal, "You ready for this?" The blackness of the cave metamorphosed into a green sickly copy of the night sky, the pillar and portals rumbling with activity. Morag Sethius slowly walked back to where she'd been before, a triumphant smile on her face. I smiled to the boys, "This is one for the history books." "Good day to die, I guess," Jura chuckled. "It has been an honor," Calleius said. A figure coalesced in the distance. Growling, a great demon feeling the air of Nirn for the first time in many years. Standing twenty feel tall, Molag Bal's voice thundered through the cave, "Akatosh. Watch and tremble in your nest of filth as I drag your cities into Coldharbor. Watch in powerlessness as I drink to my victory from the skulls of your champions for eternity." Molag Bal stepped forward, his footsteps rumbling the foundations of the platform. He raised his hand and a horde of daedra charged at us from the portal he'd walked through. Calleius and Jura engaged them, working in tandem. I had other responsibilities. I reached into my pack, producing the Eye of Boethiah. It burst into a dark flame and vanished in my hand, then another figure formed at my side, also twenty feet tall. Molag Bal's voice thundered again, "Boethiah! Why are you here, you bitch?! Have you come to foul up my plans??" "Ohhh..." Boethiah nearly moaned, "The thought of devouring you has made me... I am in rapture!" Molag Bal drew a titanic mace, "Enough talk!" He swung for her head, but she produced a giant, golden sword and deflected the blow. While they clashed, I ran up the dais and helped the men with the daedra. Molag Bal and Boethiah's battle was like thunderclaps when they struck. It shook the ground around us as we fought like ants below. Calleius and Jura were standing on a mound of dead daedra, Jura healing as I got there. I buffeted a group of them with a, "FUS - RO!" Then threw down a heal to help. The three of us stood back to back, taking hits, slaying daedra, healing ourselves for several minutes. Molag Bal and Boethiah made their way around the platform, eventually fighting their way back to us. I felt a tingle. I reached into my pack. Scourge was rattling around like it was ready. I took the thing out, and I could barely contain the power that was leaking forth from it. Malacath wanted in on this battle, even if it was just through me. "STRIKE HIM! MAKE HIM BLEED!" I heard a voice like a giant Orc yelling a battle cry in my head. I sheathed Eternal Abyss and charged toward Molag Bal with Scourge. With all the strength I could muster, I slammed the thing into Molag Bal's calf. It would've felt like an ant bite... if not for Malacath. The great daedra prince parried a blow from Boethiah and looked down at me, "WHAT IS THIS?" It served as distraction enough for Boethiah to plunge her sword through Molag Bal's chest. He shouted in rage, a huge blast of fire engulfing everything and blowing all the ants away. My back slammed into one of the pillars and I fell unconscious. When I woke only a couple moments later, Calleius was picking me up. Molag, Morag, Boethiah, Scourge, and all the daedra were gone. Jura shouted over the flames coating everything, "Let's get out of here!" But the entrance had caved in. The bridge was collapsing. The entire cave was shaking violently. "Where do we go?" Calleius asked. A whisper came to me, "There is a tunnel in back... under water." Without a word, I followed the instructions, jumping off the high platform into the water below. Calleius and Jura shrugged at each other, following. We came out an ancient tunnel that led to a sewer, to a great pond, and surfaced. We followed the path upstream and found Quintus' fort. Even though we were covered in muck and daedra blood, Calleius grabbed me in front of the gates and held me. "You ok?" I asked. "I feel like I should be asking you that," Calleius said, "I thought we were going to die back there." "I'm okay," I said, "I has been an honor, Tyroni." As we stepped inside, Sethri was the first to see us, and he said, "Runa, you don't look so good." "How do you mean?" I asked. "Like, on death's door. I was going to tell you they're in the command tent, but you could probably use some sleep," Sethri said. "I'm fine." Rigmor walked out of the tent, arms crossed, and immediately said, "You really are something you know." "Aren't you happy to see me? We just beat Molag Bal. Might I add, a pretty impossible feat," I said, "I'm wiped." "Were you and that bitch together?" She asked. I grimaced, "Did you not see me go flying? Spit up blood? She used her vampire seduction on me." "Yeah, well, it looked pretty cozy from where I was standing. I wouldn't have blamed you. She was beautiful." "Yeah, if you like eight foot tall bat-ladies," I said. Sethri added, "Sorella and Casius already left with their crew. Said he'd try and join us later at the Pale Pass after he drops her off." I sighed, "What do we do next, then?" "You have a visitor," Quintus said, standing just outside the command tent, "Wants to speak with you two personally." Rigmor and I walked into the command tent to find High Chancellor Blackwell sitting before us.
  4. Hey, it's Runa. Last time we passed through Skyrim, making a short stay at Falkreath to ask Jarl Yngol if he could spare home help (and his daughter for the trouble at Table Mountain). A nice scholar named Lucien Flavius guided us to an Ayleid tunnel just past Fort Neugrad. We arrived at the tunnel at nightfall and resolved to continue on. We passed over a land bridge to a deep chasm, and some ransacked treasure chests. I casted a light spell. As we stepped into the Ayleid portion, Rigmor said, "I know this place. Loona and I used to come here when we were kids." She ran her hand along the stone, "Ayleid. Ancient race of elves. Their empire was vast. They have ruins in High Rock, Hammerfell, Valenwood. The Imperial City is an Ayleid construction." "What brought them down?" I asked. "Alessia led a slave army against them and formed the Alessian Empire out of their ashes." "How do you know all this?" I asked. "I read books, y'know!" Rigmor smiled, "Ever seen a ruin like this?" "Not in Skyrim. There's a labyrinth under the Imperial Palace," Jura said, "And I think a lot of the High Rock labyrinths were where the Ayleid learned to build such ruins. They're pretty similar, but weird." "Yeah, none in Skyrim. To see Ayleid ruins you need to go Beyond Skyrim. You won't find any in Morrowind either," Rigmor said. We continued on, coming out to a beautiful night sky. "Is there any way to get into Bruma unnoticed?" I asked. "The sewer outlet?" Calleius asked. "Yeah, that's good. It comes out west. We might be able to enter there and go directly to the keep. It's hidden, but I know where it is," Rigmor replied. We continued on towards the road and came upon a grizzly scene: Falmer, killing New Imperial troops. I looked at my companions. "The two groups can take care of each other," Jura said. "Normally, I'd agree, but I don't want Falmer wandering around the surface. Must've come through the tunnel before us from Skyrim. I've heard they wander around at night sometimes, waylaying travelers," I said. Jura sighed, "Fine, but you're paying my repair bill." The Falmer won, having gotten the drop on the troops, but we then got the drop on them and killed them off. We looted the bodies and continued, allowing any future patrols to make their own assumptions. As we walked over the ridge and got in sight of Bruma, Rigmor said, "They're only blockading the east side. If they want to starve us out, they need to stop supplies coming from Skyrim. Those troops must've been patrolling the route to Apple Watch." Rigmor pointed us to the sewer entrance, and we fought our way through a few simple rats, finding the entrance. We pulled ourselves up into a bathroom off a supply room (luckily, it'd been cleaned recently) then walked through the Lord's Hall to the meeting room. It was morning. Sigunn, Freathof, Malesam, Cerys, and the captain of the guard who had all been getting ready to start the day, turned to us, stunned. "Wow! The gods must have a plan. They've delivered you to us at the perfect time," Cerys smiled. "My baby girl! What have they done to you?" Sigunn said as she hugged Rigmor. "I take it you were not seen entering the city?" Malesam asked as I sat down with them. "Nope," I replied, "Alright, what's the situation?" Malesam responded, "Two days ago Robere arrived under a white flag of parley. He demanded we surrender the city. When we refused, he cut off our lifeline to Skyrim. They've started constructing trebuchets and a log ram." "Robere said you'd perished in the fire, but luckily Rigmor had already sailed for Roscrea before I could get to her," Cerys said, "Morag said she would get to the bottom of the fire. But she hasn't been seen since." "I'll bet she left for Mount Table," Jura said. "Table Mountain," Freathof corrected, "Sethri informed us of everything. I assume he found you?" "Yeah, we're up to speed," I said, "So, now what..." Rigmor, who'd been pacing the whole time, chimed in, "Yngol is going to mount an attack, traveling through the Ayleid tunnel. When he does, we can go out and destroy the trebuchets. We can take control of the road into Cyrodiil and defend it from the heights." She continued pacing, "The mountains behind our backs are impassible and offer us natural protection. Once we gain control of the road, any attempt to take the high ground funnels their troops into withering fire from our archers. In that time we can reinforce the city, trade with Skyrim and fill our stores for a long siege." Rigmor looked around for a second, then she looked at me for validation. "Countess. Keep going. I love it," I said. "I'm sorry, I didn't know my place..." Rigmor said. "This is your place," Jura said. "Your place at the helm of your citizens," Malesam smiled. "Please continue, my child," Freathof nodded, "We're proud of you." "Alright," Rigmor clasped her hands together, "We hold them off as long as we can until Leyawiin brings his main force to bear. We are many. We surround them with Yngol's help. It would make it impossible for them to starve us out. They'll bring a bigger army, but this will buy us time. When Yngol arrives he'll have Sorella with him. With the city secure, our group takes Sorella to Chorrol where we meet up with Casius." "We meet up with Quintus Legion, we take Table mountain, destroy the Bridge of Sighs and that bitch is History," I added. "From there, there are a lot of variables," Malesam said, "The western counties would have time to support either side. Quintus would need to decide who he allies with." "The best we can hope for if the other counties get involved is a stalemate, with Yngol and Quintus," Jura said. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it," I said. Captain Grimhold stood and said, "This sounds like an excellent plan. Excuse me, m'lady. I must attend to the defenses." Rigmor nodded. Malesam gestured to me, and said to the group, "Meeting adjourned, I must discuss the details of Table Mountain with the group." Sigunn and Freathof left to perform their duties. "Ahhhh," Malesam started, "I have spoken with my mistress. She is interested in our endeavors to thwart Morag Sethius. So much so that she's taken it upon herself to become directly involved if need be. Let's just say it's personal. If things go very badly and a certain Daedra appeared in person, she could also intervene." "Tamriel doesn't get much of a break, does it?" I asked. Malesam laughed, "No. My mistress has instructed me to give you this." And he sat an eyeball down on the table. "Ew," I said. "This is the Eye of Boethiah. If Molag Bal enters the rift, use it to signal her. But that's not all," Malesam reached into his pack and laid a glowing, Daedric mace in front of me. "Scourge?" I asked. "Indeed." "Odd choice. I assume she took it when my mom beat Malacath, as part of our last Rigmor-centric adventure. You know, I'd have preferred Goldbrand. Or maybe the Ebony Blade. Send her my regards," I said as I picked it (and the eye) up. I could feel the weight of it, not just being heavy... but being blessed by a daedric prince. I put it in my pack. Malesam stood up, "I have matters to attend to. Oh, and please inform Captain Grimbold to sound the bells once Yngol starts the attack. There isn't much we can do until then." He left, leaving the four of us. Rigmor finally sat down where Malesam'd been sitting. "Well, here we are, back in one piece," I said. "Pfft. For now," Rigmor said, "What do you want to do?" "You did pretty good back there. You'll make a fine leader," I said. "Pfft. Yeah right. I just want all this to be over." "Well, you're doing great. Noone said it was going to be easy." "Thanks," she said, "Hey, you guys wanna grab a beer?" "It's ten in the morning," Calleius said. "Also, aren't you barred from the Tap and Tack?" I asked. She laughed, "The Countess of Bruma does not get barred." We went over to the wall where we saw Captain Grimbold standing while the boys headed to the Tap and Tack. He turned to us and said, "Ma'am, I placed the garrison on high alert, and placed sentries on both gates, spreading men on the East Wall." "We noticed patrols on the Applewatch Road," I said. "They're just part of the blockade out of range from our archers. North and West is impassible for them, but if they get close we can pick them off. Our only problem is we're cut off from supply lines," Grimbold said. "As soon as Yngol starts the attack, have the Cathedral sound the bells," I said, "Be sure to get the civilians inside for safety." "Yes, ma'am," "Is this all we have?" Rigmor asked. "All fighting age men and women without children. Although I haven't heard from the Fighter's Guild. Just a retirement home for old veterans and lordless knights to muster. Might want to talk to Ser Gregor there." "We'll go check them out." As we walked in, an aged knight in plate greeted us, "Countess, it's an honor to receive you here at the Guild. I am Ser Gregor, spokesperson for the knights in residence here. How can we be of service?" "Thank you, sir," Rigmor said, "As you know, our city if under siege. Runa and I are here to ask you, all of you, for your help in the battle to come." "As you know, the guild is nowadays a refuge for homeless veterans and lordless knights. Some of us consider ourselves 'retired' and though well mastered in the art of combat, might be a little rusty." "I remember a few years back membership was dying. I tried to help the guildmaster then, but I guess it didn't work out for them," I said. "We're wary to run headlong into battle, especially against such odds." A lady orc, who seemed to be hanging out in underclothes, piped up, "I like the odds." I turned to Gregor, "I think it would help morale. And we need everybody on deck." "If only Ariel Sethius hadn't run the Mage's Guild out of Cyrodiil," Gregor said. "We have help. An army from Falkreath is going to attack their flank," I replied. "Hmm... a simultaneous strike. Who is leading the reinforcements?" "Yngol Stormblade," I replied. "Aha! I know of the man. He's a formidable field commander. Please, sit, help yourself to refreshments while we talk this out," Gregor said. As if warming up to the idea and showcasing their experience, they gave us a rundown of their skillsets, Gregor first, "I am from the West Weald. My father owned one of the largest vineyards south of Skingrad, his father before was one of the last Knights of the Nine. I served under the count of Chorrol. I came up against Sethius in the field, and he eluded my contingent by passing into Elswyer. By the time we marched to Bravil, the Imperial City was lost. Skingrad and Bravil wanted to fight, Cheydinhal struck a deal with Sethius, and Chorrol ordered us to retreat to protect his own assets. As a matter of honor, I could not continue in his service. Kvatch and Bruma declared themselves free. Preferring the mountains to the... giant crater, I came here. When I got here the Fighter's Guild was already gone - boarded up. Lady Sigunn allowed me to open this hostel." Then he turned to the big Nord to his left and said, "This is Ser Bercilak of the Green." He just growled. Then Gregor faced the aged redguard man, "Ser Amon of Rihad." Amon said, "Amon Vynar, knight and former servant of the Lord of Rihad who died during the march of thirst after the city fell to Arannelya. I spent many years as a sellsword, finally finding this place of refuge many months ago." Gregor turned to the lady orc, "And our newest member, Tish the Blade." Tish slipped an aged suit of blades armor over her head. Then she stood, "I'll fight. I was born to fight." "Now, Tish, you know the rules. All members must agree." "Bah! By the time you come to an agreement, the fuckers will be inside our walls already," she spat, "You have my sword for having the balls to stand and fight. It would be an honor. Won't it, B?" Bercilak got up and growled at her, and she growled back. "Kill, B!" She roared, then chuckled. The man got up and drew his maul like a wild beast. He slammed it on the small table behind him. It cracked and threw all it's contents across the room. Then he repeated it with the other table, running off to the second floor. Tish was laughing the whole time, "I fucking love that guy." I smiled, chuckling unexpectedly and said, "What the hell just happened?" "You'll have your answer by tomorrow," Gregor said flatly. We walked out. Rigmor said, "Those two have issues." "Yeah, but I like their energy. We could use them in a fight," I smirked, "C'mon, I could murder a cold beer." We walked to the Tap and Tack, and a thick cloud cover started to roll in. Colin gave all of us a round on the house. We drank up quick and got back to the Captain. The boys waited at the gate after Jura said, "I have a bad feeling." "More of your old soldier vibes?" Rigmor elbowed him. I walked up to Grimbold, "We talked to the Fighter's Guild." He nodded, then turned to look at something out of the corner of his eye. In the oppressive fog that'd started to cloud the gates outside, a trebuchet flung a blast, hitting the wall right below us. "Fuck! Attack's started!" I shouted. The second blast flew out of the fog, blasting down the gates with an explosion. "Hold the line!" Jura shouted as he and Calleius drew their weapons, leading the charge. I took a step back, archers surrounding me. What I wouldn't give to know the 'Clear Skies' shout. "What are you doing?" Grimbold asked. I sprinted, jumping from the castling off the wall, charging into the mist. I dropped into a big group of Leyawiin soldiers. "FUS!" I blasted those on one side to their knees, slashing at the men on the other side. "I'm here!" Calleius shouted, ever my protector. He plowed his way through the circle, guarding my back. After a moment we'd downed them and I said to him, "They're hitting the gate! Support them!" "What are you going to do?" Calleius asked as he charged away. "I'm going to take down that trebuchet!" I said while sprinting. Come on, friend. I can feel your presence. I need you now. "SHADOWMERE!" I shouted, and he was just... there! He dipped his head and I swung onto him, a lone dark rider charging toward the trebuchet team. I vaulted off the black horse and we engaged the men together, "Kill!" The red-eyes beast gave a snarl like, 'You don't have to tell me to do that!' We split them in groups, each taking three. I slashed through my first target while Shadowmere hoofed two. When we were both on our last one, New Imperial soldiers backed them up, but our forces streamed out of the gates, supporting us. And I knew we'd prevailed. We finished the rest, set the siege weapon on fire and headed back to the gate. Captain Grimbold said to me, "That was some show you put on back there." "What's the situation?" I asked. "The gate is damaged, but we can fix it. We didn't lose a lot. They must've been testing our defenses. Gods help us if they build more of those trebuchets." "Inform Sigunn everything is under control," I said. "Yes, ma'am," the captain said, then he shouted, "Get this mess cleaned up, get that gate back up! On the double!" I found Rigmor, Tish and Calleius. "What's the matter, buddy?" Tish said to Calleius. "Seems my armor bit the dust," Calleius pried the cuirass that'd been cracked in half. "You alright?" I asked, seeing a bit of a gash on his side. "Tis but a scratch," Calleius said, and I chuckled. Then I put my hand on his side. He jumped at bit at my touch, then I healed him, closing his wounds. "Thanks, Runa," he smiled. Tish smiled really big at our interaction, "Hey, interested in some old Blades' armor?" "Blades armor is some of the finest armor around. I would be honored," Calleius replied. Expecting her to provide him with a separate suit of armor, Calleius blinked when Tish just pulled her armor off and handed it to him. She chuckled, "Don't worry. I have a new set back at the Guild." I smiled really big, reaching down to a nearby New Imperial Captain, "Look what I found!" "Gods, Runa, you know me too well!" Calleius replied, and took a new Imperial dragon cape from me, similar to his old one he'd lost in Roscrea. I turned to Tish as Calleius changed his armor, "I thought there were only like... two Blades." "I joined back in 208, before the barrier thing. Gotta admit, it was nice being out here without Delphine breathing down my neck for a few years. I heard they got a lot of new members lately. I went up North a few months ago right after it came down... but I did not go to Sky Haven Temple," Tish laughed nervously. "I can tell you what I did up there. Lots of dungeon crawling. Haven't had this much fun since Whiterun, eh, B?" He handed her the new suit of armor, growling. "Thought it would be safe seein' as Whiterun is full of sweets. B got so shitfaced, he dropped his sack of gold on the floor, splitting the sides, and as he bent down to gather his coin... some asshole hit him over the head with a heavy wine bottle. Let's just say they're not going to remember that day," Tish chuckled, "Well, we gotta go. Gettin' dark. We're going to vote later. I'm sure the guild will help out. See you guys later." We went back to Tap and Tack and had some drinks with the boys. Then we went to her apartment and slept - they upstairs and us in Rigmor's bed. It seemed like an instant, but I woke up to Jura saying, "Yngol's started the attack!" Us four approached Captain Grimbold and his garrison. It was raining when we walked out, but then moments later, it started snowing, as if nature couldn't make up its mind. Rigmor said, "Captain Grimbold, prepare to sally forth. We need to destroy the trebuchets and gate ram, then reinforce Yngol." He nodded, "Yes, ma'am." Rigmor addressed the garrison, "Now is our time. If we lose the city, we stand to lose everything. Our allies in Skyrim have come to our aid in our time of need!" The fixed gates swung open and Rigmor yelled, "Follow me to victory!" I was at the front of the charge, and found Yngol's men hitting their small encampment from the back. Only a couple archers were turned in our direction. I hit them with an Unrelenting Force up on the wall as the army ran forward. Bruma's fighters swept cleanly past the gate, colliding with the New Imperial troops and pincering them with the Falkreath troops while I leapt up onto the walls and towers and attacked the archers directly. Once they were down, I supported Bruma's men. It seemed the enemy was divided and confused by the time I got here. I dealt a few killing blows, but it was generally a bloodbath. The cleanup was quick. Yngol and a large group approached. "Yngol, you old dog, what have you found?" Jura said from behind me. "It wasn't ours. She says she's with you, Runa," Yngol said. A dark brotherhood initiate kneeled before me, "I have brought you what was requested." I looked over to find two Falkreath and Bruma soldiers flanking... Ser Robere de Medallius. "Excellent. Now I know why their defense went so badly," I said, gesturing for her to stand up. "Couldn't have come at a better time," Yngol said, then he peered over to me and whispered, "I know those colors. I thought the Dark Brotherhood had been destroyed, both here and in Skyrim." "That's what we wanted you to think," I smirked. "We? Didn't know you were with them," Yngol blinked, "All I can say is I'm glad you're on our side." About this time, Rigmor approached, and she pulled out Azura's Bane, "I'm going to kill him!" "Go on you little shit! Do your worst!" Robere said, "How long do you think it will take for the houses of Cyrodiil to unite if you kill me? They'll descend on this pox-ridden shithole, and Bruma will be a black smudge, just like fucking Kvatch! So I dare you!" "That's not a very nice thing to say, I'm from Kvatch..." One of the soldiers said. "Robere as a hostage gives us an edge. I suggest you let the others go, so word gets to Leyawiin," Jura said. Rigmor exhaled, "Alright. Have him taken to prison. I want him guarded around the clock." They took Robere away, and Rigmor said, "I'm not stupid y'know. I was just mad." The Leyawiin soldiers ran, and Rigmor continued, "Did you bring Sorella?" "Now that we hold the heights it's safe. She'll join us shortly. Grom's protecting her," Yngol said. "But... Grom is Bobby's bodyguard," Rigmor raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, well. Grom worked for your father way back when. He's one of mine. And Tiny works for Malesam," Yngol said. Jura chuckled at him, "Didn't know you had the makings of a spymaster." Yngol grinned, punching Jura in the shoulder. "I can't believe you've both been spying on me this whole time," Rigmor said flatly. "Truth be told, it was Baa-Ren'Dar's idea," Yngol said, "But we need to look after each other. There are a sad few good people in this world worth protecting." Rigmor seemed to accept that, and they headed back toward Bruma. I waited until everybody cleared out and I faced the Brotherhood initiate. They most likely left me alone thinking we were talking about Brotherhood business. "Good work back there. One question, are you wearing a short skirt and a thong?" I smirked. "Yes, Listener." "Hey, you can wear whatever you want as long as you get the job done. Normally I'd say I'm the Listener so I don't need to pay the organization, but this is for you alone," I handed her a bag with 500 gold, "And you could probably make off with whatever these guys were carrying, if you wanted." She bowed and I nodded as I walked away. When I made it to the keep meeting room, Yngol was already laying down the ground rules, "I'd never turn my back on you, Sigunn. Ragnar'd never forgive me. I know you guys can protect Sorella. But I want Casius to know he is personally responsible for her well-being once you guys meet up. He is to never leave her side, and she is not to participate in the main battle. This is not negotiable." "You have my word," I said as I sat down. Freathof said, "Speaking of which, we received word from Casius. Quintus is on our side." "He will know the way. But be careful of border raiders as you go through the mountains," Malesam added, "You'll need to go that way due to the increased New Imperial patrols. The element of surprise is crucial to our success. If you meet any patrols, silence them." "Clear the way before Sorella goes in. One shot is al she'll need," Yngol said. Sorella walked in about this time. "Wow!" Sigunn said, "You got so big!" "Hi Sigunn! I've missed you