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.
It was a dour morning in Falkreath. The City had just come off of a near-three-day constant rain. Great for the wildlife and the farms, not so great for anyone unfortunate enough to not have a roof over their heads during that time. And while the rains had passed, the gray clouds still filled the sky and dulled the morning sunlight. It was actually mid-morning, though one wouldn't be able to tell based on the gray sky. Within Falkreath, there was honestly not much to see as far as landmarks go. They had the Jarl's Longhouse, of course, as well as the big graveyard where the dead were buried. Falkreath just wasn't as big or impressive as the likes of Whiterun, Solitude, or Windhelm. But it did have at least one interesting landmark: The Pit.
The Pit, as it's name suggested, was a pit dug out next to the guard's barracks. Its opening at the top was left open, and the only other way in or out was through a barred opening that led into the barracks. The Pit essentially served as Falkreath's jail, or at least the most prominent part of the jail. Usually it was reserved for criminals being given a special punishment, usually things like dissent against the Stormcloaks and their "High King". The doors to the barracks suddenly burst open and a man stumbled out into the open, even losing his balance and falling onto the cobblestone road. In actuality, he'd been quite literally shoved out the door by the Stormcloak-clad guards, who also dropped a backpack and a peculiar sword onto the ground next to the man, his only belongings.
"Hmph, I still think you got off easy." scoffed one of the guards, "Another stunt like the one you pulled and it'll be your head!" they disappeared back into the barracks after this, slamming the door shut behind them.
Meanwhile, the man on the ground shakily reached for the nearby sword. He briefly touched his free hand to his stomach as he felt it growl quite loudly. With a grimace, he recalled the events that led him to being arrested in the first place.
Three Days Earlier
"I told you, that's all I have!" pleaded the farmer. The guard before him was apparently there to collect the taxes for that month, and the amount given to him wasn't satisfactory. The guard grunted and gave a threatening glare at the farmer.
"The other farmers were able to pay the required amount, you have no excuse for this!" he held up the small coin purse, almost as if disgusted by how light it was, "I hope you're not lying about your earnings, you know what the the penalty will be, don't you?"
"N-no! No, I would never!" said the farmer, but the guard was already pushing past him to search his home. This wasn't uncommon. There had been those that tried to pay less taxes by hiding their true earnings, and so this sort of procedure had become a common response to such things, "You've no cause to enter my home!" said the farmer, reaching to bar the door shut, only be quite literally slapped to ground by the guard.
"You know the law! Pay the High King the taxes he is owed or pay the price!" the guard's hand was reaching for the hilt of his sword. Meanwhile, a leather-armored figure was watching from a distance, He noticed the commotion but seemed hesitant to get involved. But when he saw the guard's hand moving the toward the sword, the stranger made up his mind.
"You heard the man!" said the stranger, even grabbing the guard's shoulder and yanking them away from the farmer with surprising strength, "He said that's all he had, so just take your damn taxes and get out of here!"
"You dare interfere with Official Stormcloak work?" the guard said to the stranger, "With the laws of the High King, himself?"
The stranger gave a small glance to the frightened farmer. He almost appeared to be regretting that he stepped, "Well... I guess when you put it that way," he said, moving as if he were backing off, only for his face to suddenly look alarmed, "WHAT IN OBLIVION IS THAT?!" he suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs, and pointing off away from the guard, who turned to look only to see nothing there. And then the guard suddenly felt the tip a sword hilt hammering him square in the forehead and he fell the ground, dazed.
The stranger said nothing, but knew he should probably make himself scarce. But there was a problem. His shout had drawn the attention of a couple other nearby guards who ran to investigate. And unfortunately the stranger was surrounded before he could make his getaway.
"Why you!" said the first guard, staggering back to his feet, "I should kill you right now!" and drew his sword from his scabbard. But the sudden appearance of a fourth guard made him stop. This one had to be higher ranked, a Lieutenant or Captain, perhaps.
"What's all this about?" they asked, glancing around at the others. After the situation had been explained, they glanced at the farmer, "If you've given your taxes, then you've no need to still be here, go about your business." to which the farmer appeared relieved as they scurried off away from the scene. Then the officer looked at the stranger, "And as for you..."
