She was a Queen and a conqueror. She controlled kingdoms and held the Empire within her clenched fist. She was a fearsome enemy; hard as a war-hammer, yet silent as a poisoned dagger. She attained power at the cost of many lives and in the end ruled alone over a rotting kingdom of ashes and death. Of all the histories chronicling the rulers of Tamriel, there is none so dark as that of Potema Septim…the Wolf Queen of Solitude.
In the sixty third year of the Third Era, Prince Pelagius Septim II, son of Empress Kintyra, slew a werewolf with the help of Princess Quintilla, a powerful sorceress. The spirit of the werewolf was trapped in a soul gem which Pelagius crafted into a ring which he immediately used to wed Quintilla. Some believe the essence of the creature they bound passed through the ring and into the body of their first child, Potema. Her sullen intensity was apparent from the time she was an infant. It was her grandfather, Uriel Septim II who would compare her to a lurking wolf, ready to lunge at her prey.
Potema discovered the virtue of deception as a young girl. She painfully realized her father had used her as a bartering chip to smooth over relations with King Mantiarco of Solitude, an ally her father had cheated. After being married off to this King, Potema decided that the only way to protect herself from the schemes of men was to accrue power and influence at any cost and once attained to wield it like a weapon.
As Queen of Solitude, Potema quickly elevated herself to a position of authority by exploiting elderly King Mantiarco’s affection for his pretty young wife. She would demonstrate her feelings for Mantiarco by duping him into believing that his first heir, was the result of an affair. Mantiarco’s heartache was immeasurable. He disowned the young Prince, banished him from the kingdom and in his place named the newborn son Potema had borne him as heir to his throne. Thus did Potema cement her position as the true ruler of Solitude, and she would use her son, who she also named Uriel, as a pawn all his life. Perhaps she did indeed love the boy, assuming she was capable of love at all, but when all was done he was simply a means to her own ends.
The Wolf Queen’s venomous lies tormented Mantiarco for the rest of his days.
After a failed attempt to steal the Emperor’s Throne from her brother, Potema began to focus on the consolidation of her power as Regent of Solitude, ensured by the birthright of her pawn of a son.
Many nobles visited the court in Solitude, and Potema wanted every single one of them to be her political puppet. To that end, she would use all the abilities she had developed over the years. Scheming, diplomacy, espionage, blackmail, bribery and even sexuality were weapons she used to advance her only goal – to see her son Uriel crowned Emperor of all Tamriel.
Her opportunity would not come for twenty years.
The Emperor of this age was a man by the name of Antiochus’. He was obese, always intoxicated, and riddled with the marks of every sexually transmitted disease the Royal Physicians had been able to heal him of. It was upon his death that the Wolf Queen attempted again to capture the Ruby Throne. There had been speculation as to what form Potema’s bid for the Crown would take, as Antiochus’ fifteen year-old daughter Kintyra was expected to be crowned Empress.
The Wolf Queen’s move was calculated, and ruthless. The accusation of illegitimate birth had won her Solitude, and she used it again to sway the Elder Council’s opinion against Antiochus’ daughter in favor of her son Uriel.
Potema shook with rage as Kintyra Septim II was crowned instead of her son Uriel. Kintyra’s first act was to banish Potema from the Imperial City before her coronation. All her plotting had led her nowhere, and Potema’s frustration was immense. If she couldn’t have the Crown through politics and deceit, she would take it with a deluge of fire and blood.
The Empire had known enemies; the Nordic nations, and parts of High Rock and Morrowind continued to resist the authority of Septim rule. Potema had quietly nurtured relationships with these upstart kingdoms as dutifully as a shepherd tends their flock. Now she called upon them to unite under the Banner of Solitude as the War of The Red Diamond began.
Potema’s plan was not just to battle Kintyra’s Imperial forces directly, but also to incite chaos and rebellion wherever her armies went. Before her death, Potema’s mother had recast her wedding ring into an amulet endowed with a strong charm spell and powered by the soul gem which still contained the werewolf that had a hand in Potema’s birth. The Wolf Queen used it to induce people to treason, further destabilizing the Empire as her armies swept across Tamriel like a pestilence.