guys so much. Mom says hi," Sorella said. "It's good to see you, Sorella. I'm just sorry it has to be under these circumstances," Rigmor said. "It's okay. The children are waiting for me. I want to free them," Sorella replied. "What children?" Freathof asked. "The children in the glass house. They say Sofia is okay," Sorella responded. "Now, child..." Freathof's eyes welled up with tears, "Don't play games..." "They said don't blame yourself for what happened to her," Sorella continued, "You never gave up looking for her. They said not to be sad anymore." "Do you need to retire, Freathof?" Sigunn put her hand on his shoulder. Freathof shook his head, taking a deep breath. "For now..." Malesam changed the subject, "Let us reinforce our position here, and await word from Casius that he's in position. I also expect response from the enemy, now that we have Leyawiin's son. And now, I have matters to attend to." Malesam and Sigunn walked out. Yngol stood, "I need to return to the encampment at the road. Grom and Tiny will be guarding Sorella." "She can stay with me," Rigmor said. "Good," Yngol said, then turned to the two, "Keep watch outside Rigmor's room." Freathof still sat there, alone, and I walked up to him putting my hand on his shoulder, "We're going to get through this." He took another deep breath, "Yes. If there's any way my knowledge can help you, please ask. May I make a suggestion?" "Sure," I said. "In times of turmoil, I seek the divines. Perhaps you should visit the cathedral once in a while. I know I'll probably go later tonight," Freathof said, wiping his eyes. At first, I scoffed at the idea. I worked for a creature who was above the divines and daedra, but something in me thought, "Why not?" After all, these people were going to bed and it was only afternoon. Calleius and Jura had already scuttled off somewhere, so I was alone. I took it as a sign, and walked to the cathedral. When I got there, nobody was inside, and I sat down at a pew, admiring the stain-glass windows. A voice spoke from behind a pillar, "When your strength fails you, trust in the Nine." A priest approached me with a slow, methodical walk. "Nine just sounds so much better than eight. It even rhymes," I said. "You mask your worry with humor. I sense you carry a heavy burden, my child," he said. "Let Lord Akatosh help carry the load, if only for a short while. The light will always find a way into every aspect of the dark. Tell me what is troubling you my child. This is a place of sanctuary, a house of truth." I sighed, "I don't suppose you know anything about an Alessian prophecy..." "I know of it," he replied. "Right? Chosen Queen? Cursed land... minotaurs? Really a great tale. But what if somebody is chosen for a destiny doesn't want that destiny?" I asked. "A weary traveler carries a heavy burden and comes upon a fork in the road. There are many paths, many more untrodden. But you can only choose one. This is a hallowed place and the Divines are listening. Ask them what it is you wish for." After a long while, I replied, "Rigmor's destiny is a curse. And I wish she could be freed from it." "If that is what you wish, then it shall be so. But there is a price that must be paid," the priest replied, "And perhaps her destiny will come to pass in it's own way. Only the divines know." "What...price?" I looked over to him, and wondered how a simple priest could make such a bold claim, almost like a lawyer making a claim on behalf of the gods. Didn't priests just quote the scriptures related to the divines? "You will know when the time comes. Until then, there are signs to follow and tasks to be done. Go forth knowing that you too are blessed also. Rest assured the Nine look upon you always," he stood, and walked back toward the back, "They are proud of their daughter and well pleased." When I lost sight of him, his footsteps stopped. I peaked my head around the corner, and he ... was gone. Freaked out, I briskly walked toward the exit. Another priest walked in the doors, "What do you need, my child?" "Oh, um... I just spoke to the other priest," I replied. "What other priest? It's only me here," he said back. Feeling the hair standing up on the back of my neck, I rushed out of there. I rushed back to the keep, it being evening now. I happened by Rigmor's room and peeked my head in to find the two girls sleeping. Then I went back to my room. I changed into casual clothes and laid on my bed for a little bit, relaxing, but there was a knock. I opened it and Rigmor was there. "Thought you were catching up with Sorella," I said. "She's asleep. Long journey. I wanted to talk to you," she replied. We sat down on the bed. "Listen, I know I'm annoying and I'm sorry." "Sorry for what?" I asked. "I know he said some horrible things about me, but I want to see Bobby," Rigmor replied. "Gods, why would you ever want to do that? I say forget him," I shrugged. "I think... I just need to have some closure. I trusted him, and he betrayed me. And you!" Rigmor said, "Anyway, would you come with me?" "Sure," I shrugged. We walked toward the dungeon and I said, "Remember, keep your composure. Don't let him see you flinch." We passed the guard and he nodded to us, unlocking the cell block door. As we approached, Robere turned his head, "So, what? Have you come to gloat? Then go ahead. Gloat." Rigmor let out a deep breath, "I came to ask, 'why?" "Surely it's obvious," he stood and walked over to the bars, "But then again, you were never very bright, were you?" "What happened to the man I once knew?" "It was all a façade. Open your eyes and wake up, Rigmor! This is the real world. Power is all that matters. Ask your friend, she knows," Robere said. Then he laughed, "Next you'll be telling me we had something, that we loved each other!" "I did love you," Rigmor said angrily. "You're pathetic. I used you. You used me when you accepted my hand in marriage, you hypocrite." "That's not true! I never wanted to use you, or hurt you..." Rigmor said back. "Trouble is you never understood the game, Rigmor. You should have died in that fire, Runa," he looked at me, then back to her, "You could've had it all! Marrying me would have solved all your problems. I would have made it a quick, painless death. It's got to be better than hoping for freedom for the rest of your life. Like a sparrow tethered to a post that tries desperately to fly away, only ends up beating itself to death," he continued. "Shut your filthy mouth!" Rigmor yelled, running out of there. "That's it, run you little skank," Robere said. "That's not very noble of you," I said flatly. "The best place for her and you is a long, long way away from me. I am scum, and I deserve everything that's coming my way. I don't give a fuck," he said. "Well, this was probably a mistake," I said, turning to leave. "What do you care?" Robere asked. "The reason you're still alive is because I care," I smiled, but this was the smile of somebody who'd killed hundreds of people. "It is a form of freedom: death. That's the price we pay for the game we play," Robere said, "I know what'll happen to me if we lose the war. But you'd better hope we don't win it. For what it's worth, if you were in here, you'd better hope it was me and not Morag Sethius standing where you are." "Buyer's remorse?" I asked. "You just make sure she disappears for good," Robere said, "When the time comes, all I ask is you make it quick for me." I found Rigmor out in the great hall. "It's okay to be mad. It's okay to be afraid." "I know. We'll make it through this," Rigmor said. Then we went to bed. I was woken up by Cerys, who led me to the meeting room. Malesam addressed me with a full house, "Ahh. We've received word from Casius. He's ready for us. But there is other news." "What's that?" I asked. "The Count of Leyawiin took control of the valley, and sent an envoy to parley." "Who is it?" "Lord Chancellor Blackwell. He has come alone, risking his personal safety to discuss terms," Freathof said. "Whatever they are, they must be officially approved by Sethius. We have significantly changed the parameters on the whole situation by capturing Ser Robere," Malesam said. "Let's hear him out," I said. "Slight issue. He'll want to speak directly with the Countess," Malesam said. "We fear Rigmor is not accustomed to negotiation at this level. Up until now, we've worked out our problems together. By protocol she must discuss and negotiate terms with him," Freathof said. "They're probably probing us," I said. "Probably," Jura said, eating breakfast at the table. "Please, just try to prepare her for the task," Malesam said. I went with Cerys to Rigmor's room, where she announced me for some reason. Noble crap, I forget about these things. I told Rigmor about the situation. Her first response was, "So I should play the good Countess and discuss terms with him? I can do that, and make an effort to look presentable." "Just about the size of it," I said, "You should 'consider' any proposals and we will 'let him know,' to buy time." We walked to the audience chamber, me on the left with Calleius, and Jura standing with the guards and Captain Grimbold at the door. Blackwell bowed and entered as Rigmor walked in, still in her chainmail. She didn't sit down, but stood as he approached. I smirked. "Countess Rigmor. May I thank you for accepting my request for an audience. I hope we can talk frankly, and openly about this situation we've found ourselves in. I came here today in the hopes that this unfortunate set of circumstance can be swiftly overcome. The Emperor wishes to find an amicable agreement from which we can all benefit, bringing about once again the peace we had until recently enjoyed. Therefore, I have a proposal." Rigmor held up her hand, "Stop." "Yes, m'lady?" Blackwell asked. "Don't think I don't know why you're here, Lord Chancellor. You're going to offer me nothing. You think we'll bow down to you. You think we're weak. You think we'll drop everything to please the Emperor, who has up until now tried to kill us!" "M'lady.." "I haven't finished!" Rigmor cut him off, "You come here as an errand boy of a bandit king who has usurped an Empire that belongs to the Mede Dynasty and the true Emperor. A bandit king who is at the beck and call of a Daughter of Coldharbour, the real power behind the throne! I will wager your proposal would have me marry the very same piece of crap you were sent here to set free. You expect me to comply because I fear you. But I don't. I fear for Cyrodiil. I will fight you, because it is right and just! I've fought better armies than that Leyawiin rabble you have in the valley, and I DARE you to come fight me. If you can climb over your mountains of dead men already out there." Rigmor took a breath, seething with rage. Jura and I were looking at each other about this time, both nearly unable to contain our entertainment. Calleius was just speechless. "I declare Bruma to be a free city again and I revoke my signature on the Noble Decree. Any noble that brings themselves to the gate of Bruma in an act of war against my people, will have their heads decorating the parapet of MY walls for the whole world to see. Tell your Emperor if Leyawiin wants his son back alive, cease hostilities immediately. Else I will leave a bloody trail of skulls all the way to the gate of the Imperial City!" I clapped as Blackwell looked on in stoic despondence. And with that, she walked out. "Damn, son. You just got roasted," Jura smirked. "I... erm..." Malesam stuttered. "No need, Malesam," Blackwell said, all business as usual, "I will relay the Countess' proposal to the Emperor. Before I leave, I humbly ask to see Ser Robere in person." "Of course, Lord Chancellor," Malesam replied. "I'll take him," I said, leading him toward the dungeon. He followed me silently and we approached the prison cell. "Ah, thank the gods," Robere said, "Blackwell, have you come to free me? About time, I knew these rats would crumble." "No, Ser Robere. I'm making sure you're alive as part of the negotiations. Please behave in an orderly manner until the time comes for you to return home." "This is a fucking joke, right? You tell these peasants to let me the fuck out of here or..." I was going to cut him off, but Blackwell cut him off first! "Or you'll what? Juggle some balls? Dance like a clown? Piss your pants?" It sounded so much more insulting coming from the stoic chancellor. "Fuck you Blackwell. Wait til my father hears about this," Robere said. "Shut up you worthless little shit. The reason we're in this mess in the first place is because of you. You're an embarrassment as a noble, and a commander." I was chuckling under my breath. Blackwell continued, "Foul mouthed wretch. Five minutes with a hot iron would teach you some manners. If you dare utter one more sound, I'll have your tongue torn out of your mouth, right here, right now." We exchanged a glance, and I said, "Nobody said you'd have to go back to daddy in one piece." Robere shut up with that. "Thank you, Runa," Blackwell said, "Is there anywhere we can talk privately?" We continued out to the main hall. "I certainly believe we can come to some arrangement, but I think you'll agree I cannot repeat to him what the Countess stated." "Why not?" I asked, but I couldn't help from laughing. "Come now, you can't honestly expect me to relay that message." I folded my arms, "You know she threatened the Emperor. You could just tell him. Why protect her?" "Because, her outburst is perfectly understandable. What I got from that is Bruma is remaining in a defensive position for now and will not resort to aggression unless provoked." "Well, there's your message," I said. "Believe me, whether I think she's right or wrong makes no difference at the moment. I serve the seat of Cyrodiil. Nothing personal." "You know, she was advised to listen and consider options," I said. Blackwell laughed, which was an odd sight, "In actuality, she moved me with that speech. I feel like I'm growing attached to her. It's a shame she got caught up in these power struggles. Leyawiin is more of a threat to the Emperor than Bruma and he knows it. He'd be more inclined that Robere reside here permanently. Besides, this play will buy you some time to get to Table Mountain." "Say what now?" I asked. "Come now. Don't insult my intelligence. My loyalties lie with whom sits upon the Ruby Throne. Last time I looked, Morag Sethius is not the Emperor He'd do better without her," he touched his nose, then he turned to walk away, "Next time we meet I expect us to come to a peaceful settlement. Until then, farewell. Whom so ever takes off the head that wears the crown reigns supreme. I hope I have made myself perfectly clear. Good day." I walked into the meeting room to find everyone gathered and I said, "What an intriguing man. You know, he pretty much admitted he knows we're going to Table Mountain." "Damn him! Always a step ahead. Surely we would have heard if anything was amiss," Malesam said "I took it that he wants Morag dead as much as we do. He seems to be casually stepping aside so we can remove her from the equation," I chuckled. "Hey Runa, is it time to go yet?" Sorella asked. "Yep. Let's get out of here," I said. Rigmor, Sorella, Jura, Calleius and I crept out the sewers, the same way we'd come in. From there it was a peaceful journey across the Cyrodiilic countryside. We passed some Ayleid ruins, Rigmor and Sorella talking as we walked. "How's your mom?" Rigmor asked Sorella. "Not bad. She wasn't too happy about moving to Falkreath though." "It was for the best, though, right?" Rigmor asked. "Yeah, I've made lots of friends. Lot of kids there and in Helgen," Sorella said, "Don't get me wrong, I love it in the mountains. It's all I ever knew. Angi, my mom... still prefers to hunt to put meat on the table, even though we're the Jarl's family now. She takes me with her so I can get better. And the wolves won't attack her if I'm there." "I have the same thing happen," Rigmor said, "Usually bears." I chimed in, "You guys should meet the Forsworn. My mom figured out she can befriend animals with their help. Maybe you guys have the gift too." "Oh really? That's so cool!" Sorella said. I then thought about the Forsworn and realized I wasn't sure exactly how they befriended animals. I just shrugged to myself. Sorella continued, "I miss Destana. I got to see her when she and Ulfric made dad the Jarl, but I wish she'd come on this journey too." "Just ahead there's a treehouse and an old camp," Rigmor said. "Treehouse? That's cool. Can we check it out?" Sorella asked. I shrugged, "Why not." "You're the best!" Sorella said as she ran up to the tree and stated to climb. Rigmor followed. Jura folded his arms, "We really don't have time for this." "Lay off. She's a kid. We can stop for a little bit," I said. "Going to get dark soon," Calleius commented. "You guys keep watch. We're going to travel through the night. All the better if we get a chance to rest now," I said sternly. "You're the boss," Jura said. "When did we decide that?" I asked. "Oh, we had a meeting and nominated you. Figured you could use the experience," Jura chuckled. I climbed up in the tree to find them in a small 'house.' It was a nice little structure with a great view of the Imperial City. As they talked about random things, I could feel the shadows crawling up as the sun went down. I felt myself dozing off. Sorella asked me, "What happened to my parents, anyway? Did they just leave me?" I started awake, "Killed by the Thalmor. We were too late to save them. I'm sorry... They were going to kill you too." "I figured something bad happened. Thank you," Sorella said. Rigmor looked over the edge and whispered, "I hear voices." I crept to the edge and looked. I whispered, "Six of them. One heavy sergeant, four legionnaires and a merc pathfinder." "Think we can take them?" Rigmor asked. I looked around and found Jura and Calleius hiding off the road. "I'm sure we can. But we have Sorella. Best stay up in the tree for now. It looks like they're not going anywhere anytime soon," I said, and climbed down the tree. "Well, well, well, what do we have here? So friend, what business do you have skulking around the forest at dusk?" The Sergeant asked. I thought about it for a second, then Calleius walked up the path, "Oh, there you are, dear. Hello, sirs." "What are you doing?" I asked. "Play along," Calleius said, then he kissed me. He turned back to them, "We're just on a family outing. Picking... " He looked around, and said, "Mushrooms." "Mushrooms? Really?" I whispered. "Ah, mushrooms, huh? Like for a picnic?" The Sergeant chuckled. Rigmor slid down the tree, standing next to us. I silently screamed, 'Why would you come down?? You're the one who's recognizable here!!!' "Probably ain't a mushroom out here for miles," one of the soldiers said. One of the other ones was looking up into the tree. He said to Sorella, "Nice bow, kid." The one furthest away said, "Wait! That's the Countess! Rigmor of Bruma!" I slapped my forehead, "Oh, no. We're just regular~" Seeing they weren't buying it, I shouted, "FUS - RO!" Knocking them off balance. Jura sprang from the brush behind them and they were barely able to put up a decent fight. I eyed Calleius, "I think you were just looking for an excuse to kiss me." He blushed, then shrugged. Sorella slid down from the tree and ran over to a shrub nearby. Then she vomited. Rigmor put her hand on the kid's back, "Just breathe." "Never had to kill a person before," Sorella said. "It happens to all of us. You did really well," Rigmor said. "Guys, we need to move," Jura said. "Let's get the hell out of here," I said. We crossed the Orange Road, now under cover of darkness. Sorella and I got out front with Rigmor behind and the boys in the back guarding our rear. We passed an Ayleid ruin, and it started to rain as we passed through a farm. It was pouring by the time we found Casius' camp, and just after midnight. The guys set up the big tent immediately and we, the girls, went over to Casius. "Wondering when you'd show up," Casius said. The men settled down for sleep. I smiled at them from the unusually placed chair I was sitting in, "I remember when you guys took all the watches. We'll do the same today." Of course, Rigmor and Sorella were already talking to Casius.
  5. Hey, it's Runa, one more time. Last time Jura, Calleius and I rescued Rigmor from the Roscrea prison, during an unexpected attack by Akiviri. We traversed the frozen Tundra and found the southern, alpine portion. Rigmor got sick from the Akiviri's disease called the Living Death, and an old woman in the woods cured her, with my help. I woke up in the chair. As I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes, Rigmor, up and about, was saying, "So you spent how many years as a slave? How did you make it through?" "If somebody got me, I'd kick em in the cobblers!" The woman laughed. Rigmor laughed back, "Being tortured by the Thalmor was pretty bad." I remember that now. That splinter group called the New Order (more deranged than the Thalmor), torturing her because she was 'special.' Maybe it was the early form of what the Thalmor would eventually do to my mom. "Don't feel sorry for yourself. Keep your head held high. Don't let them see weakness. It only adds flames to the fire. You dominate them through your confidence," the woman said. "You sound like my dad," Rigmor said back. "I'll take that as a compliment," she said. Then she looked over to me, "As you can see, she's made a full recovery and my word... some of the things she has to say about you. Remember how I made the concoction and you'll be fine if this happens to any of you." "I don't suppose you have a recipe to make my hair regrow overnight..." Rigmor said dejectedly. "Sure I do. But it'll take the blood of a werewolf, as they have natural regenerative properties," the woman said, "And a lock of your hair." "Well, that sucks!" Rigmor said. "Ahem, actually, weirdo Morag Sethius dropped a lock of your hair into the labyrinth, before Jura tried to blast her. Think she wanted to antagonize me," I said. "And you kept it?" "Yeah, I actually forgot I had it," I said, "I'm kind of a packrat. Though not as bad as my mom." Rigmor furrowed her brow, "Well, this seems pretty frivolous. Probably too dangerous to take a chance killing a werewolf for me. We've wasted enough time as it is." "Eh, I'll do it. Two birds with one stone: I'm going to make sure it's not a danger to any of the southern villages," I said. The woman marked the location on my map. I got on Shadowmere again and rode northwest, reaching it in about an hour. When I reached the cave, there was a fire, a few boxes of supplies, a tanning rack and a fishing net there. The werewolf walked out of the cave and I drew my greatsword, on edge. We stared at each other for a few, pregnant moments. Then he said, "Did that old crone send you to kill me?" "Huh," I said, "You're in control? That's pretty rare. Usually have to be taught." "Who said I wasn't?" He spat, "Tell the crone to mind her own business. I'm not hurtin' nobody. What do you need from me, anyway?" "I came to get your blood to make a hair tonic for my friend," I replied. "You came all the way out here... to kill me... for a hair tonic?" "I mean, it's kinda stupid when I say it out loud," I said. "So you wanna fight or not? You look pretty tough, but I'm no slouch. A worthy opponent." "Have you been hurting anybody? Humans?" I asked. "Look at all the bones. They're animal bones," he said, "Tell you what. If you sit and talk to me for a while, I'll give you some of my blood." I shrugged, "Got anything to drink?" "Here, have a beer," he grabbed a drink in his clawed hand and tossed it to me. I sat on one of the crates, "I'm Runa." "Davinius. My friends call me Dave. Though I don't have any anymore. I grew up in Chorrol. Got bitten in Skyrim. After I turned a few times, I knew I had to get away from civilization. I had no control at the time. I stole a boat from Solitude and ran aground here," he pointed to the maidenhead of the ship sticking out of the water, "This island has a lot of free space. Been out here for years. Plenty of game. Ships run aground from time to time and I salvage." "So the old woman said you never change back?" I asked, taking a long drink. "Yeah, I fought some Akaviri a while back and got sick. When I woke up (werewolf healing, I guess) I was better, but I was like this. Don't ask me to explain why, but I have easy full control and can't change back," Dave shrugged, taking a drink, "But just as well. I love it here. Your friend must be pretty special for you to tangle with the likes of me." "My mom was a werewolf for a while," I replied. "What? There's a cure back in Skyrim?" "Well, becoming a vampire," I smirked, "And yeah, Rigmor is a pain in the ass, but I like her." "Hang on," Dave walked back into the cave and produced a vial. He slashed his wrist with one of his claws, filling the vial, then he licked his wound, closing it instantly. "Thanks," I said. "Could you do me a favor?" He asked. "No prob," I replied. "If you go to the village to the south, could you put in a good word? I'd like to trade with them. Maybe they could send a guy every now and then. Also - come back and visit sometime," Dave handed me the vial. "Done. And I'll bring some good drink too," I replied. "Gods be with you," he said as I rode off on Shadowmere. All in all, didn't take very long. The old lady made the potion and Rigmor drank it. "By the next moon, you'll wake up with a full head of hair," the woman said, "Now, haven't you got someplace else to be?" I nodded. We all got on the road, when I heard a voice from the shack. A different voice. "Dragonchild," she said, and I turned. "What the heck?" The woman was wearing a gossamer white dress, basically glowing. "I TOLD YOU!" Jura shouted. I ran back into the house to find... it was covered in cobwebs. All accoutrements were gone save a table with a note on it. It read, "I'm sorry." I backed outside, slowly. Then I said, "Time for us to go." "Yeah," Jura said, "Let's get the fuck outta here." "What's wrong?" Rigmor asked. I guess she didn't see the woman or the interior. "No more questions," I said. We passed into the woods and eventually ran into the coast. Then we followed it a few miles until we found the village. The Inn was the first building, and a small mass of people'd gathered outside. "What's going on?" I asked. "You must be the group he was talking about. You better sort your friend out before we hang his sorry ass," one of the men said. "Hmm... friend?" I asked, puzzled, "Oh hey, before I do, have you ever seen a werewolf, north along the coast?" "Yeah, the beast doesn't come down here though. Thank the gods." "I've met him, face to face. Talked to him," I said. "I find that hard to believe, considering you're still alive." "His name is Davinius. He's in control in his wolf form. He wanted me to bring you a message. He means you no harm. He'd be willing to trade goods." "Shoo-wee! I doubt anyone will take him up on that offer. But I'll let everybody know. Maybe we'll have some brave souls," the man said, "Now go sort out your stinky friend." Jura said, "C'mon Calleius. Let's go see if the trading boat is here." "Stinky?" Rigmor asked, then she walked in. I followed. When I caught up she said, "Sethri." "Greetings Runa. Rigmor. I knew you'd be coming here. Waited since yesterday to give you information from Azura, though I can't recommend the