"Captain, he assaulted a Guard, I say we gut him where he stands." it was the first guard, still sore about getting knocked onto his ass. But a hand held up by the Captain silenced him immediately.
"...The Pit. No food or water. Three days."
"Tch, damn bastards." the man muttered under his breath. Really, though, he'd brought this on himself. If he'd just shut up and kept walking then none of this would have happened. This is what happens to people who try to help others. At least, that's what the cynic in him wanted to believe. He glanced down at the sword he'd picked up, staring at it as if reading a note or letter that wasn't there. Then with a frustrated sigh he slung the weapon across his shoulder. Now having raised himself to a knee, his hand reach over to the ground where the backpack sat.
Once again, he felt his stomach growl. He was hungry, practically starving even. Three days without food would do that to a person. Unfortunately for him, those Stormcloaks had taken it upon themselves to confiscate what bit of coin the man had had when they arrested him. They claimed it was 'fines' for breaking the law, but the man knew better. They robbed him, plain and simple. Thugs in uniform is what they were, and he hoped they choked on the septims they'd stolen from him.
Art by TheMinttu ____________________________________________________
1 0 T H O F S U N ' S D U S K , 4 E 2 0 5
A cold winter wind whipped through the deserted streets of the Windhelm that night. The snow came down in flurries, twirling through the freezing air, to land on icy cobbles below. It was foul weather to be out, and most of the city's residents were fast asleep. But not all of them, for there, picked out in the warm glow of the torch light, was a figure hurrying along through the drifts of piled snow. His name was Snorri Gunnarson, and he was on a mission.
Snorri Gunnarson was a Nord, though he did not necessarily look it. He shared little similarity with this his people other than the flaxen colour of his hair. For where most people thought of Nords as being greatly tall and strong men, he was slight and short. Where the stereotypical Nord had broad rough features and great flowing beard, Snorri was weak chinned and snub nosed, and his pale beard grew in patch only in patches. There were other differences between him and many other Nords in Skyrim, but those were not so apparent on the surface.
One difference, however, that was most apparent right now between Snorri are a regular Nord, and that was how he moved. Nords are generally not known for their subtlety or the deftness of their feet, but Snorri was an expert skulker, a born sneak, and tonight he displayed his talents in full earnestness. For he did not walk, or stride, or march through the Snow. Snorri crept.
He made sure to avoid the patrols of the heavily armed guards that patrolled the streets at night, dressed in Stormcloak blues, the roaring bear emblazoned upon their shields. He ducked around corners, tiptoed down flights of steep stone stairs, and slowly but surely, worked his way towards his destination for that night: The Gray Quarter. His employer had received a tip off from one of his informers, the one they had been looking for would be there tonight.
Snorri ducked into an alleyway as another patrol rounded a corner. It would not do for him to be caught out here, even as a Nord. The Gray Quarter was almost empty these days, and any who moved around its streets after dark would quickly fall under suspicion. As the light of the guards torches faded, he slipped out once more, and stole into the doorway of the place he was to find his quarry.
The New Gnisis Corner Club had seen better days. It had never been the finest of establishments, but with most of its patrons rounded up and taken to Shor knows where, there was not much merriment to found here. The remaining clientele were all Dunmer, and they all stopped their low murmured conversation to stare at the newcomer in their midst. He put his head down and quickly made his way towards the bar.
"Come slumming to the Gray Quarter, have you?" It was Ambarys, the Dunmer bar keeper who spoke first, regarding him with clear disdain. He was thin hard looking man, his grey hair pulled back behind his head. With a cloth in hand he polished a stoneware jar his kind used to warm their Matze or Shien before they drank it. "Well, we don't serve any mead here, Nord. Best find somewhere else to drink."
"I-I am looking for someone, I was told they could be found here. An Armiger." Snorri stuttered out, trying to keep his voice low so as not to be overheard. The barkeep appraised him again with his crimson eyes, before grunting at him.
