Ulfric Stormcloak sat on his throne in the main hall of the Palace of the Kings. Built by Ysgramor it is the oldest building in Windhelm and debatably the oldest standing structure in all of Skyrim. It served as the fortress for Ysgramor’s dynasty till it’s end and has always been the seat of many great men of Skyrim over the eras. Including Ulfric, of course. It was here that he instigated the rebellion against the decaying Empire, and it was here in this very hall that he was officially crowned High King a few short years ago followed by his many declarations that made Skyrim what it is now.
Standing before him were two of his most trusted friends and advisors. His steward Jorleif, Ulfric’s second in Windhelm, and Galmar Stone-Fist, Grand General of Skyrim’s army. And Ulfric wasn’t in a particular mood for either of them at the moment.
“My Lord,” Jorleif spoke, “things in the Reach are… chaotic.”
“They’ve been chaotic as long as I can remember.” Galmar’s husky voice dwarfed the placated tone of the Steward.
“Not like now,” Jorleif countered, “the Reach has always been dangerous but things in Markarth are deteriorating beyond measure. Trade has all but dried up, food stores are dangerously low, and attacks in the city persist. Thongvor Silver-Blood has requested more men to defend the city and keep order.”
Galmar snorted, crossing his arms, “I just sent an entire company three weeks ago to Fort Sungard.”
“Between the attacks inside and outside the city walls and the constant skirmishes across the region our forces are spread thin. Merchants and caravans are either turning away from the Reach or have to hire mercenaries to protect them. The farmers cannot even take to their fields…”
Ulfric listened as Jorleif droned on about the same problems they had already heard for months now. The Reachmen - or “Forsworn” as they called themselves - were attacking with a vigor not seen since Markarth fell over twenty years ago. Ever since their king, Madanoch, had escaped from Cidhna Mine the savages had become more organized and more brutal. No matter how many encampments were razed or ruins purged of their presence they persisted and the death toll over the years was already near half that of the war against the Empire. A fretful fact that was hard hitting morale in the ranks. Right now a recruit would rather be told he was being sent to the front line of an invasion into Cyrodil than to Markarth or Fort Sungard. At least in Cyrodil your corpse wouldn’t be roasted, hacked apart, and offered to a hagraven.
“My lord, something must be done.” Jorleif finished, arms at his sides and eyes bright as he awaited his king’s response. Ulfric exhaled slightly and pressed his thumb and index finger hard against between his eyes, the slight migraine he had seemed to be growing with each word his Steward said. Nevertheless, he was High King and all of Skyrim’s troubles were his troubles.
Ulfric finally looked up after a moment, his otherwise weary eyes holding a rather well known certainty of him having made a decision. “Galmar,” the High King’s voice thick with a raspy fry, “tell Ralof to refocus his attention on the borders and on Markarth itself. The city must be protected and order kept and we cannot allow the savages to seep over into the nearby holds. Send word to Dengeir in Falkreath to send a small company of men to Fort Sungard as support.”
Galmar nodded, “Falkreath does have the fresh men to spare. But what about the issue of food and other supplies?”
“I have a solution for that,” Ulfric said father flatly, “Rorikstead, they certainly have the surplus of food. Get word to Vignar Gray-Mane to start sending supplies to Markarth. I trust he will see it is done. Rorikstead is obligated to serve the land after all.”
“Anything else?” asked the grizzled general.
“No, that’s all Galmar.”
The Stone-Fist gave a simple nod in slight and turned on his heels, leaving to issue forth his assigned tasks. Had anyone else left his company without a proper gesture of departure Ulfric would have been insulted, but not in Galmar’s case. He and Ulfric had served in the Great War against the Dominion together and the man had personally lead the Stormcloak armies across Skyrim flying Ulfric’s banner during the civil war. The two shared a close bond in both strength of arm and pride in their country and lineage as the descendants of Atmora. And their friendship transcended ceremony itself.