service. It stinks!" Sethri chuckled. As we sat around the table with him, I realized he was completely naked. "You stink Sethri," I retorted, "You cleared out the whole bar!" "Good beans, m'lady. Good beans." Rigmor said, "You're unbelievable. Please stop so these poor people can come back to their Inn." "Also, might have some sort of gastrointestinal problem," I murmured. "I'll behave," he replied. Then he asked, "Ever heard of Table Mountain? It's just over the border with Hammerfell, North of the Brena River. This is the place Morag Sethius goes to gain power. She uses a living soul gem with the souls of children. On a plinth below the mountain in the catacombs. Called the 'Bridge of Sighs.' Those vampires at Bloodlet Throne were harvesting for this. Azura herself informed me Molag Bal intends to use this location once it reaches full power to bridge the gap to the mortal world. Once Alessia's curse is lifted, Morag Sethius plans on using this event to take the mantle of the 'Chosen Queen,' perverting the prophecy. She got you to kill the last Minotaur, didn't she?" "Hmm... I thought she wanted him to kill me. I guess she thought only me and Jura could actually kill one of the strongest minotaurs. But he just offered himself to me. She played me... again!" I banged the table. "What do you mean usurp?" Rigmor asked, "I thought she was the chosen queen." Sethri turned to me, "She's really quite innocent, isn't she?" I blew out a breath, flapping my lips, "Pbbbtt....who here has a royal bloodline?" "Ugh..." Rigmor winced, running out of the room, "I think I'm going to puke." "Can we destroy it?" I asked. "Yes. The rift created might still let Molag Bag through. But Malesam has a backup plan," Sethri said. "Seems like he always does," I smiled. Rigmor sat back down, "Let's talk about something else besides me." "That's what I keep saying!" I laughed. Suddenly somebody shouted from outside, "The village is under attack!" The three of us rushed outside in the sunset to find Jura, Calleius and a bunch of the locals fighting more Akaviri. Project 17_03-22-2022_13-47-41-435.mp4 This was again, a small strike group. I guess they underestimated how much the locals were itching for some action. We rushed around fighting their scattered forces for a bit. Dave jumped out of the woods and I nearly attacked him. He helped in the defense and spoke with the villagers directly. When it was over, Jura held up a note written in Akaviri and read, "Kill the girl or die trying. M.S." Sethri folded his arms (now wearing robes), "There are many of these guys at Table Mountain. Tsaesci and vampiric thralls. I advise you to get to Bruma right away and speak with Malesam. One more thing. The soulgem can only be destroyed with the bow Xenia's Wrath, and by a child tainted by the calling." "We've got Sorella," Rigmor said, "Destana and Runa saved her from being a victim of the vampires years ago. But she's still just a child. Must be about twelve by now?" "Yngol is her adopted father now. Married her mother Angi, who is a crack shot with the bow," Sethri said, "Yngol'll want to come along and crack some skulls, I'm sure. Check in the Falkreath area." "I remember him. He's a Stormcloak commander," I said. Jura nodded, "Our trader waited for us. I guess he's pretty impressed with the amount of wealth you throw around. Let's get outta here." Sethri called out to us as we boarded the boat, "I'm going to clean up this mess then head to Table Mountain. See you there! Azura be with you." "It's been fun!" I shouted to the shore as we pulled away. I immediately turned to the boys, "You guys do whatever you want. I'm going to go to sleep while we sail." "Me too," Rigmor said. "We didn't contribute much today," Calleius smiled back at me, "We'll take the watches." Rigmor laid down on the only bed, "Runa, I'm having a hard time taking all this prophecy stuff in." "You're the chosen of Azura. I'm the chosen of Sithis. Gods like to play favorites. It's a lot more shitty than it sounds, you know?" I stated. "I'm so stupid not to realize it earlier. What if I don't want to go along with this? I want to tell the gods where they can stick their master plan," Rigmor sat up. "You're not stupid. And for now, it's their rules. Their way," I said. "I love you, Runa," she said. About that time, Jura walked in and laid down in the bed behind her. She ignored him, but I gave him the angry eye. "What? Calleius has first watch. Man's gotta sleep," he smiled, closing his eyes. So when Rigmor laid down, and the two barely fit, I leaned back in the chair and we all fell asleep. When we awoke, Jura was opening the door. End of his watch and daylight. "There's a pirate vessel out here," he said, and I walked out with him. Floki was out on deck staring at it, "At least it's not another Akaviri ship. It was hell getting away from that thing. But Roscrea has a lot of shallows." "What's that symbol?" Calleius had stepped out too. "East Empire Trading Company, but blacked out," Jura said. "Best thing you guys can do is hide in the cabin. No way we can outrun them on the open ocean. I'll try and parley. Once they realize I sold most my stock in Roscrea, they might leave us be and go on their way. Not the first time I've had dealings with them. Not as cutthroat as some of the pirates I've seen," Floki said. So we waited quietly. What else could we do? About an hour of them slowly gaining, and Floki walked in, "They know you're here. They asked for you by name. They promised safe passage to the mainland. Oh and better hurry, they say an Imperial War Galley is tailing them." "This should be interesting," Rigmor said. We stepped out on deck and a man said, "Well if it isn't the VIP's. Come on, this way." We walked over the gangplank and the man shouted, "Hey, Zan! Got some buddies for ya. You ain't the only girl on this ship anymore." "Up yours Karles!" A woman yelled back. "Just you two," Karles said to us, motioning for Jura and Calleius to stay outside. Rigmor and I followed Zan into the captain's cabin. "Casius!" Rigmor yelled. She ran up and hugged him. "Aventus?" I asked, "What are you doing here?" "I got worried. You have been on a far off island for at least a week," Aventus said. "The boy told us about your predicament, wanting to hire us, and I recognized you two from the description," Casius smirked, "I'm captain of this ship, so naturally, I was happy to oblige. Good for him too. He couldn't have afforded us." Aventus threw up his hands. "And look at the two of you!" Casius shouted, "I remember when you showed up in my camp. We were across the Pale Pass from Yngol's camp in a stalemate while the Civil War was just starting and this Redguard woman, and two Nord girls come strolling in asking for help. Little did I know you were going to become Queen and Princess of Skyrim and Countess of Bruma! By the gods, you're taller than me now, Runa!" "It's so good to see you, Casius," Rigmor said, "What are you doing here, are you a pirate now?" He sat down at the table, "Sit. Drink. We'll catch up." We both sat, Aventus standing behind him. "After I retired, I took odd jobs. Tried fishing, then trading. Finally got good enough the East Empire Trading Company offered me a job. Shipping goods from Solitude around the coast all the way to Torval," Casius explained. "Wow, Elsweyr. Bet you made a killing while the time split was happening," I said. "Yep. We and a few other lucky ships knew just the right path to traverse between Skyrim's time and regular time. We were so good I told the EE to give me a bigger ship and pay me enough gold to have my own company of marines on board. We stopped company ships from being attacked overnight. I got promoted fast. Then one night we got hit by a bad storm. We blew off course a hundred miles. Took us weeks to get back. We got reported missing. When we tried to dock at Solitude, I was accused of piracy and we were made outlaws." "Well that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of," Rigmor commented. "It's actually common for ships to go AWOL. You can make a lot of money if you go black flag. They probably assumed we'd outgrown our partnership. Baa'Ren-Dar is helping us clear our name. He's been keeping us up to date on current events. Seems you showed the Thalmor what for. I only wish I could've been there. Apparently there's a large resistance mounting in Elsweyr as well" "Good to know. Guessing he's how you got access to Torval," I said. "We checked with the locals on Roscrea once we got there and they told us where you were going." "I need to go look at this ship," Rigmor smiled, "Pleeeese?" "Don't get in the way and keep away from the sides," Casius said. She charged off, giggling. "I'd better make sure she doesn't fall off," I shrugged, getting up to follow her. We were already underway, making good time toward Skyrim. She was already on the bow of the ship, "Ahh, breathe in that sea air. This is something I could get used to. I wonder if we sail far enough, would we call off the edge?" "Yeah. It's all flat," I replied, smirking. "No way!" "Some say it's mudcrabs stacked on top of mudcrabs all the way down," I laughed. "Har har. Very funny." "Hey, let's go talk to Zan. I bet she could use some girlfriends," I grabbed Rigmor's hand. As we approached, Karles said, "Hey Zan, looks like the kid wants to get girly on your ass." "Up yours Karles," Zan said. "Don't be fooled kid, Zan's got a bigger set of balls than the Captain!" He shouted, then laughed raucously. "Fuck off Karles. Have some respect!" Zan said back, "Come on girls, let's go talk in private, away from these assholes." I walked past Jura and Calleius doing some sort of squat competition, back up to the bow. "So you know the Captain, huh?" Zan asked. "Yeah. Haven't seen him in years," Rigmor replied. "He doesn't talk about his past. I figured he doesn't mix business with personal matters. Most the men are very loyal to him, including the marines." "Were you one of Casius' veterans?" Rigmor asked. "Nah, I was in Solitude training to be a Royal bodyguard. Served the queen for a couple years. I figured it'd be a change of pace working for the East Empire Company, guarding their shit. That's where I met Karles," Zan said. "Are you and Karles... y'know?" "Fucking?" Rigmor giggled and I think I blushed a little. Still not completely open with the subject, I guess... "Hell no. Karles isn't my type. Such an asshole," Zan continued, "I only tolerate him because he's good with the ropes and the bow. And he's had my back many times. What about you? The Captain says you're a countess. You don't look much like one." Rigmor chuckled, "I'm still new to the whole countess thing. And I'd just grown my hair back when they got it again." Zan smiled, "You look fine. Kinda cool and sweet at the same time." "I'd never make it without this woman," Rigmor put her hand on me. "Steady like a ship, eh? Always finds her way home," Zan said. "I don't know if we're gonna make it home," Rigmor shrugged, "I live a life of uncertainties." "Rigmor, you make anywhere you're standing, at any time, your home. You'll never be homeless," Zan said. "Dang," I said. I walked back toward the captain's cabin, realizing I didn't have much to add to the conversation. I passed Calleius, eating with the crew. Aventus and Casius were sitting across from each other. "See, one of the best things you can do, even as a legitimate trader, is get better with that sword of yours," Casius said, "That way the pirates won't mess with you. And your men will respect you more. When you get men." "Aventus, how have you been moving goods around? Have you done any business so far?" I asked. "I've made a good deal of money," he replied, "I've mostly just been using big shipments and buying passage. But the duty fees are killing me." "Wanna buy a trading boat?" I asked. "Uhh... sure? How much?" He asked. I thought about it for a second, "For a friend, eight thousand." "Hmm... I can manage that. When I get back to Solitude I can work out the details." "Sure. I think he's been running along behind us for protection. You can probably hitch a ride back to Dawnstar. I'm kinda blown to the winds right now. If I'm not there soon, just feel free to manage the product. Floki is the man's name. He seems to have good business sense," I replied. "Hold on," Jura said. He'd been laying in the bed. Not sure how I didn't notice him. He said, "This woman is trying to ... what's the opposite of fleece? Give you a handout...?" "Grandpa. Don't worry about it. I don't need the money." "I just don't want you to make bad decisions because you're sweet on some boy," he said. "How much did you pay for the ship?" Aventus asked. "... Ten thousand," I replied, "But I don't want to break your legs over it. Call the two thousand... opportunity cost." Aventus grinned, then said, "I'll just have to take two thousand out of our future interactions. I'm going to change over to the trading boat and go to Dawnstar, like you said. Now that I know you're safe, I will see youall later." Then he walked out. "Now that was a good exit," I blinked, "I wonder what that means." "You know what that means," Jura groaned, "I told you. Do not mix business with pleasure." "Who're you, by the way?" Casius asked. "I'm General Jura of Hammerfell," he said as they shook hands, "I never met you personally, but I heard you were involved in the war. Me too." He nodded, "Good to meet another veteran of that sham." "I see I'm not the only one disillusioned by the Concordat. General Sialius is probably still stewing." "I heard the man took his whole legion to Skyrim. Guess rumors were true," Casius said. "They helped us out a lot against the Thalmor invasion," I replied, "But, hey. I need your help." "Say no more. Well, except what you need," Casius chuckled. "I need to bring Sorella with me to Table Mountain. I need to get into Hammerfell unnoticed," I said. "Once I drop you off, I can sail to Anvil and speak with Quintus. Most of his legion are my old veterans. I'll wait for you near Chorrol to guide you over the mountain pass into Hammerfell. We can follow the Brena River. Cut across the Orange Road from Bruma." Rigmor rushed in, "A ship!" Casius, Rigmor, Jura and I walked out and I noted the trading boat had already taken its leave in light of what was on the horizon. "It's that Imperial War Galley. The Colovia. Been following us since Solitude," Karles reported to Casius. "Can we outrun them?" Rigmor asked. Casius licked his lips, "Oh, I have no intention of running." Jura slapped the man on the back, "My man!" I could feel myself smiling a bit too. I was itching for some action after all this sailing. "Battlestations!" Casius shouted, "Maintain 10 knots, bearing ahead!" "You heard the Captain!" Zan shouted, "Archers! Form up on the starboard palisade! Marines on the main deck! Move! Move! Move!" Casius walked into his cabin, beginning to strip off his light armor and started putting on plate. "You mean to fight them? That ship is huge. How many of them are there?" Rigmor asked. "Not enough to take on a company of Imperial Marines, and of course, us!" Casius chuckled expectantly as he strapped on his shield. We charged out as the gangplanks were being laid. Marines and New Imperial Troops clashed between decks. While the two forces were swarming, I blasted the back half of the plank with a, "FUS - RO!" allowing our boys to push on through and get the upperhand. We swept through them, just like Casius thought we would. Project 18_03-25-2022_11-51-30-526.mp4 After a few moments we swept up the archers and I searched the bodies for the key to the cabins. In short order, we were bursting into the captain's cabin. "You'll hang for this, Casius Varon! You and your filthy criminal scum will swing from jibbets until the ravens pick your bones clean, traitor! You dare defy your Emperor?" "He's not my Emperor," Casius said. Karles took out a bow. Casius nodded, and he shot the man. "I was ready for him to shut up," Karles chuckled, "Lookie here..." While the others were rifling through the various goods, I opened the chest in the corner. "Ohhh baby!" I pulled out a black greatsword, some black armor and some gold. "Bah," I said, "This is very nice armor, but it's plate and it's fitted for a bulky man. Put it in the ship's sell pile. Not as good as Jura's but better than mine. If it fit." "But this," I looked over it and read the inscription, "Eternal Abyss. Even has a badass name." Giggling with glee, I threw it in my pack for later examination. "Look at this," Casius said, "A map of Nirn with shipping routes to Akavir and our island chains. He's marked points of interest along the coast of High Rock and Black Marsh." "Landing sites?" Jura asked, "Invasion points?" "It's suspicious. Akavir is steeped in mystery. No contact since the disastrous 3rd era invasion by Uriel Septim V. Lost an Emperor and a whole Legion. They all became undead. Or regular dead." Zan said, "Captain. These are some kind of official letters. One in a language I've never seen before." Casius grabbed the one in our language, "M.S. to Captain Drusus of the Colovia. Under no circumstances must you dock at the prison. Wait in Solitude. Deliver the cargo and inform Oxi-Amura to eliminate the targets at all costs. Leave no witnesses. Bring the girl dead or alive with you to the rendezvous point." "Must have been heading there," I said. "So Morag had the Akaviri make a detour from reconnaissance of the island chains to attempt to kill you at the prison." Jura grabbed the note written in Akaviri, "So... they're planning a full scale invasion. She's mad that it's taking so long to build a fleet. Apparently their shipbuilding is not on par with Skyrim's." "How long did they say?" I asked. "A couple years," Jura replied. "So she's been colluding with an outside enemy," I folded my arms. "Yeah! And then you came along and wrecked their plans," Casius said. "I'm going to see what their 'cargo' was," I said, "Gold, riches, artifacts, who knows." Casius, Jura and I walked down to the hold. "Well, it's not gold," Jura said as we walked past rows and rows of empty cages, dried blood suffusing them. I sighed, "The cargo was people. So the Empire is in on this then." Casius said to Zan as she walked in, "Take the helm of our ship. Retrieve the boarding ramp and set sail for the rendezvous point." "My thoughts exactly," I said, "But what to do with this ship?" "I say we burn it," Casius said, "Wretched. I don't want the Empire's memory attached to this foul business. They won't suspect us in our ship - it's just a large trader." "Fine by me," I said. I approached Rigmor on the bow of the ship. "What's going on?" She asked. "The cargo is people. Morag is selling us out to the damned Akaviri for food," I growled. "These bastards have been trading people?" Rigmor said, "Well, are we going after them?" "Hell yeah we are!" I said back, "And I'm gonna take a nap while we head there. Wanna cuddle?" "You know it. I could use some rest to be honest," Rigmor replied. I saw Jura on deck, getting ready to set the ship ablaze. "How do you know Akaviri, anyway, old man?" I asked. He sighed, "There was a secret raid in High Rock about twenty years ago. They struck at Anticlere. I think they were looking for some artifact deep in one of the labyrinths. Swept through the town like a wildfire. I came up with the bright idea of burning their ships while they were in the labyrinth. Of course we looted the ships before we did. Then I walked into the labyrinth and forced a procedural re-generation. There's an obscure a long way to do it, if you're a mage. I'm not a master, but I can read a procedure. They were mostly killed by the creatures as they spent nearly a week down there. We picked off the remnants when they surfaced." "You're full of surprises," I replied, "Guessing you learned the language from their books." "Yeah. Apparently they've been doing small secret raids for years, stealing precious artifacts. I figured I'd learn how to read their plans so I could inform the kings of Hammerfell and High Rock, which is where they'd been focusing their efforts. From then on we knew where they were going to hit and the kings could plan accordingly. Guess this is their latest scheme. The king made me an honorary knight of Anticlere, said I single-handedly stopped the raid. Of course, I trained with the knights for a while and earned my place. I'd already been a knight in Hammerfell for many years." "Well that's a hell of a story. We're going to get some sleep," I said. I watched the moons from the bow for a few minutes while we changed course, then I went and laid down. One thing I could get used to was the beauty of the ocean and the night sky at sea. Rigmor and I woke up the next morning and I went out to find deep blue waters. Casius and another man were watching the Galleon on the horizon. He said, "Get the marines out of sight. We want to appear a normal trading vessel. Pull down the flag and fly the EE. The one that's not blacked out." He looked over at me, "You and your strike team wait in the cabin. When I call, we'll storm them like the gates of Oblivion." He called to Zan," Maintain full speed ahead on the helm!" I walked back into the cabin. Calleius, Jura and Rigmor were getting their equipment together. "Ready for a fight?" I asked. "You know it!" Rigmor said. "I have your back, Runa," Calleius said. I kissed Rigmor, then I pulled Calleius' helm up and kissed him. "You're so confusing," Rigmor said. "Friends kiss, don't they?" I asked. "Not really. Not like that," Calleius replied, "But I'm not complaining." Jura looked at me. "You don't get one," I said. "I'd take a hug," he smiled. So I hugged him. About this time, Casius shouted, "Attack!" We flew upon them, Calleius and Jura leading the charge. Jura roared, ready to give these bastards what for, and plowed his way through the Akaviri on the gangplank. I swung the Moonlight Greatsword, sending a bladebeam across the gap and slashing their men. While Jura went straight for the archers, and Rigmor and the marines were fighting the mass to our left, Calleius and I punched through their lines. We got pinned behind five of the Tsaesci. Calleius acted as my shield as I swung my new sword around him. When Calleius was beaten down and fell to one knee, I put my hand on him, picking him up. "We fit together pretty well," I said to him as we continued to fight more Akaviri swarming to meet us. "I'll remember that later," Calleius grinned. "Finally coming out of your shell, I see?" I laughed, slashing over his head. "It's your fault!" Calleius slammed his shield into another. Jura was blown back off the helm platform and I turned, finding their leader. Casius and I rushed from different corners of the ship. I swapped to Eternal Abyss. "How do you challenge them to single combat?" I shouted as I walked up the stairs, deflecting his blows. "They know!" Jura healed himself, standing. The Tsaesci and Marines gave us a wide berth as I matched blades with Oxi-Amura. We clashed, moving around the helm deck. He came down in a downward strike and I sidestepped. It was almost like everything around me was in slow motion for a tick while I swung for his head. He just narrowly avoided. "Aka!" He said as he swung. "My response: KRII!" I shouted, marking him for death. He steeled himself, making three strong swings, then disarming me of the Eternal Abyss. I pulled out the Moonlight Greatsword again. We circled each other for moments while the two forces continued to clash around us. Taking a page from my book, Jura stepped up behind him and stabbed him in the back. Oxi-Amura collapsed. Jura grinned, "I owe you one from earlier!" We rushed down the remaining Akaviri in fairly short order. I snagged a key from Oxi and the group ventured into the cargo hold. Before us were prisoners in filthy cages and rags. They cowered as we entered. Casius shouted, "You have been rescued! Please be patient as my crew brings food and fresh water. You will be administered an antidote and the cages opened." I was unlocking as he was talking. "You must stay here in this holding space. Please try to remain calm. We will be traveling to Torval and safety shortly," Casius continued, "Karles, take the helm of this ship. I'll meet up with you later." Rigmor administered the antidote. I looted the Akaviri, and we retired to the cabin on Casius' ship. A couple days later, we arrived off the coast of Dawnstar. They gave us a small rowboat to make our way to shore. When we made it, I asked, "Hey, wanna check and see if the tonic worked?" Rigmor pulled off the hat she'd been wearing since we picked her up, and long brown hair spilled out. "Wow. Well I guess that's magic for you. How does it look?" She asked. "Looks great!" I replied. While we were there, I left the group at the Inn and visited the brotherhood. "Hey, Listener," she said, "Intel we have about Robere is he's leading the siege at Bruma. Someone was sent from the Falkreath Sanctuary earlier this week." "Good. We're going to be down there shortly," I replied, "It's good to see you." "You know, I never got to tell you this, but, it always made me feel bad that you had things figured out and you were only fifteen. Now I don't feel as bad since you caught up with me a little bit. And I have actual direction in life." I chuckled, "You're doing great." Then I walked by the docks and found Floki and Aventus talking about the business arrangement. "Yeah, he's with me," I said, "He's quite the gifted trader. I just wanted a ride and have more money than I know what to do with." Floki shrugged, "I'm still getting paid, so, whatever floats yer boat! Literally!" He chuckled to himself. "Speaking of money. This is 4000. I can get the rest when I get to Solitude," Aventus handed me a large sack of coins, "Care to settle up.... that 2000 now? I could grab that cabin again." I blinked. "What are you asking?" "I think you know what 'm asking," Aventus put his hand on my shoulder. When I didn't argue, he put his arm around me. I stared at him for long moments. I was considering what he was saying. Then I shook my head, "I seriously doubt you could provide 2000 septims worth of gratification. You're awfully full of yourself." Aventus turned to Calleius as he was walking by, "Well, I bet both of us together could do that much work." I blinked again, my eyes getting wide. I stared at Aventus for what seemed like an eternity. "I'm not hearing you say no," Aventus said, "I was just being flirty... but if you want, I'm sure we could make all your dreams come true." "Well...I...uh..." I stammered. Was I actually considering this? Jura and Mom made it look so easy to just fling themselves into these things. Calleius looked confused, "Just what service are we providing, sir?" Aventus took a step and whispered something into his ear. "My gods. How crass could you be?" Calleius rebuffed. "C'mon, man," Aventus said, "Look at her. She's into it. She's heavily considering throwing caution to the wind. Have you and her...?" Aventus looked at me, then at Calleius, and he had his answer with our silence. "I mean... I wouldn't be... opposed to the idea," I said meekly. "What about Bruma?" Calleius asked. "You could send Jura and Rigmor on their way on horses. Then you and Calleius follow on Shadowmere," Aventus grinned, thinking himself a godsdamned genius, "C'mon, you know you want to try this out." I smirked, saying nothing, as if me not saying yes wouldn't implicate me in any wrongdoing I was about