"You'll find him in the back. Just follow the music." He indicated the direction with and outstretched thumb, pointing to a doorway leading deeper into the corner club, partially covered with a ragged curtain. Snorri dipped his head in thanks and made his way to the back room.
Pushing the curtain aside, he could see it was even emptier than the bar out front. The room was darker too, only the light of the fire and a few battered paper lanterns casting a soft flickering light into the windowless room. At first he was confused because he could not see anyone who seemed to fit the description of the person he was looking for, and Ambarys's cryptic comments were of little help.
It was then that he heard it, the strange drifting sound of a low husky voice holding a trembling note into the quiet room, a sparse accompaniment of queerly tuned strings plucked along side the wavering vocal. He recognised the language, but not the words said, for this was Dunmeris, the ancestral language of the Dark Elves. As the voice quieted the strings picked up, faster, more driving, urgent. Snorri craned his neck, trying to see where the music was coming from.
There was a figure, seated down by the fireside on a laid out floor cushion, their legs crossed, a long necked instrument cradled in their hands. He had not seem them behind the other, unoccupied furniture in the dimly lit room. With the light of the fire behind them, it was difficult to make out much more than their silhouette. But it had to be them, this person had to be who Snorri had been sent to meet. Softly, he approached them from behind.
"Pardon me for inter-" Before Snorri could finish his words, there was flurry of movement and the point of a curved steel blade aimed directly at his throat, glinting menacingly in the firelight. He gasped and took a step back. He hadn't even seen them draw it, it must have been sitting in their lap, hidden by the strange instrument.
"It is considered rude where I come from, sera, to interrupt a musician before they have finished their performance." The voice low and had a slight rasp to it, it was the voice of an older Dunmer.
The musician had turned their face to speak to him, so Snorri could see properly now. He was indeed a Dark Elf with grey skin and pierced pointed ears. He was an older one too, at least a couple of centuries, weathered and lean. Crows feet radiated from the narrow crimson eyes, his iron grey hair was pulled up into a top knot. There was a riot of faded markings, tattoos or maybe scars, that ran down one side of his face. He was not dressed in armour, but instead some kind of earthen coloured robe, held in place by a bright red sash around the waist.
"Begging your forgiveness, sir. I was told I could meet someone here, someone who's been causing trouble for the Stormcloaks." The crimson eyes of the Dunmer flicked to the doorway and then back to Snorri, ascertaining whether or not he had come alone. After a few second he seemed to decide that the Nord was not a threat, for he returned the blade to his lap.
"Might be you could, sera, might be you could." The old Dunmer set the lute to one side and shifted over slightly, opening up space on the floor cushions next to him, patting it with one hand. "Come sit with an old mer, do you drink Matze?"
The Dunmer didn't wait for an answer, but immediately began to pour a small drinking bowl full of steaming alcohol from a stoneware jar set upon the hearth. He passed it to Snorri and stared at him expectantly, with some trepidation he took a sip. The warmed alcohol was pungent, stronger than he had expected too, and though it initially tasted sweet there was an an underlying... saltiness? to it. It must have shown on his face for the next thing the old mer said was:
"Fermented saltrice is an... acquired.... taste I suppose, more for me then." The Dunmer refilled his own drinking bowl and knocked it back in one fluid motion. "So, just who do you think you are looking for, sera? Perhaps I might know them."
Snorri paused for a moment, should he tell the story to this stranger? What if he had made some mistake and this was not the right elf? But how many armed musician dark elves could there be in one corner club? He decided to speak.
"The man I work for, he has friends in the Gray Quarter, recently some of them told him an interesting story."
"Well, I am a fan of stories, please continue." The Dunmer interrupted, filling both of their cups again.
"The story goes that there was a ship between loaded at the Windhelm docks last week, a ship that was loaded under the cover of darkness, and with a great many guards surrounding it. This was because it had an somewhat, unsavoury, cargo. Dunmer, in irons, being taken from the Windhelm gaol to put be put to work in a mine up North."
"A sad story, I have heard other tales like it before."
"Indeed it has happened before, but this time things went differently."