Potema’s ability at warfare was on par with her capacity for deception. Her forces routed Kintrya’s with strategies based on misdirection, stealth and very often, betrayal. Kintyra’s troops were further demoralized by rumors that Potema was using Necromancers to reanimate the broken corpses of fallen soldiers to fight for her. The Wolf Queen’s operatives would often strike in dark of night, silently, leaving no trace and sometimes…no bodies.
Eventually, ruthlessness allowed her to capture the warrior Empress. Kintyra was strong, but no match for the Wolf Queen, for whom treachery was second nature.
At a stronghold in High Rock Potema took Kintyra with deadly, soundless precision and with her execution, soon crowned Uriel Septim III Emperor of Tamriel. After thirty years of deceit and death, Potema’s son sat on the Ruby Throne in the Imperial City, and the Wolf Queen held the Empire within her hands.
But- in just a few short years, it would all turn to dust before her waking eyes.
The people of Tamriel had loved Kintyra, and Potema failed to unite them under the mantle of her son. Sephorus and Magnus attacked them relentlessly, determined to restore the true Septim Dynasty. The battles raged for nearly four years after Uriel had assumed the throne. It took all the Wolf Queen’s effort to maintain unity among the denizens of the Empire who were helpless victims as civil war raged around them. While Magnus focused on Solitude, Cephorus pummeled Uriel’s battle lines along High Rock. Uriel was a capable leader, but without the ruthlessness of his mother he couldn’t stop Cephorus from defeating his forces at the Battle of Ichidag. Cephorus captured Uriel and was quickly declared Emperor as forces formerly loyal to Uriel and Potema swore allegiance to him in exchange for minimal levels of interference from the Empire.
A mob, enraged at the man who had brought such strife to their lands, intercepted the caravan transporting Uriel to Gildane and burned it to ashes with Uriel inside. And so it was that while Potema’s armies drove back the forces of one Septim, the Empire itself was taken by another amid Uriel’s screams as he drew his final breaths.
It’s said that whatever humanity the Wolf Queen possessed died with her son. What remained was little more than a monster who unleashed hell on anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path. The rumors of Potema summoning Daedra, and reanimating dead soldiers, once thought to be fear-mongering, proved to be truth. In her rage and grief and determination to crush Cephorus, Potema brazenly set waves of liches, vampires, and walking corpses upon the forces of her uncle.
So terrible was her wrath, so obscene, that even the few supporters she retained soon fled in horror and revulsion.
Her subjects defected in droves amid terrified whispers that anyone who dared defy or offend the deranged, sinister old woman was sacrificed in rites to unholy gods or worse, drafted into service until their deaths…and beyond.
Years passed, Potema’s resources expired and all who supported her either died or deserted. In the end she ruled alone over one decaying kingdom that reeked of suffering and death. She had no subjects left, save for rotting, empty eyed Draugrs and unearthly creatures with whom she madly conspired, believing she could again rule Tamriel even as Magnus lay a final siege on Solitude itself, determined to end Potema’s menace forever.
Magnus finally breached Potema’s defenses, his soldiers finding only her withered corpse and those of her decomposing servants, who had expired with their mistress. He named his son Pelagius as temporary ruler before returning to his own kingdom of Gildane, confident the threat of the Wolf Queen was finished.
They say that Potema took vengeance even from beyond her grave. Some say the evil of the old woman was so great it saturated the walls of the castle and drove any who spent time there irretrievably mad.
Others tell a story of an old crone who, during an encounter with a very young Pelagius Septim, presented the child with the gift of an amulet that held a soul gem that seemed to contain the image of a hungrily pacing wolf…an amulet that may or may not have held a ghastly curse.
Potema Septim’s name lived on as rumors of a cult of Necromancers attempting to resurrect her flourished. Other anecdotes suggested the old woman rose as an undead ghoul, only to be vanquished by the Dragonborn of the 4th Era.
Thus ends the dark tale of Potema, the Wolf Queen of Solitude, whose thirst for power sealed her fate. Hunger for power leads many to their doom, but others have power thrust upon them along with the obligation to use it as best they can. The title of usurper doesn’t lie with Potema alone. There was once another child of Skyrim, who sought a station that far exceeded his own.
But that- is a story for another day…