to commit. "You know, you don't have to do this," Calleius said. "Do... you want to?" I asked. "If it makes you happy," Calleius replied. "You're a treasure," I said. Then I looked at Aventus, who'd been looking at me expectantly, "FINE! Book the cabin." I told Rigmor and Jura some BS thing about doing jobs for the Dark Brotherhood and told them the plan for us to catch up with them. I think Jura was onto me, but he didn't say anything. They got horses and rode south for Falkreath. We got the cabin and stayed there all day and all night, until the next morning. I went in first and got down to my bare armor. Calleius walked in in full armor and started to undress. Being the giving lover that he was, he tenderly helped me get undressed, then went down on me until I was very into it. Aventus had snuck his way in at about this time. Me being awkward and inexperienced wasn't sure what to do, I let Aventus direct me. Apparently, he'd been making a lot of friends in his travels as of late, sometimes a couple at once. I knelt between them, alternating sucking both of them. From there they traded me sucking one and being taken by another until I'd had many orgasms and they both had their first. We slept for a while, then went again, similar things happening. Then a third time. Then a fourth, but this time through badgering Aventus convinced me to try DP. And let me tell you... it's intense. When I realized we'd been napping, eating and having sex for about 20 hours when the sun came up. Calleius and I got up and left. I awkwardly thanked Aventus for introducing me to the debauchery my family is known for. As we were riding on Shadowmere, Calleius and I were pretty quiet most the way. Finally, he asked, "Did you enjoy yourself?" "Ahhh...." I sighed satisfied, "Yes. Let's just... have normal sex for a while." "You would like to... continue having sex with me?" "Yeah, I'd like that," I said. We reached Falkreath only a few hours after Rigmor and Jura did. They'd gotten there during the night, taken a nap and were sitting down to breakfast in the Dead Man's Drink when we walked in. "Hey!" Rigmor shouted. "Good of you to join us," Jura said, "Did you get all of your stabbing in?" Rigmor tilted her head, "I wonder what that means..." "Don't look into it," I said, sitting down, "Do you know where Yngol is?" "Not really. He used to have a camp on the southern border," Jura replied, "Believe it or not, I know him from the Great War. Bastard didn't even come see me when I was interim Jarl." "Interim Jarl?" Rigmor asked. "Yeah, the Thalmor executed the Jarls of Riften and Falkreath. We were able to get Markarth's out safely, and Morthal's didn't get killed during the war," I explained, "Speaking of which, did they ever appoint a new one?" "You know as much as I do," Jura replied, "I've been on the road with you. If there is though, he'd probably know where Yngol was hanging out." We finished up and walked up to the Jarl's Longhouse high on the hill above (except Calleius, who knew he wasn't going to be much help here). As we approached the Jarl's throne... "Where the hell did those boys put my damned chair? Another prank," the man shook his head, "Such is peace-time." "Hey, we're wondering..." Rigmor started. He turned around. "Yngol?!" Jura exclaimed, "What're you doing messing around in the Jarl's Longhouse?" "Jura?" Yngol asked, "Haven't seen you since..." "The Great War." "Right. And to answer your question, I AM the Jarl now!" Yngol replied, "King Ulfric and Queen Destana handed me the decree a couple weeks ago. It'll be official at the next moot." "They let you sit on that throne, you fat fuck!?" Jura grabbed his arm and they shook hands like they were arm wrestling. "Still tougher than you, old man!" "Who's old? You're almost as old as me!" Jura said. "Yeah, but I wear it so much better," Yngol spat back. "Didn't see you fighting to take Falkreath back when the Thalmor held it," Jura said. "No shit! I was there, you old codger! I was on the Stormcloak assault team! You're so blind you couldn't see me!" Yngol said, "Figured you were ignoring me on purpose. And that's why I didn't pay you a visit when you were keeping this chair warm." "This chair? What chair?" Jura smirked, "You seem to have lost your throne, you big idiot!" Rigmor and I exchanged glances. "Are they... arguing... reminiscing...?" I trailed off. Rigmor shrugged, "I dunno." Yngol peered over to us, ignoring Jura's remark, "Rigmor and Runa. Gods, you two have grown up a lot. What news of Bruma?" "Well, it's under siege," I said dejectedly. "Hmm," he was looking around the immediate area, "I take it you've come for my help. If you'll follow me, I'm going to look for my throne while we talk business." We followed him, walking to the Jarl's chambers, then outside to the plaza. "Where're Angi and Sorella? How have they been?" Rigmor asked, "We heard you two got married." "Right you are. Right now - hunting in the mountains. Sorella's gotten really good with the bow." "Got any more children?" Rigmor asked, "Oh, I'm sorry. That was probably really personal." "Oh, no. But we're trying. Who knows? Maybe someday," Yngol smiled, "Ah, those assholes!" He pointed to his throne, sitting on top of the blacksmith hut. He chuckled, "They're going to get half rations for this one." Yngol smirked, "Anyway, what can I help you with?" "We're going to sneak back into the city, but the garrison needs reinforcement," I said. "Remember what I said," Jura said, "Skyrim shouldn't get involved directly." "To hell with that!" Yngol spat, "This is personal. A lot of my men have family in Bruma. And they're sick as hell of not being able to see them because of the time... barrier whatever bullshit. This siege will send them raring to go." "Besides," I said, "I feel like Ariel Sethius is turning out to be not the Emperor Cyrodiil wants." "Suit yourselves. Either way I'll help fight," Jura said. I continued, "Once the siege is lifted, we're going to travel with Casius to Hammerfell." "That old goat is still alive?" Yngol chuckled. "There's more. We need to take Sorella with us," I said. His face immediately turned from jovial and joking to stern, "This I cannot do. You'll have my men. I'll even lead them personally if I have to. But Angi would never allow it." Rigmor said, "We need to destroy a soul gem that gives Morag Sethius her power. Only Sorella can destroy it with Xenia's Wrath, her bow." "Enough!" Yngol replied angrily, "I have welcomed you into my house and now you've crossed the line." "I'm sorry," Rigmor said. "It figures," Yngol sighed, "She's been having dreams again. She's stubborn and hasn't been wearing the protective ring. In her dreams she fires an arrow to save many children." Rigmor continued, "She will be protected. Casius with his marines and Quintus' Legion will be waiting. That gem holds the souls of hundreds of children that disappeared throughout Cyrodiil and Hammerfell. It must be destroyed." "I don't know..." Yngol said. "She'll be protected," Jura put his hand on his friends' shoulder, "By the best Tamriel has to offer." "Oh, Queen Destana? The Ebony Warrior? And I'm surprised you got the Nerevarine," Yngol smirked and Jura laughed. "You ass," Jura shook his head. Yngol stroked his beard for a moment, "Angi will take some convincing. I'll talk to Sorella and let her know what's going on. She'll meet up with you when the siege is broken. Make no mistake, even if we do break it for now, they're going to bring another, bigger army." "Hmm... one thing," I added, "How do we get over the border now? They closed off the Snake Cave Trail and there's no way we can go through the gates." "I think there's an Ayelid Tunnel," Yngol said, "I don't know where it is though. I did hear there was a scholar staying at the Inn here. Maybe he can help you." I shrugged. We went to the Inn and found Calleius. I searched amidst the other patrons, and found a spindly looking man on the patio, reading a book. "Excuse me," I said, "You an imperial?" "Oh gods, they've finally come to drag me out of the city and beat me to death with my own books!" the man said back. I looked behind me and found Jura, Calleius and Rigmor following. We definitely looked like a rough-and-tumble crew. "Take a walk guys," I said, and they sat at a table around the corner. I continued, "I wanted to ask if you're a scholar. The Jarl said you might be able to help us." "Ah yes, I asked him for information when I arrived only a few days ago. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lucien Flavius. I'm a scientist, philosopher, amateur wizard, and something of a musician. Though I suppose that's more of a hobby. What do you need my expertise with?" He asked. "Well, we're trying to get back to Bruma, but we're not exactly on the right side of the Empire right now," I replied. "I was definitely pondering whether you were... well acquainted with the less savory side of things," Lucien said. "Jarl Yngol said you might know where an Ayelid tunnel is that could lead us there," I said, "What would you charge for your expertise?" "As a matter of fact, I believe I know the location. And I would take payment in the form of an adventure." "How do you mean?" I asked. "Simple. I'm here on an academic expedition. I'm fascinated by Skyrim: the flora, fauna, ruins - dwemer and nordic, the architecture... but I'm not much of a fighter. So I ask when you return to Skyrim, you take me on one of your adventures." I shrugged, "Done. Could you also inform the Jarl of where the tunnel is?" Lucien nodded, "I shall go do so immediately, then we can set off." He walked away, and I immediately heard a nearby scream. I turned a corner and two mages were running into town with some form of horrifying red eye-beast. "What the hell is that thing?" Rigmor asked. "Skyrim's got some strange creatures these days," Jura replied. "Stay weird, Skyrim," I sighed as my group and I drew our weapons.
  6. Hey there. Runa again. Last time was a whirlwind of emotion (but not really action). Rigmor signed the Noble Decree, then they branded her with treason, cut her hair and set her prison on fire. Turns out it was all a ruse to get me and Jura. We braved the labyrinth, spoke with and ended the ancient minotaur's suffering by his request, then got to a boat to take us to Roscrea. Morag told me Rigmor was already on her way to Roscrea when the fire broke out, so no suspense there. When we reached Dawnstar, I stepped off the small trading boat and thanked Aventus, "Good thing we have friends. I don't imagine you want to come with us to the frozen north to save this person you barely know." Aventus looked like he felt compelled to say yes, "Well..." "I'm joking. Please, don't come. You have an empire to build. And those fine clothes won't stand up against the cold very well," I smirked. Aventus smiled back. Jura stepped off the boat and walked over the ridge, "And your armor will? Doesn't look very padded." "Huh," I said, "I bought a couple coats at the docks before we cast off. I never thought of just putting fur under my armor. Thought I was ahead of the game this time. Again, it goes to you." I took out an armful of coats, "Want a coat, Calleius?" He smirked, "I have a liner I'm going to throw in." "Dang," I sighed, "I'm going to be the only one who doesn't wear their armor. What a knob." "I will take this cap though," Jura snagged an armored helm with fur over it. "Any idea how long the resupply for Roscrea will be?" I asked Aventus. "The supply ship guy said about four days," he replied. "Best get a room at the Inn, then," I said, "They're going to treat her like an Imperial Princess, they said. Let's hope they weren't lying about that too." We walked over to the Windpeak Inn. "Sorry, we're remodeling," the Innkeeper said. I looked over to the bed, out in the common area, and the doors being off to the Inn rooms, "We have a functional eatery, and we do have cabins for a bit more gold. There's one with three beds." "Hmm... I was hoping I could stay for a night," Aventus said, "Before I head out." I nodded to him, whispering, "No problem. I was going to sleep in the sanctuary anyway." Aventus and Calleius looked at each other as I was handing over the gold. Both of them had feelings about sleeping with me, or sleeping in the same room as me, but neither one of them was sure how to handle this situation. Jura put his arms around both of them, "Well, I'm not giving up my bed." Tensions were starting to get high, but that deflated things a little. About that time a large party walked in the door. "I think we should sample local cuisine. They completely rebuilt this town after the dragon attacks. Maybe even a couple times since your day," a woman was explaining to another woman. "Please, my apologies, your grace..." The Innkeeper started. "It's alright. I just want some food. Not that I need it, I just like your mudcrab jambalaya." "Mom?" I asked. "Runa?" "Destana?" Jura asked. It was my mom. I walked over and hugged her. "This isn't Cyrodiil," she smirked. Her usual wit. "Rigmor got banished to Roscrea. We're going to get her. This has been awful," I replied. "Yeah, well. It is Rigmor. What could you expect?" Mom threw up her arms, smiling, "Girl's cursed." "We're working through it," Jura said, "I'll keep you posted." "What are you doing here?" I asked. "Just checking on the ships for the invasion. They seem to be coming along. Also, checking out houses." "Houses? Who is this with you?" I asked. "Runa, it's me," the man said. I blinked, "Damien?" I hugged him and pinched his cheek, "What the heck, it's been like... three weeks. Your hair grew out like it's been months. What have you been doing, messing with time?" He shrugged, "Yeah, well. You know me." "Don't downplay it. My boy here is the HERO OF DAGGERFALL!!" Mom shouted it over the Inn crowd. "Uh... what?" I think Jura and I both asked. "Someday if I meet the Hero of Kvatch, then I'll have one degree of separation with all Tamriel's legendary heroes. Eternal Champion, Hero of Daggerfall, the Nerevarine, Ysgramor... and I guess, myself," Mom said. She got out her journal, flipped to the back page and checked off two boxes, then stowed it again. "So is Ocato the Eternal Champion?" I asked, "I had my theories." "Yeah, the Emperor admitted it," Damien replied. "Emperor Uriel Septim VII. Damn, he's a legend," I said, "I feel like I've come up short in my journey." "Well I was gone for about ten months, and I came back only a few days later," Damien said. "So you're older than me now?" I asked flatly, "I remember when you were a little boy and I was fifteen. It's not a race, Damien!" "I think we're about the same age," Damien responded, "I do have a baby now though. You should meet him. He's with Grandpa right now." "Grandpa? Like... the daedric prince or the King?" I asked. "Ulfric," Damien chuckled. "Have you considered that you're now a~" Jura started. But Mom cut him off, "Save it." "Damn. A kid?" I said out loud, thinking I didn't even know what I wanted to do with my life and here my little brother was starting a family. But then...who was the mother? I peered over to their group. "Tis all true," the woman standing next to Damien said. Must be her. "Hi. We haven't met. I'm Runa, Damien's sister," I said. We looked at each other for a moment. I squinted at her, and she stared right back. She was sizing me up. I felt like we two warrior women were about to arm wrestle. She grabbed my hand and shook it with a strong grip, "Lady Brisienna Magnessen. Originally a noble of Bruma, but I'm sure the present-day family has no idea who I am." "We don't do that here," I pulled her in for a hug, "Welcome to the family. This is Tyroni Calleius, my.... friend. And Aventus Aretino." "Hey Aventus," Mom said, "I haven't seen you in years. You really grew up!" He smiled, "Thanks, ma'am." Mom looked at me, then at Aventus and Calleius. Then she looked at Jura. She crept over to him while Damien, Brisienna and I gabbed about Daggerfall. Jura shrugged a little, then gave her a face, whispering, "I'm letting them figure it out." She stood on her toes and whispered in his ear, "They should just all figure it out together. You know what I mean." "Well, that proves you're the broth of my shillelagh," he whispered back, "You seem a lot like me. A lot like me. Because I would've said the same thing. But they're all pretty confused about what they want. Runa and Calleius are pretty timid about such things, and Aventus is a little standoffish." We sat down for an amazing lunch and mom paid handsomely. The innkeeper was very thankful for all the business. Later that evening, mom left. I walked over to the Dawnstar Sanctuary and checked in. "Vala, you're running things so smoothly you might run me out of a job," I said. "Thanks, Listener. Want to get some contracts for me while you're here? I could use a day off," She asked. I approached the Night Mother and gave her about a dozen contracts, most of them in Cyrodiil. Later in the evening I commented, "Seems like underneath the apparent prosperity, a lot of people are unhappy down there. Sorry I keep dumping this work on you." "She loves it," Azuk chuckled, sharpening his blade. "It's okay. Sometimes I think you're meant for even more than being the chosen of Sithis," Vala said. I slept the night there, waking up extremely early for some reason. I found the cabin the boys were staying at. Jura was outside in the cold morning air, practicing with his greataxe. It was a heavy, jagged ordeal. "You still practice, after fifty years?" I asked. "Yeah. Gotta stay sharp," he took a big drink of water and sat, "I'm not going to make any suggestions to you right now. All I'm going to say is Calleius left about an hour ago to go on a long walk. Aventus is still asleep in the cabin. I'm going to go get breakfast in the Inn proper. Do what you will with that information." He walked away, then I walked over to the door. I put my hand on the knob. Hmm.... I put my hand down. Then back on it. Then back down. Fuck it. I opened the door, closing silently it behind me. Aventus was laying there on the bed at the far side of the room, asleep. What should I do? It was like a game of chicken with my hormones. Every time I would take a step, I would doubt myself. But somehow after a moment, I was sitting on the bed with my boots, gloves, cape and backpack off. The change in weight from me sitting didn't wake him. He just turned over, throwing the covers off him and exposing his nakedness. I calmly took a breath and put my hand on his thigh. Aventus opened his eyes groggily and gave a lazy smile. "What's happening?" He whispered. "Shhh. I don't know," I said back, "I'm just listening to my body." I leaned over and kissed him, running my hand up and down his thin but defined body. He reached up to me and started to undo clasps, my armor slipping off. He started to touch me, but I pushed him down so he fell on his back, resting his head on the footboard gently. I wanted to be in control of where this went. I took him into my mouth. He let out little moans as I worked, and I found I was enjoying it. Both the challenge of manipulation and the manual skill of fitting it into my throat. After a minute I got up and kneeled before him as I continued. Maybe I was naturally skilled at this, or maybe I'd been at it too long, but he took a hint and grabbed the back of my head, thrusting only a few times. Then he emptied his load down my throat. I blinked, swallowing. I looked up at him, "Huh. I was thinking this would progress to sex, but that's fine. Do you eat a lot of fruit?" "Oh, sorry," Aventus said, chuckling, "You were just doing that for... I dunno, twenty minutes? You're very good. Are you saying you want me to stay here longer?" I sighed, "Maybe I don't know what I want. You should go do what is good for you." He was unsure of how to react, but he helped me up. After a minute I said, "Don't worry. There's always next time." I threw on my armor quickly and walked over to the Inn. I ordered a drink to wash the taste out of my mouth, and found Calleius sitting at one of the small tables, looking at me. The place was jam packed for the breakfast rush, and I took the only available seat, across from him at the table. "I wanted to thank you for being here," I said, taking a long drink, "I appreciate you." "Sorry I wasn't there in the labyrinth," he replied. "Don't worry about it," I took another drink, "I feel like you know a lot about me, but there's not much to know beyond who I am now and who adopted me. I want to know more about you. Got any family?" "My father was a Captain in the Imperial Navy. Now he's retired, living the good life outside Kvatch as a farmer. I have three brothers. I'm the oldest." "Like me. Maybe?" I smiled. "My mother, Akatosh bless her, died a few years back. Nothing special. Died in her sleep. She was almost seventy," Calleius took a drink, digging in to the plate of food the wench gave him. "Like anything, ma'am?" He asked. "I'll have the same," I said. Then I turned to Calleius, "Sorry about your mom." "Don't be. She lived a quiet, happy life." "Gods, sometimes I wish I could just have a life away from all this intrigue and death and war. In the country," I said, "I'd get some sheep." "Sometimes," Calleius looked in my eyes, "Some people are called for more." "Do you think you were called to protect me?" I asked. "Perhaps." I smirked, slapping him on the shoulder, "Ooooh, now you're the mysterious one!" Calleius chuckled, "Maybe I'm considering taking a page from Aventus' book in being daring. Or from Jura's book in being direct and decisive. Considering, mind you. I've still not worked up the courage necessary." Not entirely sure what he meant, but having my guesses, I smiled, "Let me know when that happens." We ate together. It was nice. Aventus left later that day. We slept through the next couple days when finally it looked like our ship was coming in. "This the re-supply run to Roscrea?" I asked. "Welp, they never paid me for the last one, so, I'm starting to rethink it," the man said, "Bunch of cheapskates. I could make my money back selling these goods in Haafstad. Maybe even make a small profit in Kirkmore. The Empire did offer an outrageous premium, but I haven't seen one red Septim of that since the original payout." "What's wrong?" Calleius approached. "He's not going to Roscrea," I said. "Now see here, sir. We've waited four days to board your boat to Roscrea," Calleius said. "Wait, sir," the man said, "We haven't even discussed you being passengers. Why would you want to go to that frozen shithole of a fort? Practically Atmora." "How much is the boat worth?" Jura asked. I blinked. The balls on this man. "Ten thousand septims," the man replied. "Done," I said, taking out a huge sack of coin and dropping it at his feet. "Girly, I was highballin'. Figured you'd haggle!" The boatman said. Jura messed with his beard as he talked, "How about this - you stay on as the operator and take the extra as your wages for the next few months. After all, none of us know how to handle a boat. When we get to Roscrea we'll decide whether the Empire's going to pay or you should take a trip and try to make your money back." "Shor's beard, that is a lot of gold you have just lying around," the boatman said. "I'd like to see somebody try and take my gold," I grinned. "Ohh! Just got a chill," the boatman said, "You do have a deal though. I'll peddle the perishables at the towns on the southern part of the island if needed. We can work out the details of our partnership while we sail. Hop on! Name's Floki, by the way." We sailed for a few days, finding a galley blocking our path as we approached the north side of the island. The three of us took a small rowboat to the jetty, weaving between icebergs to be stealthy. We tied the boat up to the dock. The place was deserted. And when we ventured toward the fort, we figured out why. "Everybody's dead," I said. Civilian workers, women, children, Imperial soldiers. "Whose ship is that?" I asked. "They're not flying colors," Calleius put his hand over his forehead to try and see, "Not even pirate." Jura pointed, "I hear fighting in the distance." We pulled out our weapons and charged up the bank. We found Imperial soldiers, losing badly to some other Humans and Argonians? Large Argonians? But wearing armor that I'd never seen before. "What the hell are these guys doing here?" Jura growled. "Who are they?" I asked. "Akaviri!" He yelled as he charged into battle. He and Calleius aided the Imperials, and at once a cadre of the creatures charged in from behind us, swarming me as I lagged behind. Four of them used a vampire drain on me, but I blasted them with, "FUS - RO!" Some of them shouted, "Aka-ko!" And then they all turned their attention towards me, even leaving Calleius and Jura, who now joined the melee I was in. We were the victors, but they were skilled opponents. Inside the fort we found another fight in which the Imperial soldiers were being finished off as we arrived. We fought our way through the room. Then we fought our way up the stairs, Jura and Calleius pressing shields against the Akaviri. Calleius gave a mighty roar and pushed past them, flanking them between himself and us. We widdled down their turtle tactics, getting the best of them. Jura and I packed on the heals and we continued pushing our way in. I feared the worst for Rigmor, but also didn't know why these guys were here. In the next room I took point and got the drop on the first of the group, immediately decapitating him. We pushed our way to the last room. This was the big prison cell and a man was working on getting the bars open. The red-armored man turned, pulling out a two-handed Akaviri Katana. He was one of the lizard-guys, tall and broad. He was alone, but he pointed at Jura. "He's mine!" Jura pulled out a greatsword. "We don't have time for this," I spat. "This is personal," he said, "I remember you." Jura charged forward and fought him blow for blow for a few minutes. But he was fast. He dodged expertly several times while Jura's work with the greatsword, though fast, seemed slow in comparison. Jura deflected a few blows that would've killed a normal man. I shouldered the Moonlight Greatsword. If this went south, I would be ready with the crescent blade beam and an Unrelenting Force. But it came too fast. The red man's stab toward Jura's neck from above came nearly faster than I could see. "NO!" I shouted. *CLANG* Calleius rebuffed the Akaviri with his shield. "Do not touch him, sir." The Akaviri shouted something in his language, swinging his sword with monstrous speed. Calleius parried the attack, then he parried another. "I shall become a wall for you, my friends," Calleius said. He parried again and again as the Akaviri struck from different angles with blinding speed. He parried another and with great speed he got behind the redman, making his first attack. The Akaviri whipped around and batted the attack away with his katana, disarming Calleius. I pursed my lips, taking a step forward. As the Akaviri made another attack, I rammed my greatsword through his back. Calleius stepped aside as I pinned the man to the wall. He shouted something in his language, but I was done waiting through this heroic honor crap. I pulled out the Langourwine Blade and stabbed him in the throat, killing him. Usually a sleep dagger, it is still a dagger. I turned to Calleius, my face bloody from the spray. "Impressive," he said. "I wanted to win," I