"Oh really?" The old Dunmer's eyes lit up, there was something of a playful look in them. He sipped at the drink in his hand, looking supremely at ease.
"Yes, the ship departed before dawn with its living cargo, but it never reached the mines. They found it wrecked near the mouth of the White River, broken on a reef. The guards were dead, but the shackles were empty."
"So thought my employer, until a mutual friend found one of the Dunmer who had been chained up on the deck, she had an interesting story to tell too. She saw a someone walking on the water, not the ice floes, the water itself and come climb aboard. They killed the guards by stealth with their spear and short sword, and then freed the prisoners, healing their wounds as they went."
"Sounds like a generous fellow, dangerous though perhaps too."
"Indeed... she had one last thing to say. He wore a masked helmet, but she caught a glimpse of his neck. There was a tattoo there, one she recognised, an Armiger's tattoo she called it. They look somewhat similar to yours, apparently."
There was no reaction from him, the Dunmer just stared back Snorri, hands folded neatly in his lap. Snorri became acutely aware of the curved short sword that still sat there, blade bare, easily within reach, and he himself easily within its striking distance. He swallowed nervously. Finally the old mer said something:
"Well... it seems you've found who you seek. Now, what do you want?"
It was now or never, this is what he had came here to do. This is what this whole expedition to the Gray Quarter was about, finding the man who had attacked one of Ulfric's prison barges and set all the Dunmer aboard free. Now he knew that he was sitting opposite the one who had done just that. He had to answer him.
"Your help, against the Tyrant Ulfric Stormcloak."
For the first time since he had sat down, the old Dunmer cracked a wide smile, before throwing his head back and laughing loudly.
The crisp frozen air of Skyrim had started to creep up as the Niben Wisp approached the northern coast. Other ships, both larger and smaller were going to and fro along the same route. Andre watched from the starboard as the border crept closer. He was both anxious and relieved. The captain of this vessel did make him question his choice on coming to this country, but he knew that if he was to find the amulet, he would have to endure some difficulties, as was the way of all adventures. Plus he was looking forward to getting back onto land.
"We should be docked within the next hour." came the voice of a stocky man that Andre recognised, it was the captain of the Niben Wisp, an Imperial man named Argal Turius. Andre nodded in understanding, "Thank you again for your help. You have been very generous on this venture of mine." he said as he eyed the cliffs that stood before them. The captain waved it off, "You'd be better off thanking me for taking you away from here. I hope your reasons are worth it." said the man as he rested against a crate. "So do I." replied Andre as he turned his attention toward their destination.
The docks of Solitude were busy, crates, barrels and other containers were being moved around and organised, along with the noise of workers as they tended to the usual maintenance of structures and vessels alike. The cold crisp air seemingly unaffecting them as they worked. Andre departed from the Niben Wisp after bidding the captain farewell and made his way up to the city. Remembering the apparent mistreatment of non-nords, he pulled up his hood to try to at least hide his mer touched ears. A couple of guards he walked past gave him a watchful glance on occasion as he ascended up the hill toward the main gate, otherwise he was unimpeded.
"Coin for a hopeless bard?" the voice was gruff and tired, Andre turned to see a ragged and worn out old Orsimer tucked into a corner, some old bottles and an empty sack littered around him. Next to the Orc was also the two pieces of a broken lute. "And what is your story?" Andre asked as he hesitantly withdrew his gold pouch, "After Ulfric's thugs took over Solitude, mer were demoted to second class citizens. I made a song about it, they didn't like it, and now i'm here." the Orc gestured to his broken lute, "Guess I got lucky..." he shrugged, "they could of done to me like they did to Elisi." "Elisi?" Andre raised a brow. "A Dunmer. She made a song like mine, only it pissed them off much more. You'll see her when you enter the city. Just look right from the gate, you'll see what these Stormcloaks do to people they don't like." said the Orc. Andre sighed and nodded in understanding, "For your troubles." he offered a few gold pieces. Suddenly the Orc pulled Andre's hand to bring him in close, and then speaking seriously with a hushed tone, "An apple drops for the bunch. Remember this phrase." he then let go of the Breton whom stumbled backward from the surprise. "You should head to the 'Winking Skeever', you may find that folks from out of town rarely drink alone there." Andre took note of the Orc's words before carefully walking away from him back up to the city.