Ulfric waited until the heavy doors of the main hall slammed shut behind Galmar, then turned his eyes back to Jorleif who stood patiently arms still at his sides. Propping his right arm on the short rest of his throne Ulfric gave his steward a nod that indicated him to continue with any other news.
“Nothing further aside from trivialities, my lord. They can wait if you are weary.”
“Even the trivialities matter, old friend. Now out with them.”
“The negotiations regarding Solstheim are still rather stagnant I’m afraid. Jarl Elisif returned several days ago with her emissaries with no real progress to report, other than the scheduling of another meeting with the dark elves of House Redoran. Personally sire, I wouldn’t put much faith in any different outcome. But you did not ask for my opinion of course…”
“I did not. Continue.”
Jorleif took a moment to clear his throat which was growing tired, then continued, “Ylva Gray-Watch sent word on the Bards’ College in Solitude. It seems that it was as the guard captain has been suspecting, the recent lies drifting around Solitude is apparently originating from there. A few troublemakers in the College stirring the pot, I’ll wager. The spymaster said one of her men seized copies of an anti-crown pamphlet from several people in the lower city district. They of course are being questioned. She is planning on having an agent infiltrate the College to dig around and see who is writing such treason.”
Ulfric rested his chin on his first, a slight scowl to his visage. He missed the days when bards simply sang songs and told stories and weren’t would-be propagandists out to cause trouble by criticizing government affairs. The Bards College had been a nuisance since his coronation when a Breton student wrote a poem calling Ulfric a mass murderer and usurper and recited it in the Solitude market square on the Feast of the Dead that year.
Ulfric indicated for his Steward to continue still, it had been a long day but as High King Ulfric’s duty was his life and his life was Skyrim and it’s Nordic people. And any amount of discomfort and tediousness was worth hearing of the happenings and daily life in his kingdom so that he as High King could serve his people and ensure Skyrim was safe and prosperous.
Do we not remember how our brave King Torygg was brutally murdered by Ulfric the Pretender? Before his wife, our fair Elisif no less! Such the brute is our false king that he would strike down a good man before his beloved in an unfair contest and then ride away like a coward.
To use a gift from the gods that is his Thuum for his own material gain and traitorous usurping, such a disgrace. Ulfric Stormcloak is no true Nord of noble heart and valorous deed! He is a heartless demagogue who has stolen away the throne and separated us from the Empire. He enslaves the very people he claims to protect and desecrates the Nord honor he touts at supporter and doubter alike!
Ulfric Stormcloak is no High King of Skyrim. He is unworthy to be placed next to those such as our great ancestors. He is a murderer, a coward, and the scum of the earth. Talos himself would sneer in contempt at this self proclaimed king and protector who is not but a farce.
- Sanhet Cold-Tide
Brunwulf Free-Winter tossed the folded paper he had just read into the small fireplace in his home, watching the fine paper coil and disintegrate into charred soot within the dancing flames. Not an action of contempt, but of carefulness. Every word he has taken in struck to the core of his belief, making him nod in his mind as he absorbed the power of what he read. And what he had just read was treason put in ink.
Treason against Ulfric Stormcloak, the sitting king placed by the Moot. The Moot that which was loaded down with his supporters he had placed in power after driving the Empire away. Narrow-minded intolerant louts like Ulfric himself, too absorbed in their tunnel vision that they interpreted as solid and right reality even as they only harmed their land and people whom they swore up and down they were helping.
It made Brunwulf sick to his stomach and made his head spin in frustration. That such men not only ruled but had such support from the people, bigots and addled fools that were the worst Skyrim could offer Tamriel. That was why after all he had provided the coin necessary to help spread the discontent, that was why Brunwulf was the one who first approached “Sahnet Cold-Tide” in Solitude and coaxed them into helping lay the foundation for what he and his fellows were planning for the coming future. The ground work was to be first, and spreading the truth and scraping away the layers of fear and hesitation was the first step in the foundation.