smiled. Jura got to his feet as his restoration spells brought him back up, "Damn son! That was some amazing shield work! Needed Runa to close the deal, but I can't say much better for myself." I found the key amongst the guards' bodies, then I said, "How's this for honor? If anybody asks, I'll tell them you beat him in single combat." Jura and Calleius chuckled. Rigmor ran over from behind a changing visor and hugged me as soon as the door was open. "Oh thank the gods you guys are here," she said, "Who the hell are those guys? What's going on?" Jura said, "They're from Akavir. The men are vampiric thralls. The lizards are Tsaesci. I've fought these guys before. Though I have no idea why they're here now." I handed Rigmor a set of fur clothes and said, "Guess what I brought. I've been holding onto it." I handed her her greatsword, and she shouted "Azura's Bane!" "We'd better get back to the boat," Jura said. We ran outside to find the galleon had gone, but so had our supply boat. "Maybe they're chasing them down the coast. Gods, I hope not," I said. "Uhh..." Rigmor said, "Where's this boat you speak of?" We all looked down to find there was no rowboat. "What the... fuck?" I asked. "Great! Just great!" Rigmor shouted, "How the hell are we supposed to get out of here? Did you remember to tie it up?" "Usually it's the lowest ranked person who ties up the boat," Jura looked at Calleius. Calleius kneeled down and lifted up a rope that'd been cut. Then he pointed about ten feet into the harbor, "I see it, but it's underwater." Jura sighed, "Looks like they cut the line and knocked a hole in it." "So our only transport off this damn island has just vaporized. That's fucking great!" Rigmor shouted, "Can't you do anything right?" "Lay off. We just killed an army of Akaviri to get to you," Jura said, "You'd be dead or captured if not for us." "Captured, but also warm and with a way off the island!" Rigmor shouted back. "This isn't helping and you know it," I said, "Anybody know how big this island is?" "What, you want to hike through this tundra?" Rigmor asked. "Floki said there were fishing villages on the south end of the island," I said. "Never been here. But I think... three days journey?" Jura said noncommittally. Calleius nodded, "I bet the fort has supplies." "Yeah!" I pounded my fist into my hand, "We're all skilled in wilderness survival. Let's fuckin' do this!" "You're kidding, right?" Rigmor followed along to the fort, saying flatly, "We're going to freeze to death." "Do I look like I'm kidding?" I replied, "Have I ever let you down?" "Well, there was the time when I got imprisoned at an..." "Shhhh...." I put my finger on her lips, shushing her. When we got inside, we split up to get everything we could. I checked the Governor's rooms. He'd barricaded himself inside, him and his wife committing suicide when it was clear they weren't going to make it. "Long live the Empire, indeed," I said, rifling through their things. I found a new black pair of boots (Drakul Boots) that was actually an upgrade. And...! I lifted an enchanted one-handed sword with extremely good craftsmanship. When the boys came in, I asked, "Who wants this? I'm more of a big and thick weapons fighter myself." Calleius smirked, "Phrasing. General Jura?" He put down the fragments of the Bolgar sword he'd been using, "I will accept this. I keep destroying swords. Been needing a new magic one for ages." "If it's any consolation there's also an enchanted Imperial sword in here too. Calleius grabbed it. "Look what I found," Rigmor said. She'd put her armor over the furs I'd provided and since it was chainmail it fit just fine. She threw on the black fur cloak I'd provided to complete the ensemble. She said, "They must've shipped my stuff from Cyrodiil along with me." "I found rations," Jura said. "I found some firewood," Calleius added. "You ready for this?" I asked Rigmor. "As I'll ever be," she replied, "Hey, sorry I yelled back there. I would follow you into hell itself if I needed to." I smiled, somehow doubting she would be able to handle Oblivion. But, I could appreciate the sentiment. The boys and Rigmor fastened down their fur lined armor and helms and I looked at my sad coats. I would be glad when I could get back in my real body armor. We looked out onto the wintery expanse. Even trees were scarce up here. From the map in the governor's office there were a couple base camps on the way to the southern part of the island. And when we crossed the mountains it became much more habitable. Jura handed out cold resistance potions. "Do these actually work for this?" I asked. "Yes, but they only last a couple minutes. Save them until you feel like you can't bear it anymore." We charged off into the icy infinity, wind whipping to our very bones. I took point, keeping up a healthy jog. It was hours till we reached the first landmark, but I kept the sun on my right. The blizzard got denser and it got harder to tell. "I hope you know where you're going! It's so cold!" Rigmor shouted over the winds. We crested a ridge, and were attacked by a horde of Frostbite spiders. "Finally, something to warm my bones!" I shouted. We made quick work of them, then looked out over the tundra again. We could finally see the mountains to the south. "I'm freezing my ass off out here! How much farther is the first camp?" Rigmor asked. I took out the map section I'd torn off, "Just over the next ridge!" "We're lost aren't we?" She shouted back, "Honestly, you don't plan anything do you?" "Trust me!" I shouted, ignoring her comments. And as it started to get dark, we found the base camp. We made sure the tent was secure and lined it with our furs, then got inside, getting the first going. Jura immediately laid on the floor of the tent and passed out, snoring in seconds. Rigmor claimed a bedroll to herself. "So what happened back there in Cyrodiil?" SHe asked. "It was a trap. They started a fire at the prison. We thought you were still there. So I ran in to save you," I said, sitting and stoking the fire. "My hero. But who would do that?" "Bobby. He's in on this shit. The whole thing," I said, nearly growling when I said his name. "Bobby? For real?" She asked in disbelief. "He just wanted Bruma. He's just a very good actor. And you know, I was really starting to warm up to him too," I jabbed at the sticks like I was stabbing someone, "Had me fooled too." Rigmor sidled up to me and I told her about the Minotaur. "Don't you ever get tired of saving me?" She asked, laying her head on my shoulder. "Meh. I'm fine with it," I smiled. "You must think I'm a real pain in the ass," Rigmor said. "Kinda," I smiled again. "You with the jokes again," Rigmor said. As she closed her eyes, she said, "Bleeding is she... forgotten is he... deeds long past. The gratitude of the people no longer lasts. Blood drips from the guilt, innocents paying the price of what wrongs built...." She trailed off as she fell under the pull of sleep. I helped her lay her head down, laying with her a minute. Then I crawled over, sitting on the bedroll Calleius was laying on. "You should go to sleep," he whispered. "You too," I said. "I've always had trouble falling asleep in cold weather," Calleius whispered back. "Not me. But this colder than I've ever been," I shivered, "Freezing my tits off out here. Could I... snuggle with you for warmth?" "I'd like that..." Calleius said. He took off the outer layer of armor (and his helm) quietly so we could gather our fur against each other. I got comfortable, but we just laid there for what seemed like a very long time. I sat up again, facing him. We stared at each other for long moments. I looked over at Rigmor, and Jura, both fast asleep. Maintaining eye contact with Calleius, I slowly unbuttoned my parka. Then I silently pulled it off. Calleius blinked, "I thought you wanted to get warm. Do you have hypothermia? Is this paradoxical undressing?" "No, I'm still f-f-freezing," I said, "You'd better find a way to keep me warm." He opened his full body fur, rendering him naked, and let it lay on the bedroll under him. "Is this what you want?" He asked. "Maybe," I replied. I played with him a little bit. I'm sure my fingers were like icicles, because he gasped when I touched him. "Shh!" I looked at our friends, who were still asleep. "Your hands are freezing," he whispered. "How to do this without my hands..." I said. I enveloped it in my mouth with my hands mostly off, stroking it for a bit. Then I moved on top of him and let him position himself so I could slide on. I rode him, silently (though it was getting difficult to stay quiet after a few minutes). Then I moved off him. I lay beside him. "What's wrong?" He whispered. "Getting cold. You should lay on top of me. Trap the heat against my body." He smiled and slid on. For a while, he held my hands down and I was into it. But I started to whimper when I was really feeling it. He put a hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. We finished nearly at the same time. We wrapped up in our furs and went to sleep in each other's arms. The next day as we were getting ready, Rigmor said she'd had a vivid dream, or a vision. "A nightmare?" I asked. "Not really. We were looking at a strange mountain, kind of square. There were many children playing. A little girl left the others and came towards me. She pointed towards the mountain." "Strange," I said, "Well, we'd better get going if we want to make the next camp before nightfall." We jogged through the snow for several more hours. "Y'know this must be what Atmora is like," Rigmor said, "Did you know men originated from there? Freathof said that it used to have green fields." After most of another day, we crested a large hill and found a large pine forest. On the other side were the mountains. Rigmor cupped her hands and howled like a wolf. Wolves howled back. "Hear that? We don't want to continue at night. Wasn't the second base camp a cave?" She asked. Calleius pointed down, "It's under this ridge." "Damn. Good eye," Jura said. We found a small fire and a small cave entrance we had to crawl into. "We ran out of wood at the last camp. Why not chop some?" Jura asked. We all looked at each other. "I nominate Runa!" Rigmor said. "Psh. Fine. But you get to gather twigs," I said back. I hacked off a large tree branch, then set to chopping. Calleius was putting the logs on and I was hacking them up with a woodcutter's axe, making this an assembly line affair. "Hee hee. Choppity chop," Rigmor said, "Make sure you use your legs and shoulders and not all your back." "Go find some twigs for kindling!" I said, getting sweaty. "Ok! Keep your hair on!" Rigmor said. "For what it's worth," I paused to chop a log, "I liked.... *CHOP* your long hair. *CHOP* It'll grow back." "That bitch. First chance I get I'm gonna ram my sword right up her ass," Rigmor growled. I laughed out loud, then she wandered off to gather. "Guys! Would you look at this!" Rigmor said. Jura and Calleius were setting up a tent outside and told me to go ahead. I crawled into the cave that had bedrolls set up, fire already going from Rigmor. The light flickered against walls covered in ancient cave paintings. "These are wonderful!" I smiled at her. "Amazing," I said. "Giants. Hope we don't run into any," Rigmor said. "How long do you think it'll take them to figure out I'm gone?" She asked, continuing to walk around. "No idea. Depends on how long it takes them to figure out everybody is dead," I replied, "But they'll try to take Bruma." "Think they can hold out?" Rigmor asked. "Probably long enough until we figure out what we're going to do," I replied. "We never did figure that out did we?" "Malesam said he had a plan. Hopefully he wasn't just leading me on," I said. "Speaking of which..." Rigmor turned to me, our faces flickering in the torchlight, "It's been nice." "What's that?" "Being out here with you. For the first time in a long time, I feel free." I sat down, "Better than being in Cyrodiil?" "Bruma is nice. The rest - I don't think I ever want to go back there," she replied, "I don't ever want to see Morag Sethius again. Peak weirdness. You know when she cut my hair she tore off my dress and just... stared at me." "I think she felt a kinship with you as someone who has suffered," I said. "No way! You starting to feel sympathetic for her?" "Absolutely not," I replied. "You know when I was in that cell in that state... it was almost like ... being home. Like I knew my cursed life was headed back there. The question was just when. Like it's my destiny for my life to be shit," she said. "That minotaur seemed to think both of us had some kind of destiny," I said back. "How do you mean?" "Al-Esh, his mother, told him to wait for one with the ancient blood of kings to set him free. And then some prophecy would be fulfilled, releasing the curse of Al'Esh. The chosen Queen of Tamriel. I don't know about any of this." "Who? Morag? The Chosen Queen? Fuck'n bitch. You can't be serious," Rigmor said. "I've never heard of Al'Esh." "She's the Minotaur name for Alessia. Her lover was Morihaus, the bull-headed son of Kyraneth. She's said to be the mother of minotaurs. She's not a divine, but she became the first human saint upon death." "Freathof taught you history and myth well I see," I said. She smiled, "No way she's the chosen queen. I'd rather a thousand years of war than let her sit her ancient ass on the throne." "We're not going to let that happen," I said, "In fact, when you give her your ass-sword treatment, better move over. See if we can fit two up in there. And mine is wide!" Rigmor burst out in laughter. She tripped on... something? And fell into my lap, still laughing. She put her arms around my neck, "But thinking of you kept me just a little bit sane." I smiled. "Everything I've been through I would do again just to be here with you... in this moment," Rigmor said, "Our moment." She leaned in and kissed me, and I returned it. "I'm yours to do with whatever you want," Rigmor said. I sighed, "Right now that sounds... really nice." We undressed, not even under the pretense of keeping warm, a whirlwind of kissing and touching. After a moment she got on top of me and took control, rubbing herself against me until we both finished. It was short, but sweet. We laid there for the night. When I woke up she was sitting in one of the chairs outside. "Another vision," she said, "A huge minotaur sitting on a throne. In one hand was a mace, the other had a soul gem. Below on the dais a Dragon was locked in battle with a serpent." "I have no idea," I shook my head, "Listen... about last night.." "Hey, it's ok. Just forget it. People need each other sometimes, that's all," she said back. She motioned with her eyes towards Calleius as the boys were packing up their tent. I tilted my head. She whispered back, "You're not as quiet as you think." Then she giggled. "Were you watching?" I whispered, louder. "You're beautiful. How could I not?" Rigmor asked, then she grabbed my hand, "I've always loved you, you know. It wasn't always this way. But... I can share, y'know? Like your mom does." I pursed my lips, not sure if that was a jab or just a statement of fact. I took a water skin from next to the fire where it'd been thawing, and took a long drink. "I'd rather take it slow if there is anything real between us," Rigmor said, then she patted me on the head as she was getting up, "You did ok for your first time." She whispered, "I can tell you've never been with a woman before." I coughed on my water. "Be right back! Gotta pee!" Rigmor shouted as she ran off over the next ridge. I looked over to Calleius and Jura, who seemed to be having their own conversation. Rigmor came sprinting back a moment later, "Help! I found some locals!" A horde of frost trolls and giants were charging over the hill after her. We all unsheathed our weapons and flung ourselves into the fray. But after a moment it was clear there were way too many of them. Rigmor and I charged up the ridge, being separated from the guys. We led them onto a frozen lake on the hopes some of them would fall into the water. I turned as she escaped across the lake. "FUS!" I shouted, blasting a bunch of the ice apart, sending a bunch of them into the depths. It slowed them down a bit. Up the hill from the lake, the rest swarmed straight toward us. Jura and Calleius, who'd gone around the lake, rejoined us. "Oh no! They got your cape!" I yelled to him. "Had to sacrifice it to the greater good," Calleius shouted back, "Let's run! There're too many of them!" Then we heard the howls of wolves in the forest beyond. "Gods!" I swore. "Our best hope is to make it to the cave and use the bottleneck!" Jura said. We ran past the huge pack of wolves into the mouth of the cave that'd been marked on our map as the tunnel to the south portion of the island. A huge bear popped out, flattening the wolves. He seemed to hold the line for us while we fled. "Do you think that's Mr Bear?" Rigmor asked. "Your bear friend from Skyrim? How do you think he would've gotten here from the mainland?" I asked, "Floated on an iceberg?" "Hey, it could happen!" Rigmor said. We reached the other end of the cave before the boys and I found her admiring the view to the valley below. "That's quite a view," she said. "Yeah!" I said back, "Now to find a way down." "I know a way down," Rigmor smirked as she turned toward me, "Beats you jumping out of a tree." She leaned back and fell toward the waterfall. "Wait! You don't have a..." I sighed, then I leapt forward, following her. I reached her on the shore of the surprisingly warm lagoon below. Rigmor was already stripping off the underneath fur layers and wringing them out. I was forced to just pull my clothes off and do the same. She was giggling at me. "What?" "Where's your sense of adventure?" she asked. "After what we've been through, cold and defeated," I took a deep breath as the cool air hit my skin, "It is pretty warm here though. Doubt it'll be so warm down south." I started putting my armor on. Jura and Calleius emerged from the forest. "Wait.. how'd you..?" I started. "A simple Alteration spell called Slow Fall. Drop Zone also would've worked," Jura replied, "Might want to stop princess from taking unnecessary risks." "I have a cape," I replied. "The other princess," Jura pointed at Rigmor. "You're a wet blanket," she stuck her tongue out at him. "We can follow this river to the logging camp and then to the villages. Maybe our supply ship is still in port down here," I said. "Hopefully he's ok," Calleius said. Rigmor and I walked out in front, following the river. After a while, she said, "I haven't had this much fun since I was a kid. What did you do... y'know, when you were a kid?" I shrugged, "I don't remember." "What do you mean you don't remember?" She asked, "There must be something you keep with you from back then." "The first thing I remember was the orphanage. I don't remember anything before I was 8 or 9." "Runa..." "I'm not avoiding the subject. I really don't know," I replied, "Though, I really don't want to talk about it." "Ok. Well, I have enough bad memories for two people!" Rigmor said loudly. She started telling me about her old house in Bruma, her dad, her best friend... trips to Anvil... how they got in trouble for throwing snowballs one time. "Loona's dad got a job in Morrowind. Doubt I'll ever see her again," Rigmor said. "We could always go someday," I said, "Have Sethri show us around." She laughed, "I'd like that." We passed the sea after a while as we passed down off the valley. "Hmm... what's that?" She asked. "Looks like an Imperial War Galley," Calleius replied. "Maybe looking for us. Who knows," I said. "Keep moving. Need to get out of here," Jura said. We passed over a downed tree, then found the old logging camp. "We can take a short break here, but best not delay," Jura said. Rigmor sat. She asked, "So, thought of what we're going to do when we get back?" "Go back to Bruma through Skyrim over the Jerall Mountains. See if we can get some support while we're passing through," I replied. "Best not involve Skyrim directly. Might be seen as a sign of aggression," Jura replied. "We'll see who we can find. I have a few friends," I said. Jura and Calleius were leaning on a fallen tree, eating rations. Jura reached out his hand to me, "Shh.. I hear something." He took out his bow, and shot into the brush. An Akaviri yelled, and they sprang from the forest. It was a strike group, and they were dealt with without too much trouble. Still, tenacious fighters. The lead had a note on him, written in Akaviri. Jura grabbed it and read out loud, "Kill all. Leave no witnesses. Bring girl to Table Mountain. Dead or alive. Then M.S., written in our tongue." He crumpled it, "We'd better go." We as jogged down the road, I asked, "How do you know Akaviri, old man?" "I'll tell you later. Long story." "Ugh," Rigmor slowed down. "What's wrong?" I asked. "I'm really.. tired." "Catch vampirism from their drains?" I asked. Jura shook his head, "That doesn't make you tired. But the Akaviri have another version of the disease called the Living Death. If you become a vampire, you're immune, but you can still be a carrier. Unfortunately, our Cure Disease spell doesn't know the Living Death. It can't cure it." We continued on, hoping to find civilization and the correct tools to cure Rigmor. We came upon a shack in the woods. "C'mon!" Rigmor walked into the open door. Nobody was within. She laid down upon the stranger's bed, "I feel like I could sleep for a hundred years." Calleius followed me in. I looked outside to find Jura on the porch. "What's the matter? We can pay and apologize to whoever lives here," I said. "Getting those bad vibes again. I'm going to stay out here," Jura folded his arms. When I turned, there was an old woman there. "Bah!" I jumped, "Oh, sorry about this. My friend is feeling very sick." "I know you mean no harm," she replied. She looked at Rigmor for a moment, then said, "She's afflicted. Did you do battle with the undead?" "Well, now they're dead," I replied. "She is afflicted with the Living Death. It puts you into a sleep so deep you never wake. The rest of you are lucky you weren't affected," the woman walked past me, going over to her alchemy table. Speaking of which, I was now acutely aware of the sun going down. I drank a Cure Disease potion to cure Sanguinare Vampiris in the early stages and offered more to the boys. Jura put up his hand in a stop signal, and casted the Cure Disease spell on both of them. "It's good to know you were prepared this time, though," he smiled, "I do love me some Alchemy." The old woman said from her table, "I have a recipe that will save her, but you must act quickly and gather ingredients." She gave me a list and a location, and I walked out into the night. Shadowmere was waiting on the road for me. I squinted, "How... did you get here?" He gave me a look like he was as confused as I was. I mounted him and took off alone. It only took me an hour or so to get there, get the materials and get back. I handed them over. "Good job. The fever is taking hold and her temperature is rising. Once I administer the potion we should start seeing results." She ground it and mixed it for several minutes. She gave Rigmor some of it, then she gave the remainder to me in a bottle, "It's a cure for men and mer, but poison to the undead. Here. Take the rest." I sat down and watched Rigmor. I said to the woman, "How can we thank you?" "No need. I like helping people. Especially heroes," she smiled a big, toothy smile, "I'm a soothsayer. I have had many dreams and visions of possible permutations of the future for this world. Some are good. Most are not. The path has always been hard, but it is worth working for." I leaned back, nodding. I said to Jura, "Still not coming in?" "Nope." "My partner and I came to this land many times in the old days. You know there is a werewolf who lives nearby. I followed him and watched him once, wondering if he preyed on the nearby village. I mostly saw animal bones in his cave, and he never returned to human form after he hunted. Very peculiar," she said. She sat down next to Rigmor, watching her fever begin to lessen. She yelled some things, still a bit hysterical, but then she calmed. "That's a good girl," she said, then she offered me the seat again. She sat down across the room in an old rocking chair. "Thank you again..." I said, "Wait, what is your name?" "All in good time, Dragonchild," the woman murmured, and I drifted off to sleep.
  7. Hey, this is Runa. I'm in the Imperial City and last time it became apparent that they want to make their Empire a thing again and not just Cyrodiil + High Rock. Rigmor signed the Noble Decree and Ser Robere proposed to her to shield her from whatever the other Counts and the Emperor were planning. Robere wanted to speak with me in private again - off to the side of the audience chamber. "I found out what's going on. There's a ventilation shaft behind the wall that you can crawl into and listen to the others' conversations. Last night Morag Sethius was discussing Bruma's fate with the Count of Chorrol. The plan was to set Rigmor up for a fall after she signed the decree. Mercenaries were to raid Chorrol and Cheydinhal. They'd blame Bruma for not guarding the borders. Then they'd call for a vote of no confidence in the House of Bruma and divide up the assets between them." "That is dirty," I said, "I'd never want to be a part of this organization. I guess that's why they stormed out." "I'm going to tell my father about Morag's motives after the coronation." "What do you know about her anyway? She was with the bandits, right?" I asked. "She's always been with Ariel, from the time they joined up with us. On rare occasions, she would disappear, no one knew where, but she always came back looking more youthful and powerful. Ariel Sethius and my father didn't even want to usurp the throne, but she convinced them," Robere explained, "She's got some sort of power over him. But for the moment, it doesn't matter. We're safe. Thanks for talking to her." "Your plan worked, good idea Ser Robere," I replied. "Call my Bobby. My friends do," he said, then the people started to disperse. We went back to the room. "You did pretty good out there. How do you feel?" "Sick to my stomach. I want this to be over," Rigmor replied, "What did Bobby say?" "Chorrol and Cheydinhal were plotting. Maybe with the Emperor, maybe with Morag. Blackwell thinks I came up with the plan for Bobby to propose," I chuckled, "I can be tricky, but politics aren't my thing." "Yeah. All this bullshit makes me want to go knocking on the Emperor's door and just tell him I have a royal bloodline. Asshole. You know, it's a kind of violence, saying and doing things that make you have to react. Cause fear. Make you sick with worry." "You never know who to trust. I don't like this game," I replied, "But hey, also. I found out about some ventilation ducts behind that banner over there." I pointed, "I'm going to go snooping around." I walked over to the banner, "If a head other than mine pops out here, hit it with a heavy blunt object." "You're hilarious," Rigmor replied. I went into the ducts, which were actually quite spacious. I listened to the Chorrol's first. Lady Chorrol said, "You're going to have to tread carefully. Who knows? With the Leyawiin boy marrying that common strumpet, the real nobility in this land could be squeezed out completely. I don't trust any of them - least of all Morag Sethius." The Count replied, "We'll have to wait and see. The Count of Anvil's daughter is marrying our son. With their ties to Skingrad, the West will be much more secure." "I can't imagine why the Countess of Bruma would change her mind now? All she had to do was buff Sethius off I would have sent Blackwell packing with an arrow up his arse," the Lady said. Just gossip. I moved on to Leyawiin's room. "Well, my boy," the Count said, "I would never thought you'd make such a proposal in front of everyone!" "Is it an issue that I love Rigmor?" Robere asked. "I had hoped you would marry into nobility. We're not exactly from noble stock ourselves. And you said yourself, she's hard work. She had baggage, boy. And she's not even a native of Cyrodiil." Robere shook his head, "You're wrong, and I won't hear it. She was born in Bruma to respected parents." "You're just a young fool blinded by love," the Count chuckled, "She's a Nordling. Just because a dog is born in a stable doesn't make it a horse. She's no thoroughbred." Really? This guy wants to talk about breeding? "You really want to count icicles on that mountain the rest of your life?" the Count asked, "Love doesn't create empires, boy." "Lady Rigmor will be my wife. End of story," Robere replied. Go Bobby. I was really starting to warm up to the guy. Next, the Sethius'. "Blackwell, enter," Ariel said, "You'd better have something good for me. Who is she? What is she doing here? How did she manage to surface out of thin air and be such a problem?" Though Ariel Sethius seemed to be a bit agitated, Blackwell maintained his usual even tone, "Is My Lady present? I'm sure she would like to hear." "She will be back shortly. Needed to visit her father. Please continue," Ariel replied. "Little is known from the time she met the Countess. She's been seen in the company of the newly crowned King and Queen of Skyrim, and was seen several times in many provinces, but most reports are very scant with details. It's as if someone is keeping her identity secret." Thanks, Brotherhood. About that time someone appeared in the room, which I could only assume was Morag. "After the events with the breakaway sect of Thalmor known as the New Order, Titus Mede II bestowed upon the girl the title of Countess of Bruma. Then the two parted ways." Ariel replied nervously, "I don't like it, Blackwell. Do you think they're plotting with Leyawiin?" Blackwell replied evenly, "The balance of power in Cyrodiil is constantly changing. It is prudent to have friends such as Leyawiin. Your position relies on fealty. There is no evidence of subterfuge." "Why would the Emperor bestow such a noble title on a wretched Nord girl? Why would he do that? What is so special about her?" I wanted to rip these guys eyes out. Being a noble is not special. Those who are born with it just won the lottery. If anything, those who had to work for it (including these bandits, Tiber Septim and Titus Mede) should be more revered. "So special to have at her side the most dangerous killer in all Tamriel," Morag said. Well, I felt flattered, but there were many more deadly people than I. "It's all so clear now," Morag continued, "She's been hiding it for years. Cursed by her blood, a product of a liaison that produced a royal bastard... In her veins the royal blood of the dynasty we usurped. She is a pretender to the throne." "We need real evidence before we could accuse her. A confession, or a testimony," Blackwell said flatly. "I'll make the girl confess, even if I have to do it myself. As for her protector..." Morag turned towards me, looking right toward the concealed grate, "Aren't you supposed to be protecting your beloved Rigmor, Listener?" Oh shit! I ducked down, scrambling back to our rooms. When I got there... "Halt! Hold your weapons!" The Imperial guard shouted at me. "The Countess of Bruma is charged with treason, and will stand trial. She will be taken to the Imperial City prison to await the arrival of her attorney." "Treason is awfully bold for someone who's complied with everything the Emperor has asked. I thought there was a justice system here in the Empire," I folded my arms, still standing on the bed. "It's ok, Runa. I'm kinda glad it ends this way. I knew good things in life weren't going to last forever. Tell Malesam to take care of things for me," the girl said dejectedly. They escorted her out, Blackwell walking in. "You made a very serious misjudgment coming here. I know it's no consolation, but no one knew about her ties to the Mede dynasty," Blackwell said. "Do you have documents proving it?" I asked, "Or is this testimony from a beggar on the street?" "I'm a stumped as you are. Molag seemed to be making random unfounded accusations, but she admitted to it," Blackwell said, sitting in the chair across from the bed. I slapped my forehead and said under my breath, "What a fool." "Please, sit," Blackwell said, and I sat down on the bed. "What do you want, anyway?" I asked. "Actually, I came to ask you the same thing. Why would the Countess come down from the mountain and pledge her support? She was protected under international law, however much the Emperor demanded it. She was well within her rights to ignore his demands." "Maybe the girl believed in Cyrodiil. You guys make it really hard to want to ally with you. Bunch of vipers. I can see why the Empire is falling apart." Blackwell seemed to ignore my angry words with emotionless analysis. He thought for a moment, then said, "She thought we knew, didn't she? Perhaps she thought our reasoning was a Mede signing the Noble Decree would be in-effect handing over the dynasty. Was the Leyawiin boy's proposal your form of insurance?" "There was no plan. Ser Robere's proposal was seen as protection, but the two really are in love. We were signing the decree because the nobles of Bruma seem to believe in Cyrodiil, as I said. Nothing more," I replied. "Obviously, you don't share their sentiments," Blackwell stated. "I'm here to represent Skyrim, actually. And General Jura represents Hammerfell. Escorting Rigmor was a side job for a friend. We wanted to pursue an alliance against the Thalmor." "To be honest, I'm certain the Emperor would much rather regain control of the Empire before the loss of all her provinces, rather than form alliances," Blackwell said. "Wanted being the operative word," I added. "Yes, quite. The trial will take place tomorrow. I've already sent word to her court advisor. He will arrive in the morning. She'll be interrogated tonight. If she tries to escape, she'll be given the harshest punishment possible and have her land and titles taken away. If she is found guilty, she'll most likely be banished to our prison on Roscrea." I raised an eyebrow, "Why are you telling me this?" "I have my reasons," he stood, "My loyalty is to the seat of the Imperial Throne, not who occupies it. I will pursue the bidding of the Emperor, no matter my personal opinion on the letter of the law. It's vitally important that we understand each other. I'm also to escort you to the audience chamber. Lady Sethius requires an audience." I entered the audience chamber behind Blackwell. "My Lady, Runa Fair-Shield," Blackwell announced me, "Protector of the Countess of Bruma." "Technically, I'm also a Princess, but okay," I muttered. "Come forward." I walked to the foot of the dais and Blackwell left us. "I summoned you here because I wanted to see you up close, in the flesh. To look upon your face," Morag said. "Well, here I am," I replied. "Don't tell me you're like the rest of them, play acting the good, high and mighty champion of the poor downtrodden. Good does not always mean right, but you of all people should know that, if you could call yourself a person," Morag said. "There are so many things wrong about what you just said. I'm not a good person, I've never claimed to be. I champion the downtrodden when I can, because I am downtrodden. And how am I less of a person than you are? I'm just a regular-ass human," I folded my arms. "What are you, a half-breed, or a half-beast?" She asked. "Half human. The other half, also human," I said back. "Are you not the Dragonborn?" She asked. "No. My mother is the Dragonborn. Also, I'm pretty sure she'd disembowel you for calling her a half-beast. Do you even know what Dragonborn means? It means you were blessed by Akatosh. Tiber Septim was a Breton, 100% human. Well, some percentage human, some mer. But he was mortal. For someone as old and powerful as I've heard you are, your information is very wrong," "Nevertheless, you are a cold-blooded killer, who would take more notice of a pain in your little finger than the destruction of an entire nation. You are one in the same, you and I," she started to pace around me now. "Not really. But not because I'm pretty sure you're a Vampire Lord. I lump you in with the nobility here in just why I don't like you." "Oh really? How many men, women and children have you slaughtered without a second thought?" "I don't kill children," I sneered. "You killed my children, murderer!" Morag said angrily, "My brood. Did they not have the right to live, to grow and multiply? You took it upon yourself to execute them all." "I remember I've helped kill two groups of vampires. One when we were protecting Sorella, and one named the Crimson Scars." "Both," she replied. "Both were trying to kill us. As Blackwell would say, it wasn't personal." Morag smirked, "It's such a pity we're on opposite sides. I could make you my Emperor and discard that weak fool. He has already outlived his purpose. Is the Black Widow wrong to devour its mate the instant it has copulated? It's within the nature of the beast. The endless cycle of life and death, played to a backdrop of a world that couldn't care less. Surrounded by a void that considers it an intruder." "Not wrong. But we're sentient creatures. We can go against our natures," I said, "Also, you give a good example of treason." "I piss on treason. I could crush Blackwell's skull like a chicken's egg. Did you know before I was married I was called Morag Bal?" "Real original," I chuckled. She took the comment and said, "I am a Daughter of Coldharbour. But you know that. That's boring. Do you know why I'm here? I'm afraid there's no real reason, no divine subterfuge. Sorry to disappoint. I'm having fun, that's all. Sethius is just one of many hosts that led me to this Palace. What if I chose you instead? Imagine what we could do together. Empresses of all Nirn. We could fulfill the Alessian prophecy, and I would be the Queen of a new golden age, and you would be my consort. I would make you immortal like me. Father would be very proud. We could preside over Nirn for a millennia." "You're starting to sound a lot like Lord Harkon. I hope you're not planning on something ridiculous like blotting out the Sun." "Adaptation to sunlight isn't difficult. It just takes time and dedication. I heard of Harkon's plans. He was a fool," Morag replied, "But I understand. I foiled your plan, exposing Rigmor's secret. I would have never guessed, but daddy did help me a little bit. But now, I'm done with you. You must be tired. You should go rest. I'm sure you must be looking forward to the trial tomorrow. I promised I'd pay Rigmor a visit." I exhaled, "Do what you're gonna do. But you'll get yours." "Guards!" She shouted, and they were there, "Escort Runa back to her room. The only way out is to play the game. Get it right and you both go home." The soldiers flanked me, "Sorry ma'am, but you must return to your room." "No need to apologize. You're just doing your job," I replied. We started walking back and the right guard said, "We were with you in Whiterun, Quintus Legion. You was just a little thing then, but you had the same pretty face. Now you're all grown up. Got sent home as I got myself wounded, heavy fighting on the border. I took an arrow..." "Took an arrow in his arse," the other one chuckled, "Heard how you guys fought off the Thalmor." "Sod off Crispus. You're just jealous of my medal," the other said back. "Gods! Your bloody medal again. If you're so important, Aeneas, why haven't you been promoted yet?" Aeneas replied, "Crispus is a bit salty we got stiffed with punishment detail." "But Aenas got us sent here for drunkenness," Crispus said. Aenas said, "We went down to the market district after some of Tessio's special brew and ended up in a fight with some sweets. Y'know... civilians." "Been bolstering the guard lately. They're shitting their pants. Something's got them rattled," Crispus said. We we got to the room, they turned to Calleius, "Oi, lad. Who's this? Nice armor y'got there." "Legate Tyroni Calleius, at your service," he replied. "This young man's a Legate? Now I know we done fucked up," Crispus put his hands on his hips, "What Legion you with? I should ask to transfer there. Get m'self a shiny new promotion." "Sialius Legion," Calleius replied. "Oh, I'll be damned," Aenas slapped him on the back, "You're one of the lot that jumped ship to Skyrim ain't ya?" "Yes, though I was given a long assignment to guard Runa until we prepare for our next conflict," Calleius replied. "Not much of a job," Crispus said, "I've seen this woman in action. And that was years ago. Bet she got better with age." "Thanks guys, I'll head into the room now," I said. "No problem, ma'am," Aenas replied, "So Calleius, is your legion looking for real veterans? You know, not like this jumped up new lot." Jura had already taken Rigmor's bed, as it was about 10 pm by this time. "I heard," he said, "Best be ready tomorrow." Ready for what, I wasn't sure. So I went to sleep. In the morning, Malesam and Cerys walked in, waking us up. "Good morning, guardian," he said, sitting at the table, "I'm here to defend Rigmor. The trial will begin soon. However, the Lord Chancellor has requested we meet in the Temple Gardens." "Is that a good or bad thing? Can't ever tell with him," I said. "Good if you're discussing state affairs. Bad if the information you tell him is detrimental to the Emperor's continued reign. Watch what you say." "Seen Rigmor?" Jura asked. "They won't let us see her until after the trial," Cerys replied. "Let's get the ball rolling, shall we?" Malesam suggested, then we walked out to the palace gardens. "Well met, Chancellor," Malesam said. "Court Advisor Malesam, Runa, let's walk," he said. "The Emperor's coronation has been postponed to make way for the trial. It will begin shortly. Charges will be read and the prosecution will make its case. Sitting on the jury will be the six houses of Cyrodiil, a prerequisite if the defendant is a noble. It will be a fair trial," Blackwell explained. "I don't trust any of you," I said. "It's the law. I'll be presiding over the proceedings, and will advise the Emperor, who has the last say. Court Advisor Malesam will put the case for the defense. Morag Sethius will be prosecuting on behalf of the Emperor. The Counts will hear statements from the prosecution and defense, then the defendant, Rigmor, will be questioned. The court will deliberate, then Rigmor will have a chance to make a statement. She might want to make a confession, say her piece, or nothing at all." "Was she harmed or tortured in any way to get a confession?" I asked. "I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss..." "Well that's telling, since you said it's against the law to torture her," I folded my arms. "Poppycock," Malesam said, "We need to prepare Runa for the worst." Blackwell folded his arms, "She was interrogated by the prosecutor, standard procedure. We don't allow torture. They took her into the cell, she was made to sit, then her hair was shorn and she began to cry." "That's stupid. Why? Remind me to come back here and accuse a few people of random crimes later so I can shave their heads. Morag'll look great bald," I said. "It's standard procedure to humiliate the accused, to break down any self respect and dignity. Nothing personal." "Oh, it's personal," I said angrily. "Please, try to compose yourself," Blackwell said. Malesam cut me off, "Runa, Rigmor is a tough girl. Be thankful it's illegal to use traditional.... interrogation methods." "So what happened?" I asked. Blackwell had started pacing, and he stood just behind me, pausing, "The prosecutor stood behind her and tore her dress asunder, exposing her back... And she just stood there, staring at the scars for what seemed an eternity. He turned back to face me, throwing up his hands a little, "Then she just left. She stormed out." He shook his head, "I tried to console the Countess and had her placed in a comfortable secure room, giving her prison attire to protect her modesty." "Guardian, she needs you to be strong. If she's found guilty and exiled, we'll worry about that when the time comes. When the trial starts, you must control yourself. To not do so would end in dire consequences." "Any attempt to subvert the proceedings with violence will result in her death with immediate effect. Do I make myself clear?" Blackwell asked. I nodded, slowly and angrily. "The facts: the charge is for treason. If the verdict is four against, she will be acquitted. If they fail to reach a verdict, she will be acquitted. If it's hung, I get the final say on the evidence provided. With no evidence or credible testimony, I will advise the Emperor to acquit the Countess. But know this, if there is evidence, I will pursue a guilty verdict." "Thank you Lord Chancellor, you have been most helpful," Malesam said, and Blackwell nodded and walked away. "Anybody get the impression even the Chancellor's iron resolve is faltering here? Like this is all bullshit. Morag is definitely up to something beyond what we can see. She's only barely following the rules. Anyway, this doesn't bode well for us," I said. "We need to get through this. It's time for Rigmor to stop running. We need to put this whole thing behind her for good or ill. Guilty or acquitted," Malesam was wringing his hands. I could tell even he was getting angry at this. "She's already confessed," Jura added, "I'm not sure there's much we can do at this point. Best thing is probably we take a vacation... to Roscrea." I smirked. Malesam nodded, "Right. At the northern tip of Roscrea is an old fort Sethius turned into the prison. If she's exiled, I'll return to Bruma and Cerys will accompany Rigmor as her lady in waiting. I must confess I don't know the resupply routes to Roscrea. Perhaps out of Dawnstar would be best? Anyway, it's almost time. Shall we proceed?" As Malesam and Cerys walked away, Jura stepped up next to me. He said quietly, "Put your armor on. I'm getting those old soldier vibes that something bad is about to go down. You know, beyond this farce of a trial." I rushed to the room and did so, showing up to the audience chamber in moments. "Court is now in session," Blackwell announced, "The Empire versus the Countess of Bruma: the accusation is of treason on two counts. To assess her royal bloodline as a pretender. To usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge. I call the prosecution to make their case. Proceed." Morag started, "The Countess is not who she claims to be. She has been harboring a secret. We are here today to fully expose the trail of lies and deceit she has woven, and prove beyond doubt her reasons for signing the Noble Decree did indeed have ulterior motives. That she intended to infiltrate the Houses of Cyrodiil to cause dissent via intrigue and subversion so as to place herself in a position of power to make her claim to the Mede Dynasty." She paused, then began pacing, "A dynasty that has been legally passed on, to our great Emperor Ariel Sethius by right of combat. I put it to the jury, the Countess Rigmor of Bruma, is a pretender to the Imperial Throne. She wants to usurp the throne, which would be an act of treason. And that you should find her guilty, so that she spend the rest of her days in exile, and the House of Bruma be dissolved." "I call the defense to make their case," Blackwell said. Malesam said, "The Countess of Bruma is innocent of the charge brought against her, and I put this to the jury, that they think very carefully of the implications a guilty charge would bring. I put it to the jury that they will find before them not a subversive, power hungry pretender to the Imperial Throne, but quite the opposite. They will witness the truth about Rigmor of Bruma. That she signed the noble decree because she has faith in the land of Cyrodiil. I implore you to find the accused not guilty and be acquitted, so she can simply return home, where she belongs." "I call Rigmor of Bruma to the stand," Blackwell said. A gentle murmur washed over the crowd. She was flanked by two rows of guards, so most the crowd could see her before I did. I thought I was prepared, but it made me angry all the same. A gentle call of, "Silence," came from Chancellor Blackwell as she walked. And I could tell by the crowd's tone how much they disapproved of this treatment of a noble, even if she was of 'common' blood. And it seemed like this was not 'normal' treatment at all if their shock was any indication. I agreed that this was unnecessary. To treat anyone this way because of a simple accusation... "Silence!" Blackwell said again, more insistently. Blackwell said to her, "Countess of Bruma, you have been brought here today to hear the charges against you. You are accused of treason. How do you plead?" "Not guilty," she said with a broken voice. "Permission to interject, Lord Chancellor?" Malesam requested, "As you can clearly see, the Countess of Bruma is in poor health, and is clearly disoriented. Before questioning, I would like to speak with her directly, as to clarify her position, so she knows just what is actually going on." "No objection," Morag said. "Granted," Blackwell nodded. Malesam turned to her, "Rigmor, don't be afraid, as today you will be free. No more running away, no more hiding. I want you to listen carefully. Whatever questions the prosecutor asks, you must tell the truth. You have nothing to hide. Do you understand?" Rigmor nodded. Malesam turned to Morag, "Prosecutor. No need to accuse, interrogate or intimidate. Ask her what you want to know, and she will comply." "Proceed," Blackwell said. Morag turned to Rigmor, "Are you a direct descendant of the Emperor Titus Mede I?" "Yes," Rigmor replied. "How did you acquire the title and deeds to the county of Bruma?" "Emperor Titus Mede II bestowed them upon me," Rigmor replied. "Did you plot to usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge?" Morag asked. What a canny questioning. Much skill. "No," Rigmor replied. "Do you admit that by your lineage, you are a pretender to the Imperial Throne by default?" Morag asked. "Yes," Rigmor replied. The crowd erupted into loud murmurs. Oh my gods! I wanted to scream, 'You are not a pretender! That's not what that means!' "Court advisor Malesam, you realize that the Countess has by her admission brought these proceedings to an abrupt close?" Blackwell asked. "I do. But I still have the right to advocate clemency," Malesam replied. "Objection!" Morag shouted. Blackwell narrowed his eyes, "What are you even objecting to? Objection denied. Continue, Court Advisor." "Thank you, Lord Chancellor. Gentlemen of the jury. What you see before you is no usurper, no threat to the Imperial Throne. Until recently she was considered a commoner. She didn't come to sign the Noble Decree to cause dissent, she came to sign because she was scared. Her ancestry was something to be hidden. Why, you might ask? Because it would eventually lead to a day like this. Her ancestry should have been cause for celebration, ties to a dynasty was something Titus Mede II held dear. He himself bestowed the title of Countess upon her. And it should be therefore noted, in your deliberations. I ask for your clemency, and that she be able to keep the titles legally awarded her by her former Emperor, and I ask you to be merciful. She is, after all, an Imperial Princess." Blackwell walked around, getting the rulings of each Count. Rigmor was looking at me, and I gave a sad smile. That seemed to give her some form of reassurance, like I was going to save her. When Blackwell passed us, I heard the Count of Anvil say, "Guilty on the first count, not guilty on the second. Clemency approved." Then Chorrol, "Guilty on the first count, not guilty on the second. Clemency approved." When Blackwell had nearly finished his rounds, Jura raised his hand. "Yes?" Blackwell asked. "May I make a statement?" He asked. "The verdict has already been rendered. But if you wish, I will allow it," Blackwell replied. He stood up, and walked toward the dais. "Good morning. I'm General Jura of Hammerfell. Here on a diplomatic mission from my homeland. I was asked to escort the Countess as a favor for a friend. That's beside the point, just an introduction. My statement is thus: has anyone here explained what a 'pretender' to the throne actually means to Lady Rigmor? And Court Advisor Malesam, give my apologizes to Freathof, who I don't believe taught her about legal terminology. But, do the houses of Cyrodiil understand what a pretender to the Imperial Throne means?" Blackwell replied, "A pretender to the throne is someone who has, or invents, a claim to the throne which they assert to be superior to that of the incumbent monarch; in other words, they think they should be king or queen instead of the current monarch." "Exactly," Jura said, "Rigmor, do you believe your claim to the throne to be above that of Ariel Sethius?" "No," Rigmor replied. "In Hammerfell's court, intentionally leading the witness to give false testimony is called witness tampering, and is not just against the law, but manipulative and a mockery of justice. After all, why would she sign away her right to a throne if she wanted it herself?" Jura said, then he sat down, "Food for thought." "Are you kidding? I'm not responsible for educating the defendant on her position!" Morag replied. "I do believe the good general has a point," Malesam replied. "I agree, although there is not a mechanism for changing this decision once it has been rendered. Perhaps we should change this system," Blackwell mused to himself, "Mal-trial? Mis-trial?" "What is the verdict?" Ariel demanded. Blackwell sighed, silently cursing being beholden to this system, "Countess Rigmor is found not guilty of the charge to usurp the Imperial Throne by subterfuge. The Countess is found guilty of the charge to assert her royal bloodline and is sentenced to be exiled to the island of Roscrea for 25 years." "Twenty-five years?!" I said, but my voice was drowned out by the clamor of the soldiers and court members who hadn't made the decision. "If this is how they treat the nobles and royals I'd hate to see the actual criminals," I muttered. "Silence!" Blackwell continued, "As is the unanimous wish of the Houses of Cyrodiil, she will retain her noble titles and deeds. The County of Bruma will be administered by her family in her absence, and it is the express wish that she be cared for, as befitting an Imperial Princess." Malesam walked over to me as Rigmor was taken away and court dispersed, "Believe it or not, that was the minimum sentence." "Well, I gave it my best shot," Jura shrugged. "Nice try, grandpa," I said. "I knew it was coming. I needed to secure Bruma for Sigunn," Malesam said. "Sounds like you have a plan," I smiled, but only just a little. "Of course I do. I told you where the prison is, didn't I?" Malesam smiled. "Guardian! We must do something!" Robere ran up to me, shouting. "Bobby, it's over... for now. I'm sorry," I replied. "No, I won't hear of it! I can't lose her now, I love her. I'll join her on the island. I'll have father talk to the Emperor, I am not giving up. You might want to, but I will not!" "Ser Robere, there's nothing we can do at this point," Malesam said. "Rigmor said she'd marry me, and she is still Countess. How can you all just give up? Why are you all so calm?" Robere said, emotionally. "Don't worry, we have a plan," I said, "No more questions." He stormed off, angrily. "Cerys, it's time for you to go. Tell the guards you are Rigmor's lady in waiting. They should let you pass through immediately. Present yourself at the prison," Malesam said. Cerys left, and we started walking back towards the rooms, keeping it quiet. Malesam continued when we were out of earshot, "Prepare for a siege, dear girl. Leyawiin is not going to be happy about this. If Robere's motivations are genuine, we will be protected." We had a short meal, and about thirty minutes later, we heard a guard crier running down the halls, "FIRE! FIRE! The prison is on fire!" Malesam, Jura and I sprinted toward the prison. "Bet you're glad you put your armor on, huh?" Jura asked, "Knew there would be something foul here." We pushed past support workers running the opposite direction. When we reached it, guards were bucket brigading the massive blaze on the outside, as well as a couple Imperial mages blasting it with plumes of water. "She's still in there!" Cerys shouted, "The holding cells on the lower floor!" I got low and shoulder-checked the doors open, Jura following me. Bobby was shouting into the inferno, "Rigmor! Rigmor! Where are you?!" "I'm here! Help me!" Her voice shouted back. But the wall of fire seemed impassible. I turned to Bobby, "Get back outside. We'll save her." Jura tossed me a Fire Resist potion and chugged one himself, "Time to save the day, Runa!" I led the charge, bursting through the fire first. It was still painful, but we made it to the stairs without incident. Jura kicked down the blackened door covered in flame. We reached the lower level of the prison, both of us sprinting through fire. When we turned the final corner to the prison block, Morag was there. She smiled and said in Rigmor's voice, "Oh, please save me!" Then she threw a lever and the floor opened up underneath us. We fell into a deep pit, collapsing onto a mountain of bone. "Son of a bitch," Jura lay on his back in the bones, "It was a setup. But I didn't see this coming." Two figures peeked out over the pit. Morag... and Ser Robere. He said, "I'm sorry, guardian. General. I truly am. But it's nothing personal. When you said you had a plan, I figured we should go ahead and get you out of the way. You gotta look out for number one, right? I only want Bruma County, nothing more. Rigmor means nothing to me. She never did. What's more, she never shuts up. Would just go on and on and on. Did she ever do that with you? Yes, of course she did. I would smile and feign interest. When all I really wanted was to just punch her in the fucking mouth. Whiny little cunt." "Thank you Bobby," Morag said, "Now go. Tell them the Countess is alive and well, and luckily she'd already left for Roscrea. We will arrange the wedding as soon as possible. Once you become Count of Bruma we'll arrange a nice assassination or accident for her. Then you can get yourself a proper wife." "You know, I was just starting to like you," I said, "But thank you." "Thank... you?" Robere asked. "All this court intrigue is so boring. Stabbing in the back with words. I prefer stabbing in the front, with swords. Now when I get out of this pit I finally have somebody I can decapitate," I replied. "Do you... usually decapitate all your enemies?" Robere asked. "Not always decapitate. It's a problem, I know. But I'm working through it," I replied, "You can bet I'll be seeing you later." He backed away from the pit slowly, then left the room. "You know, we have a lot of powerful friends. They're going to notice we never came back," Jura said, still laying in the bones. "As I said to Runa earlier, I'm just spreading chaos. Let them come. So what if this dynasty crumbles? I'll just find a new one. Also, I must remember to give Bobby a slow meaningful death after this." "Nothing really is sacred with you, is it?" I asked. "Not the brightest candle in the stack, are we?" Morag asked, "You were way out of your depth the moment you stepped foot in Cyrodiil. Funny that one of Tamriel's most powerful killers is reduced to this shameful wretch. Sadly, this is where we say goodbye. Don't worry about Rigmor. She's in safe hands now. Here: to remember her by as you're dying in this pit." She dropped a lock of Rigmor's hair down and I caught it. "Strange," I said, putting it in my bag. "By the way, these labyrinths under the city are ancient, but this one has a particular something special. One of a kind, literally. I do hope you brought a torch with you. You'll need it. Here, take mine just in case. When you do come face-to face with death I'd hate for you to not see it coming," Morag pressed the button and the grate started to shut. Jura, still laying down, outstretched his hand and shot a Fireball, exploding on the roof of the room Morag was in. She peeked her head back over the edge, "You missed!" "Fuck off," Jura said as the grate shut. I sat down, sighing, "I didn't know you were a spellcaster." "Mostly restoration. I'm a paladin of the Order of the Scarab in Sentinel (Hammerfell), and Knight of the Flame in Anticlere (High Rock). But an old man has a few tricks up his sleeve, including Candlelight," Jura cast his light spell, trying to sit up. "It's ok. Let's take a break," I said. He was slowly casting restoration spells on himself, trying to correct his aching back. "What are you doing over there?" He asked, "I can't see." I took out a dagger. "Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear," I said slowly, stabbing the effigy. He finally sat up and found I'd arranged bones and flesh (of which there was a copious amount in the pile). I had oil (which I used with the bones to fashion candles), nightshade and my special sleep dagger handy, and I was now performing the Black Sacrament. "Who's it for?" He asked. "Ser Robere. In case we don't get out of here," I replied. "Not Morag?" "I don't want to risk them sending people to their deaths needlessly. She's a Vampire Lord. May need to do it ourselves," I replied, "Bobby though, that's personal." "Aren't you the Listener?" He asked. "Vala Amatius can hear The Night Mother and dispense jobs in my absence. That's kinda why I'm free to take time to fight a war and go on a diplomatic mission," I replied. "Truly a terrifying organization," Jura finally got to his feet. I snuffed out the candles and cast my own light spell. "Ready?" He asked. "Sure. Say, where's Calleius?" I asked. "I sent him to secure as a ride to Dawnstar when Malesam started talking about Roscrea," Jura replied. "You really are on top of things. From the armor suggestion to the fire resist," I said as we started into the labyrinth. "Sure I am. I've been doing this shit for fifty years." "Ever think of settling down?" I asked. "Nah!" He chuckled, "You know what I also have a lot of experience with?" "What?" "For one thing - labyrinths. They're rare in Cyrodiil, but they're all over High Rock and northern Hammerfell," he said. We passed into the first tunnel and everything was silent. We came upon the body of an Imperial soldier and I looted his gold and arrows. Then a blood trail. Then another body, leading us in a path. "Seems like we're expected," Jura commented. After a few minutes, I said, "You said 'for one thing,' what else?" "Oh yeah, right," he said, both of us recasting our light spells, "I know about relationships." "Ah gods, I'm sure what you have to say to me my mom has already said. You going to tell me to loosen up? Take a chance?" Jura shrugged, "Your mother sounds like she knows what she's talking about. If you want to experience life, you should just take the plunge and experience it." "Grandpa. You're telling me to have sex with somebody, aren't you?" "I'm telling you to find somebody you trust and throw caution to the wind. It's one of the greatest experiences in life," he said, "Who do you trust?" We continued on for a while, passing more corpses. "Alright. Alright," I said, "Calleius. I don't know what he thinks of me, but I know he'd treat me well." "Girl, he has a huge crush on you," Jura replied. "Does he?" I asked. "He's such a gentleman. So proper. I've been trying to get him out of his shell since we set out on this trip," Jura replied, "Also trying to improve his shield work. For a Legate, kinda garbage. You don't just use a shield for defense. You use it for positioning, for offense... Anyway, I'm getting off topic. Just do what comes naturally. And be safe!" Finally, the body trail reached an end with a huge pile of fresh dead. "I do believe they've been trying to kill whatever is down here for a while," I said. "Morag probably figured whoever dies between us and it, they'd benefit," Jura added. We pulled out our weapons and stepped into the next room. A large man sat in the shadows, making no threatening motion. "Dovahkiin. Come forth into the light," he said. "Not a Dragonborn," I replied, but I did as he asked, sheathing my greatsword. "Dova means dragon, but kin can mean either born, or child," he replied. "You called me Dragonchild?" I smirked, "Who are you, shadow man?" "I am Lord Mor'Bel Harza. Al-esh has smiled upon me this day. She promised me you would come. I am a Lord of Minotaurs," he explained, "The King of all one Minotaur." "Who is Al-Esh?" "She is my celestial mother. She is waiting for me to return to the stars." "I thought minotaur were extinct," Jura said. "I am the last," Mor'Bel said, "One we were many, thriving across Tamriel. We lived here in peace, and flourished. Our wings carrying us up high and to far off lands. Like winged horned gods we played amongst the stars. But the hearts of men became dark, and they came to fear us. We were shunned, reduced to the status of beasts and monsters, and we retreated into the dark caves and forests of the land. For thousands of years we watched empires rise and fall. The Elven Kingdoms. The Dwarven Citadels. We became trophies - sport for the arena, hunted down relentlessly, without mercy. I gathered the last of us, and we rose up to defend our very existence, but they were too many. We were too few. They tore off our wings and made us slaves. Put us down in labyrinths such as these. Al-Esh heard our cries and cursed this land. All that sought the peace of this land would never find it until her children were free. Akatosh pleaded that she release the curse, while Molag Bal laughed. I am the last. Al-Esh is calling and I have been waiting for one with the blood of ancient kings of men, to set an ancient king of minotaurs free." I looked over to Jura, then back to Mor'Bel Harza, "Me?" "It was foretold by Al-Esh. My blood is screaming to me that you are the one. I know not how, nor do I care," he replied, "When you free me, you free your kind as well. The arrival of the chosen queen of Tamriel is foretold with my freedom." I didn't know what this prophecy meant, but I unlatched my greatsword and leaned on the hilt, "I would be honored to deliver you from this hell." "Yes, Dragonchild. Allow me to soar the heavens again amongst my brothers and sisters," he said, "Take my heart and place it in the fire once you do." I stepped forward morosely, taking out my sleep dagger. I stabbed him with it in the leg, causing him to slump in his throne. Then I carved out his heart, giving him a quick, painless death. He slumped, sliding off the throne, but Jura caught him, "Sleep now, ancient king." Then he laid him down softly. I put his heart in the brazier and it burst to life, consuming it immediately. The door to the labyrinth slid open and we emerged into the Cyrodiilic countryside under gray clouds. "Why is this world so godsdamned cruel?" I asked. Jura sighed, putting his hand on my shoulder. "I don't know," he said, "C'mon. Best keep going forward." We took a quick walk up to the docks on the nearby river. Calleius ran up to us and hugged me, picking me up, "Runa! Jura! I was beginning to get worried!" "Told you we'd make it," Jura said. Then he put me down, realizing what he was doing. I grabbed his face, pushing the ever-present helmet off his head and kissed him. When I pulled back, he looked paralyzed. "Sorry," I said, "I think I just needed that point of hope. I don't know what I'm doing." "Don't apologize. I just... was caught off guard," he said. "Runa," another voice said. I turned to find Aventus, one foot on a supply boat and another on the dock. I was unsure if he'd seen that or what he would think, but I was happy to see him. "Aventus," I smiled at him, "It's good to see you." He looked a bit confused, a bit happy. Then I pulled him to me and hugged him. "I managed to find a friend shipping some goods to Dawnstar," Calleius said after he returned from his shock. "We can cast off whenever you like," Aventus said. I got on the boat, then I spied a figure. A shadowy man was standing there at the edge of the dock, cloak billowing. "Listener, you're alright," he said, "I've been monitoring your movements in the Imperial City per our mutual friend's orders. What is your need?" "Send a message back to Stabby and the Cyrodiil chapter. Keep a low profile. I just performed a Black Sacrament. The target is Ser Robere de Medallius of Leyawiin. If you get him, I want him alive. I want to kill him myself."
  8. Hey, it’s me, Runa! I volunteered to travel to Cyrodiil to figure out how I can get them on our side, while Fenrir went to Elswyer. Oh yeah, we’re going to invade Alinor! Mom gave me a letter from Sigunn of Bruma, asking for our help with Rigmor, an old friend of ours. She also happens to be the Countess of Bruma, which is a good starting point for getting in with the new Emperor. Anyway, I headed to Falkreath, meeting up with General Jura, Agrippina and Legate Calleius and saying bye to Fenrir and Shirley. We didn’t actually make it out of town until late in the day and it was near nightfall when we got to the border. The moons were reflecting off the clouds, giving a strange darkness to the surroundings, but a strange white gleam to some of the patches of snow and the path. I approached the gate guards. “I’m here to collect an official pass,” I said. “No need for that, could take hours. A few coin and you’ll be over the border in no time,” he said. Jura stepped up, “You trying to shake us down?” The border guard backed off a little at the large, gruff, heavily-armored tough guy, “Just trying to do you a favor, friend.” I walked past them into the border station. A man's voice came out of the next room, "Sarmenti, my dear, please. I'm trying my best. Hopefully I can get an appointment somewhere else in the Empire." "Stultus, we've been stuck out here nearly two years. The way those beasts outside look at me... it's only a matter of time." Looking like he was trying to get out of this situation, the man saw me sitting in front of his desk, "May I help you?" "I'm here to collect an official pass to cross the border into Cyrodiil," I said. "Oh, yes, you must be..." He got up, walking off to look for it, "Captain Grimbold of the Bruma garrison informed us you would probably be coming. This one is signed by the house of Bruma. Be sure you show it to the New Imperial Guards. The New Emperor is very serious about immigration control and the guards are very ruthless in his implementation of... zero tolerance. To not be in possession of an official document can be...fatal. Your friends had good cause to make sure you adhered to the official channels." "A lot has changed. Last time I crossed this border I just used the caves and snuck past," I smirked. "I'll... pretend I didn't hear that. Those guards out there are nothing but criminals and people traffickers in Imperial colors. They would wave you through for coin knowing you'd be killed on the other side. Before you go, I have letters addressed to the 'Dragonborn.' Any chance you know him?" "Her. And I can accept those," I replied. Two long letters. I decided I'd read them on the road. "These are years old. Why not just return them to sender while the barrier was up? She probably thought 'the Dragonborn' was ignoring her," I said. "Got me. We actually didn't man this station with guards for nearly five years. I used this station as a small house and all I got paid to do was watch the border. The last guy quit because he got bored. The good news is Cyrodiil is experiencing growth and stability since the new administration. More so after the reinstatement of the Nine." "Oh, you worship Talos here again? I wonder what the Thalmor think of that," I said. "We'll see what happens," Stultus groaned, "Maybe another war. I'm sure your stay will be pleasant and enlightening. One more thing was left for you." He put a greatsword on the table - Rigmor's greatsword, Azura's Bane. It made me think about how we trained together. This thin little thing outstripped even my Moonlight Greatsword in power. I strapped it to my back. "Follow me," he stood, "Show the pass to the New Imperial guards at the Cyrodiil side of the border." I opened the door I'd come in and waved my companions through. We exited on the other side of the building, also on the other side of the gate. It was probably 11 pm when we crossed the Skyrim gate. We picked a flat spot and made camp about a mile down the road. Calleius set up a large fur tent with four bedrolls and I built a fire just outside, Jura laid down while we built camp. "Give an old man a break," he grinned. "You're taking the long watch," I squinted at him. I cracked open the letters for my mom while I was laying there. First one, written only a couple months after she went back to Bruma: That was... deeply personal. That guy probably shouldn't have given me this. I'm getting some weird 'mommy' vibes from this. Anyway, second one, written during the time crisis: Gods, did nobody tell this girl about the time split? Mom's been fighting dragons, vampires and a war over the past year (five years to Cyrodiil). Somehow this teenager developed a giant crush on my mother. Now we're both twenty, and there could be potential there - but I think my mom has all the love she can handle with Ulfric and Serana. She's got a lot on her plate being queen of Skyrim. Sigunn's letter didn't show just how deep this was. Or maybe Rigmor has moved on with her life since then. Mom was probably right to let me go in her stead. I forced Jura to pack up the camp when we got up, while Calleius and I took in an amazing view of the Imperial City. "You're wearing the general's style armor now, did you get a promotion?" I asked him. "Ma'am, that's not how it works. I just saved up for this, and the new helm. My old one got destroyed in the Battle for Riften," Calleius said. I swear he was wearing the closed helm so I couldn't see if he was looking at me. But he definitely was, rather than looking at the city. "I told you not to call me ma'am." "All done, let's go!" Jura shouted. We approached the Cyrodiil gate and I showed them my pass. "This all seems in order," the guard said, "Be warned. Keep your weapons sheathed. Any acts of violence will be met with the full force of the law. Of course, self defense is permitted." There was a large blood stain on the left as we walked past. "Move along, citizen. Nothing to see here," a mounted guard said. Bruma wasn't very far off - a couple miles. Seemed a shorter walk than I remembered. We actually passed straight through the wilderness, which was relatively flat, until we came to the Bruma gates. "Welcome to the free city of Bruma, travelers," one of the yellow-tabarded guards said. "I have a pass. I believe it is a multipass," I said. "Hah, no need for that here friend. Through the gate to the right is the blacksmith. The stable is at the stone steps..." "I've been here before, though it's been a few years. Are the Thalmor really out of here?" I asked. "For now," he replied. We walked in, and up the hill, a man was waiting for me. I ran up to him and gave him a hug. "Aventus! I see you got my letter. I wasn't sure if it was going to make it to you and give you enough time to make it here," I said. "Your mom only just sent us on this mission," Jura said. "I was already planning on visiting him when the barrier came down," I said. "Who's this?" Aventus asked. "This is my friend Legate Calleius and my grandfather, General Jura," I replied. "Who's this?" Calleius asked back. "Aventus Aretino. He's my friend from the orphanage I grew up in. I was lucky enough to get adopted. He was lucky enough to be rich and get access to his wealth when he grew up," I smirked. He chuckled as the boys walked over, "I had visions of building a trade empire using my fortune, and also... starting more orphanages. Runa was my bodyguard for a couple years as we traveled around." "Oh yeah, you wanted to establish trade to Skyrim. How did that work out?" "Well, uh... not so well, until now. My trade is mostly coming from High Rock and Hammerfell and delivering to Cyrodiil via ship. I already had a mind to send goods to Skyrim now that the barrier is down. I stand to make a killing," Aventus said. "Hmm..." Calleius was giving Jura a sideeye, but he didn't say anything. "We're here to see the countess." "Need help getting an audience?" Aventus asked. "No. Don't forget, I know her," I said. "Well, allow me to accompany you to the keep," Aventus put his hand on the small of my back. I've always liked when people do that. We approached the keep guards. "How can we help you, travelers?" The one on the left asked. "I'm here to see the countess," I said. "You'd be lucky to see her in there. Better off checking Tap and Tack," he replied. "Tap and Tack?" I asked, "Oh, I'm more of a Jerall View girl. I like the baths." "I know you," the one on the right said. "You're making a mistake..." I smirked, and he chuckled at the joke. "I was with you at the Battle of Whiterun. You know, the one six years ago. Not the one in the Civil War. And not the one I heard about you just fought against the Thalmor." "Word travels fast," I said. "It was an honor and a privilege to serve with you and the Dragonborn. Oh, NOT the Dragonborn. Though I heard the dragons slowed down. Did she ever woman-up and deal with those buggers?" He asked. "Yep. Alduin's gone. Apocalypse averted," I replied, "Is Sigunn in the keep?" "Why yes. Go on in," he replied. We walked into the throne room, only to find a man dressed in black, speaking with the court, sans Rigmor. "It has been two weeks since the Emperor requested the Countess' presence at the Imperial City. The Emperor would like to know... no he demands to know why the Countess has not made the time to attend. As you can see by my presence, it is absolutely imperative that she does." Sigunn responded, "I am sorry, Lord Chancellor. I will make sure the Countess learns of the urgency of this matter." "One might think Lady Sigunn has become the Countess, while her daughter..." "Enough, Blackwell. Mind your manners. Please inform the Emperor the Countess will be forthcoming. Chancellor Blackwell replied, "I think you understand the gravity of the situation. You have one week to comply. Good day, m'lady." As he walked out, Cerys came to get us and took us to the cabinet room to wait for our audience. Sigunn still had a few matters to attend to. As we were walking by, a man named Jimmy Ten-Fingers and Mathias were hashing out some sort of disagreement with chickens with Sigunn as the mediator. We stood there for a while, waiting and I peered over to Cerys. "How've you been?" "Not too bad. They gave me a pretty good life here. Can't complain." "Well you're looking great. No, you look hot! Hard to believe they let you wear that in court." "Most the other women in court wish they could pull this off," Cerys smirked. "Well I know I couldn't. Especially the heels," I whispered, "I've never learned to walk in heels." Sigunn walked in about that time, "How long has it been? And your dear mother should visit too. Rigmor is so fond of her." "Don't I know it, but you'll have to settle for Diet Dragonborn. I'm not a dragonborn, but I do know a couple shouts," I chuckled, "It's been too long." "Oh, she misses you too." "So are you doing all the annoying work with Countess while she has all the fun?" I folded my arms. "I attend to the mundane courtly duties... with the help of Court Advisor Malesam and Master Freathof." Malesam, the old guy next to me, said, "I'm so pleased to make your acquaintance once again. I seem to have this preference for cold wintry places. We feel right at home here, right Cerys? Allow me to introduce you to Freathof." "I've heard so much about you Runa. It's good to finally meet you at long last," the other old guy, Freathof said. "Come, let's sit. Introduce me to your friends," Sigunn said. "This is Legate Calleius of the old Imperial Legion. He was instrumental in the war with the Thalmor up north," I replied. "Oh my, we haven't heard word about the war yet. I take it you did well?" Malesam asked. "M'lady, the Thalmor took Riften, Falkreath, Helgen, Markarth and Morthal. We stopped them and pushed them back at Whiterun and we kept pushing until they were out of Skyrim. We found out they were using secret magics to beat us," Calleius said. "This is General Jura of Hammerfell. My grandfather," I continued. He bowed, took Sigunn's hand and kissed it. "My, a charmer I see," Sigunn smiled. "And this is Aventus Aretino. Childhood friend, traveling companion, and trade prince," I said. "I'm no prince, but I am pleased to meet you," Aventus chuckled. "Nice to meet you. I must admit, your face looks familiar," Sigunn said. "I've been in and out of Bruma quite a few times over the past few years, but never had any reason to speak with you directly." "Please, help yourselves to refreshments," Sigunn said, and my entourage walked to the far side of the room where there were drinks. Sigunn went over to a wash basin, washed her face, then sat down next to me. "So what was that all about? That Blackwell character. Is that why you asked for help?" "Martin Blackwell, Lord Chancellor to the Emperor," Sigunn replied. Malesam added, "A very dangerous man. He heads a very secretive and powerful spy network. Former Lord Chancellor to Titus Mede II, and now works for the new... dynasty. His loyalties lie with the Imperial Throne, no matter who's behind rests upon it. He's bitter about failing to find Titus Mede II, leaving a long and bloody trail behind him." How did they not find him? My brain did a few somersaults. Maybe... did the captain of the Emperor's ship go on the lam, not wanting to be blamed for the Emperor's death? And we did kill the Penitus Oculatus who were involved, and the Council member, so nobody who knows what happened on the Empire side is still alive. I chuckled out loud. "He blames the Dark Brotherhood and utterly crushed the underground ring here in Cyrodiil," Malesam continued. No, he didn't. Stabby used a strawman hideout to make it look like we were done in. I have some genius people working with me. "He is cruel and devious and we have cause to fear him," Malesam continued. "So anyway, what is this task you called me for?" I asked. "Before Ariel Sethius can be coronated, he needs Rigmor to sign the Noble Decree," Sigunn explained. "Our 'Bandit King' is to bestow upon himself the title of Titus Mede the third," Malesam said. "Well that's..." I blinked, "Stupid. Why not use your own name, start your own dynasty? The Medes did that when the Septims died out." "Of course, the girl has yet to sign it," Malesam said, "To do so, she would have to enter that nest of vipers - the Imperial City. I cannot be sure whether they know of Rigmor's true ancestry. If they do, she could be considered a threat to the Imperial Throne. As far as they know, Titus Mede II left no living heir." Freathof said, "As the noble houses of Cyrodiil bickered and argued, Sethius took the throne by right of combat, as Titus Mede I took the throne from Thules the Gibbering 200 years ago, who took over for High Chancellor Ocato when he was assassinated. Who took over when Uriel Septim VII was assassinated. Rigmor's ancestral link to Titus Mede I puts her in grave danger if Sethius were to find out." "If all she has to do is sign this document, so be it, but we can not let her go alone. This bandit king became Emperor by right of combat, we cannot change that, and don't want to. When he entered power, they sent envoys and we declared Bruma to remain a free city," Sigunn said. Malesam picked up, "Not like Leyawiin. They fought back and were nearly razed to the ground. The others signed the 'White-Gold Settlement' nearly overnight. It's a wonder they let us keep our free status. But they still need us to sign the 'Noble Decree' to legally become a part of the Mede Dynasty." "Ariel Sethius sounds strong, but not very smart," I folded my arms, "Maybe there's something I'm missing. Alessian, Reman, Septim, Mede - why not Sethius?" "He is strong," Malesam said, "In absence of the Emperor the Elder Council called for General Quintus Vitalis of the Northern Legion. By the time he arrived, the city was already taken and he couldn't even cross the bridge." Freathof continued, "What remained of the council surrendered the city. Quintis was sent with his army to the Hammerfell border to protect Anvil. With the incorporation of the bandit legion and the surviving other legions, and with new recruits... there seems to be a stable peace now in Cyrodiil." "So you just need us to protect her?" Jura asked, taking a long drink of ale at the far side of the room. Sigunn sighed, "Yes. Now if you'll excuse me, this was a long day in court. I think I will retire." "I believe I will retire as well. Runa, if you wouldn't mind meeting me later at the Jerall View Inn," Aventus said. I nodded, turning back to the group. After a moment, Malesam continued, "I had hoped Rigmor might take responsibility for her position eventually. She's been keeping unruly company as of late. The new Count Leyawiin's son Robere de Medalius. After the sacking of Leyawiin and the murder of the Count and his family, Sethius placed one of his trusted henchmen in the count's place." "Well, if he makes her happy, good for her," I said. "Of course," Malesam said, "But there's something else. I fear Ariel Sethius is not the power behind the throne. As a disciple of Boethiah I have certain privileges and insights. There is real concern for Rigmor's safety in the Imperial City. We believe Sethius' wife is a daughter of Coldharbour." "A vampire lord?" I asked, "By itself that's not necessarily a cause for concern. My mother and ... stepmother? are both vampire lords." "My word," Freathof said, "We've heard specific tale of her wrongdoing, however. We heard she's 300 years old, and she builds her power with the sacrifice of children. We believe she's the mastermind behind Sethius' rise to bandit lord and usurpation of the Throne." "Children?" Calleius finally sat down, his heroic tendencies grabbing his interest, "How can you be sure?" "Besides my mistress' guidance... Go on Freathof," Malesam said. He sighed, as if a deep personal weight were on him, then he said, "For many years I served the Count and Countess of Bruma and schooled their only child in the ways of ettiquette. The Count had a riding accident and died. Then one night, the child, Sofia of Bruma just vanished. Oh how we searched... I never gave up. But as the weeks turned into months and years, the poor countess become withdrawn. She lost the will to live and...died of a broken heart." I raised an eyebrow, surely this was tragic. But I had to ask, "How long ago did Sofia disappear? And how old was she?" "About fifteen years ago. She was sixteen at the time. Nearly an adult, but still acted so childish... she reminded me of Rigmor," Freathof started to tear up, "M'lady Rigmor told me about what had befallen Sorella in Skyrim. That she too had bad dreams, heard voices calling her... Oh how I wish I had taken more notice of the poor child... I believe I shall also retire. Recalling this has taken its toll." When he left, Malesam looked at me, "Of course, this could all be hot wind and conjecture. Cerys will show you to your room. It is good to see you again, Runa. I bid you good day." I nodded, "Nice to see you again too." After that Cerys showed us to our rooms. "So, I'll get your opinion now since the workers always seem to have the best insights. How do you think she's doing?" I asked. "She's fine. Lately she's been all over the place." "Is this Robere character trustworthy?" I asked. "Why does it concern you?" She smirked at me. "I liked the girl. Listen to me, I sound like an old man." "Try the Tap and Tack, or her apartment. See for yourself," Cerys handed me a key, then she left. When we stepped outside, I realized it was evening, not yet dark. I turned to Jura and Calleius, "I think I need to relax for a little while. I'm going to fuck off for a couple hours at the Jerall View. Meet me at Tap and Tack at around sundown." When I strode up to the lobby, Aventus was sitting there with a ledger, making notes. He looked up, "Want to take a trip through the bathhouse?" "Now you're speaking my language," I replied. We both undressed at the entrance without thinking about it, and got into the hot water. After a few minutes, Aventus asked, "What are you thinking about?" "I'm just thinking about the first time we crossed the border. Remember the caves, full of bandits? They had their own fort down there." "I think they cleared it out now. They've actually tightened up a lot," I said, "Maybe the old empire had a lot of detritus. Remember how the Thalmor were trying to shut down the Shrine to St Martin? He's not a god, we just think he's pretty cool. Also gave his life to prevent the Daedra from ever invading again without us needing a dragon emperor." "I'm thinking about the first time we sat in the sauna. That strange Khajiit that was talking our ear off. And you were right, the Empire did collapse. Of course, I know you and your mom started the first domino that sent the rest of them going down." "What's done is done," I said, "The Emperor said to my mom it was better if it happened." "You know what else? I'm thinking of the last time we saw each other," Aventus said. I sighed, "Please. What's done is done. We can't change what happened." "I wouldn't want to," Aventus said, "I've learned a lot since then. We could... try again." "Please! You treated me like I was just a friend for years (which I'm fine with) and then you flip on me, we have sex, then you ghost me. Not what I want," I said, annoyed. Friends? Sure. Lovers? Okay, maybe. I'd have given it a shot. "C'mon Runa, we're adults now. Things aren't so cut and dry. People aren't always strongly together or not together. It's not just being totally alone and being married. There are gradiations in between. Proximity fuels relationships. And you know I had to move to where the supplies were and you had your own mission." I sighed, "Yeah, well. I'm not as experienced with this as my mom. This always seemed to come naturally. I'm awkward when it comes to sex." "Like I was saying before, sex is a learning experience," he stood up. "I swear this was meant to have the effect of me walking away mysteriously, not my dong swinging around comically, and near your face." I smirked, "Well, go ahead. Make your exit." "Okay." "All I'm saying is," he turned to walk away, and at the door he said, "Think about it." "Ohh! Sooo mysterious!" I shouted as he walked down the hall. I lounged there for a good twenty minutes before I got bored being by myself. That conversation had really ruined the mood. I realized I had my armor, but hadn't brought a towel, so I covered using robes and looked for Aventus' room. I heard voices coming from his room. "Do you even know her?" Aventus asked. "Sir, all I'm saying is, the lady is my friend and she seems distraught by your presence." It was Calleius. I decided I would dry off in the hallway and put my armor on before I walked in to crash through the conversation they were having about me. "Look, man, it's complicated. We're not together. Maybe someday. Just what do you want out of your friendship from her?" Aventus asked. "I seek only her protection," Calleius replied. "Nice guy, huh? I bet you think you deserve a reward from the lady for being her saviour, don't you? Men like you give the rest of us a bad name," "Sir, I take exception to that remark," Calleius replied angrily, "You will take that back, or face my blade." I finished with my armor at this point and rushed in, standing between them. "Whoa! Calm down!" I put my hands on both their shoulders. I looked at Aventus, "First of all, I just told you us is not going to happen right now." Then I turned to Calleius, "And I'm not a child. I can defend myself. And my honor, if there is such a thing. You should go." Like a whipped dog, Calleius hung his head and walked out. I turned to Aventus again, "Look, it's not as if I'm not attracted to you. I like you. But this is ... weird." "You're telling me. Your guy there has a serious crush on you," Aventus said. "Us is weird too. I'm sorry, I don't know what I want. Hey, if you want, we're going to the Imperial City soon, it seems. You could always come with." Aventus sighed, "I'm sorry, I can't. You know I need to get things going with Skyrim. And I haven't been back home in years. I can't just follow you around like a lost puppy because you call." "You mean like I did with you!?" I yelled, and turned to walk out. Aventus grabbed my arm, and pulled me close. Then he kissed me. I pulled away. And you know the scene in the old romance novels where the heroine slaps the hero for manhandling him? This was not like that. I gave him an uppercut in his gut, lifting him off the ground with the force. He doubled over in pain, falling on the floor grasping his stomach. "Ugh...." He said, "Sorry... caught up.... in the moment." "I might've been a little rough, sorry," I turned, "I'll see you later, Aventus." I found Calleius waiting outside. I decided using words like a blunt object was the way to go today, "Hey, so was what he said in there right? Do you have a massive crush on me and think you can get certain 'rewards' if you help me out?" "Uhh..." He was speechless. "Okay, well, let me tell you who I am. Aventus tried to kiss me and I nearly knocked him out. I'm skilled assassin who routinely bisects and decapitates people. I'm not some precious flower to be won, or fawned over, or protected. If you treat me like one of your legion buddies, but with a vagina, then you might have a shot with me," I exhaled, "If you actually want that." "Ma'am...... Runa. There are many women in the Imperial Legion. I treat both men and women with respect. It's part of my code," Calleius said, "But I believe I know what you mean. I must confess you are a beautiful young lady, but I expect nothing for my protection. It's just my way. That man has no idea who I am." It was around sunset at this point, probably best time to catch somebody when they'd started drinking, so I went with Calleius and found Jura outside the Tap and Tack. Inside I found a few people drinking, but no girl of the hour. I asked the barkeep, "Looking for Rigmor. Know where she is?" "That girl?" He chuckled, "She's a wildcat, hardly surprising with what she's been through." "I take it she comes in here often," I said. "Yeah. I watched the kid grow up. It was a shock when they took her family away, they were well liked in Bruma. But when they came back, and as nobles! Love a good rags to riches story myself," he said, "You can try her apartment if you know where it is." We walked to her house and I knocked. No answer. I unlocked it with the key, and was greeted with the pigsty of somebody half my age. I found a few interesting things: a poem, clothes that might fit me, finally I found a note in the wastebasket that 'Bobby,' Sir Robere, wanted to meet at the Roxey Inn, which I remembered was just south of town. "Might as well," I said, and we made the walk. When I stepped inside, the boys stood near the doorway as I approached their table. And there she was.
  9. Hey, still Destana. Last time, we drove the Thalmor back and I defeated their leader (Viranir). Unfortunately, she escaped via strange ghost powers. Then we partied for a week while rebuilding, rendering aid and fixing most of the Jarl positions. Falkreath is still vacant (temporarily General Jura of Hammerfell). Ulfric called the moot for me, including: High King Ulfric Stormcloak (and Jarl of Windhelm) Queen-General Destana Stormblade (That's me!) Jarl Skald of Dawnstar General Jura of Hammerfell, Representing Falkreath Jarl Madanach of Markarth Jarl Sorli of Morthal Jarl Maven Black-Briar of Riften Jarl Elisif of Solitude Jarl Baalgruf of Whiterun; with Vidnar (who also represented the Companions) Jarl Korir of Winterhold Serana of Volkihar High Council Members Nazir, Dagri’Lon and Thongvar Silver-Blood. Archmage Tolfdir of the College Listener Runa of the Dark Brotherhood Brynjolf of the Thieves' Guild Arngeir of the Graybeards Grandmaster Delphine of the Blades General Sialius for the Mede Empire in Exile and the Defense of Skyrim Commander Balfhe for the Defense of Skyrim Commander Hrolf Witch-Slayer for the Defense of Skyrim Commander Fenrir Stormcloak for the Defense of Skyrim Damien Guivenne for the Defense of Skyrim. He said, "A title isn't necessary, I just want to be there." Most of the Housecarls and Stewards didn't include themselves in the meeting this time, electing to stand off in the distance rather than crowd the discussion, except Maul, who stood just behind the stalls for part of the meeting. He wanted to hear and was not very stealthy about it. We had a challenge and fight over the Markarth Jarldom. Igmund is in prison for trying to dishonorably assassinate Madanach with poison, awaiting execution. And the last thing I said... "The Dominion is on the run. But they still hold Alinor, Valenwood, Elswyer and some of Black Marsh (nobody has ever conquered the inner swamps, because, why would you want to?) Cyrodiil is in turmoil. We now have the start of an alliance in Hammerfell, and we could pursue an alliance with High Rock and Cyrodiil." "So what are you proposing?" Ulfric asked. "We're going to invade the Dominion," I replied. Everyone looked at me for a moment. They'd looked at me like this before - like I'd grown a second head. "Before you get your shots in with 'you're crazy,' 'have you lost your mind?' and 'we don't have the resources.' Let me tell you what I'm thinking. The Khajiit and Argonians were duped into working for the Dominion. I know in my heart the Dominion made the moons disappear, via magic, or whatever, which got them Elswyer. And I'll bet they're the ones who cut the Argonians off from the Hist. A lot of them are still vehemently against working with the Thalmor. The Wood Elves, I'm not so sure." I started pacing now, "What I'm proposing is not a war of conquest. It's a war of liberation. This is a dream I've had since I was small. Every person has the right to freedom. Every nation has the right to self-determination. This cycle of one nation destroys another or conquers another can end if we let it. That is, with the exception of Alinor. They need to have the guidance of the other nations of Tamriel for a while before they can be set off on their own again." "This dream... has merit," Baalgruf replied. I could tell I had their attention, at the very least. I continued, "This war will take several moves. The first place we need to hit is Valenwood. If we can conquer them (for now), or get them on our side, we convince the Khajiit they're not beholden to the Dominion (and I think I have a couple friends who can help with that), we practically have Alinor. Before that, we need Cyrodiil in our court. Everyone knows Cyrodiil is in turmoil. A Bandit King sits on the throne, which is fine. He earned it. If he is effective, then so be it. But from what I've heard, the houses are infighting and can't put up a fight against the Thalmor if they wanted to, which is why they let the Dominion roll over them to get to us." General Sialius grumbled when I said that, but didn't add anything. "What I propose is we send a delegation to Cyrodiil and help them sort out their problems. Show them both that we mean business, that we're strong and not a target for reconquest, and that we want to be their allies. At the very least against the Thalmor, but also going forward. If we can do that, High Rock is still under Cyrodiil, technically." "So what about Alinor?" General Sialius asked. He looked like he was getting into the idea, but still judging how well I'd thought this through. "Well, I have spoken to shipwrights in Solitude and Dawnstar, and I'm planning on speaking with those in Haafstad. We're going to build ships. With Cyrodiil's, Hammerfell's and Elswyer's Navy we will launch an amphibious assault." "I hate to be the voice of reason here," Maven said, "But I assume that's why you made me a Jarl. Who's going to pay for all this?" "That is a good question," I said, "I assumed the government of Skyrim would pay for a lot of it..." There were a lot of groans at that. "..But also, I'm going to be putting forth several hundred thousand septims for the cause," I said. "And all this is going on while Hammerfell is at open war with the Dominion," General Jura said, "I just got communication from the homeland. Hammerfell is going to do everything we agreed to, so you will have our help in this effort if you pursue it." They stood there for a minute, side conversations going on. Balgruuf was the one to speak first, "Destana. Dragonborn. Old friend. We think your idea has merit." "The logistics need to be worked out," Thongvar elbowed Maven. "Exactly. Also, our boys have seen the horrors of war firsthand. We're not sure how many of them will want to jump face-first into another war. Especially if we don't get any spoils out of all this," Balgruuf explained. "Who said we weren't going to take spoils?" I smirked, "We're not going to rob them blind, but I do plan on taking some things. I was a professional thief after all." They all chuckled. "But seriously though," I said, "I think if we remind them of who visited the pain and suffering on them they'll be more keen to retaliate. Remind them of their dead. Off the top of my head, Vex, Ralya, Laila, Dengeir, Siddgeir and a lot of Stormcloaks, Imperial troops and Forsworn, many of whom I didn't learn their names. Also in that vein, I think we should set up a memorial. In Riften, the first place they conquered." "Dammit, we should!" Maul said. Vex was one of his good friends. Then he realized he didn't really have a voice in this discussion and backed away, realizing he was the only housecarl standing there. Maven nodded, "I think my housecarl hiding back there shows Skyrim's spirit. A lot of people are going to react emotionally to their dead friends. We can use that to motivate them to the Queen's war." Damn Maven, how did you find a way to make something I believe in sound icy cold? Generally the gains/profit minded in the group seemed to bend to my war idea when she put it like that, keeping in mind I mentioned spoils. "Similar to my thoughts," I said, then I whispered to her, "I'm glad you're on my side." Maven smirked, whispering back, "After all these years, I realized you have the same goal-oriented mindset that I do. You just go about it differently, and you have different strengths. You making me a Jarl was one of the smartest decisions you ever made." I chuckled nervously. "So a vote then?" I said, "I motion that Skyrim declares open war on the Aldmeri Dominion, details of the strategy to be revisited at a later date." "Aye," Madanach said, "So long as the Forsworn get to participate in the war." "Of course," I said. "Aye," said Skald, Maven, Korir and Balgruuf. "Nay," Sorli the Builder said, "I've seen enough war in my time, though I think my vote will not overturn the decision." "I abstain, if I even get a vote," Jura said, thinking it proper. "After some thought, I think... Aye," Elisif said. The others were a little taken aback by that. "What? The war didn't make its way to Solitude, but I saw some of the tortures inflicted on my men by those Thalmor. I think they need to sow the seeds of their wrongdoing." I think I realized in that moment she had become friends with Hrolf. Don't ask me how - maybe that they were standing together and their body language. Maybe he'd put some ideas into her head. "You do realize building ships and planning a campaign is going to take a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of money," Balgruuf said. "Yeah, I think we should be ready to go in a few months," I said, "We're going to make sure we have Cyrodiil on lock at the same time we're planning the Amphib." "Well then, aye," Balgruuf said, "Vignar should help with the planning. You know he's bored out of his mind in Jorrvaskr." Vignar chuckled, "Well, I'm in." "Speaking of which, I want to talk to you after this," I said, "And I think we should move our war planning here, out of the public eye. Sialius, Hrolf, Balfhe, Vidnar, Fenrir. And all the minor commanders who weren't invited for fear of this becoming too public." "Sounds good," General Sialius said. "Okay, last last thing to discuss. Who are we going to send to Cyrodiil, who will we send to Elswyer to contact my friends?" There was a minute of discussion about sending an envoy, but nobody came to clear conclusion again. "Maybe I should go," Sialius said, "They do know me there." "Well, you're kind-of high profile. You have a history with the old Empire, and you did just help us fight a war. You swore your allegiance to Skyrim. They might see it as an act of aggression. We want to offer them an olive branch." "I can go," Runa said, much to my surprise. I turned to her. "I lived in Cyrodiil for five years. I have contacts there. Though I think things have changed some in the past couple months, a whole level of society just being gone, I bet the mid-level people are mostly still the same." "That's pretty normal during a regime change. You have to keep the people onboard who know how to carry on the day-to-day operations. Otherwise, your government will just crumble," Vidnar said. "Alright. We'll write a letter to Emperor Ariel Sethius and you can use that as a springboard to speak with him, and the Elder Council, if it exists in any form," I said, "If you can, get him to meet with us." "I can reach out to some of my contacts I know via trade," Thongvar said, "Might be a help to you." "Excuse me," General Jura said, "I'd like to go with her." "Why's that?" I asked. "I'm empowered to act as a delegate for Hammerfell. I have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Also, sending her alone may not be safest. I know she's strong, but we have no idea what we're going to see out there." "Well, I'm fine with it. Not that I could stop you. You're not a citizen of Skyrim," I said, "This isn't an official decree or order, so I'm not going to put it to a vote. Runa, you have your orders." She nodded, "I will see it done." We handled a few nonessential tasks before the group, including revitalizing some old towns that'd gone into disrepair, then Vignar approached me. "Hey, you've been a Companion for longer than most the members have been alive. I think you should be Harbinger," I said. Vignar replied, "Well, I appreciate the honor, but I've been a part of the Circle for a matter of days." "Yes, but you were only barred because of a dumb rule I did away with. You should've been a Circle member decades ago. I'll tell the rest of the Companions. You know I don't have time to advise the Companions with my other responsibilities. It'd be better if I was just a Circle member," I said. I didn't expect this, but Vignar hugged me, "Godsdamnit. I've never realized how much I wanted this until I was given it. Bless you for this honor!" After that, the moot dispersed to side conversations and Runa and Jura walked up to me. "Wait, before you say anything. I can see your bare legs. What is that?" "Tattoos. All over my body," Runa replied. I blinked. "I'm kidding. I have been thinking about getting a couple. I just drew on my skin to test them out. I figured nobody would notice because I wear full ebony platemail. But you can see the barest sliver of my legs," Runa chuckled. "If you do it, don't get anything like this," I pointed to my tally marks, "Consult a professional," Then she said, "By your demeanor, it sounds like you have a general idea of where to start in Cyrodiil." "Well, it was a lot more recent for me than it was you. To me, the end of 209 (when it happened) was only about seven months ago. In my reckoning, I killed Alduin and Harkon about four months ago. I mean, the dates are getting a little confusing for me." "Stop beating around the bush, mom. Who are you talking about?" Runa asked. "I'm talking about how we know the Countess of Bruma," I replied, "And we made her the countess. She kinda owes us. To her (and you, it'll have been about five to six years ago." "Oh yeah. Rigmor," Runa said, "I actually visited her a couple years ago. In my reckoning. But I did a lot of travel around Tamriel before I came back here. Gods, this is getting confusing." "Best not to worry about it too much. I went back to Windstad to check my mail after not having checked it for about a year in Skyrim time and I had about forty letters. Most of them were about holidays and people dying. One of them was a letter from Bruma, sent right before the barrier came down." I opened it and handed it to her. It read: "Heh, official pass. Last time Aventus and I crossed the border we had to go through the caves going under the gates," Runa smiled. "Who is this Rigmor of Bruma?" Jura asked. "Oh, well," I said, "To summarize, in 4E 209 Runa and I started adventuring together before she became the Listener (to start her training) and we found a wounded girl in southern Skyrim. Ends up she has noble blood, related to the count of Bruma. Also, she's some kind of 'chosen one,' like different from being a Dragonborn or the Listener, a chosen of Azura. Why it's not a Dunmer, not really sure. Anyway, we ended up fighting a splinter group of Thalmor, called the New Order who wanted to harness her power for ill purposes. Imagine an even more extreme group of Thalmor. And we fought against Malacath. At the end, she went to Bruma and we went back to our off-the-grid lifestyle we were enjoying at the time