Despite the uncomforting looks he got from the Stormcloak soldiers that were stationed just outside the gate, and that he had to state his reason for visiting, he was eventually given entry into the city. Solitude itself was visually impressive on the outside, and more so from inside. The architecture notably different from that of High Rock Andre noted. He took a moment to look around and gaze through the crowded square before making his way through. He caught something in his peripheral, on the right he saw a couple of wooden posts, several bodies were hanging from them. He recognised that one was indeed a Dunmer woman, Andre just shook his head as he turned away from the scene. He took up the old Orc's advice and headed for the Inn.
The Winking Skeever, despite its unusual name it wasn't too bad, though Andre had only been to at least one other inn, so he couldn't really comment. The atmosphere however was one of disquiet peace. Besides the occasional chatter between paired patrons, it was fairly quiet. Andre pulled his hood down, no-one payed him any interest as he made his way over to the innkeeper anyway. And after ordering an ale, he found a small table that was tucked away and then allowed himself to finally relax there, and soon enough someone indeed came over to join his table. It was a Nord man who joined him, he was dressed in rather simple clothes, but was fairly well built. "So what brings a Breton to Skyrim? Especially in these trying times." asked the man in a somewhat curious tone. With a sigh, "I don't wish any trouble sir, I simply wish to rest." Andre apologetically held up a hand. "Neither do I friend. I just figured you needed the company." said the Nord before taking a mouthful of his mead. Andre was curious himself, "Do you often join a lone stranger's table?" he asked leaning back on his chair. "Only the ones I find interesting." the Nord chuckled as he raised his mug in respect before taking another drink. Feeling more comfortable, Andre took another sip of his own drink before continuing, "To answer your previous question, I am here to search for a missing amulet that belongs to my family. It has been in the family for generations, and two of my kin have gone to other parts of Tamriel in search of it. Skyrim is one of three locations where it may be." "Aye, that is an interesting task." nodded the Nord, "May be a bit hard to achieve with how your kind are treated around here." he continued.
"So what should I call you friend?" he asked after. "My name is Andre Lanchenko. And yours?" he asked in return, "Aye, just call me Olgaf." Andre let out a smile, "Well Olgaf, heres to pleasant company." The two men clunked their mugs together as they enjoyed their drinks.
Zazar arrived back at his shop after a scavenging trip to find some alchemy materials. He was lucky that the only hostile animals he ran into were wolves and some boar. The Argonian starts to fiddle with the keys of his store, eventually getting the door open but not without dropping the key a couple of times. The store itself was quite small with various magical items or alchemy materials on shelves against the wall. A wooden counter in the room littered with magical knick knacks and some spell books. Zazar quickly tidied the counter and the drawers around the shop. Taking a couple of moments to complete the clean up of his shop, going outside and putting up the sign that his shop was open. He was proud of his store, he had put his blood sweat and tears into maintaining the Magical Emporium.
While waiting for some customers to come into his shop, Zazar was organizing some books when he heard the door opening. “Welcome stranger to Zazar’s Magical Emporium, is there anything of interest you would like to buy?” The Argonian walked over towards the counter, noticing that his first customer was a Khajiit female. “Oh hello, I was wondering if you have any hawk beak?” The woman was looking at the shelf behind Zazar. “I believe we have some in stock, is there anything you would like to purchase?” Zazar placed the hawk beak on the counter. “Yes, do you have any blue mountain flowers?” The Khajiit woman was searching through her gold purse. Zazar placed the flower on the counter as well, starting to negotiate the price with her, giving her a good price that would still benefit them both. After she had left there were a couple of customers that kept Zazar busy, and gave him a good amount of coin. While waiting for some more customers to come, he was reading his favorite book called “The Lusty Argonian Maid”. He noticed the door opening once again and two Winterhold guards came into the store. “Hello Zazar, how’s your business going?” The first guards said with a smarmy sounding voice. The second guard was moving towards one of the shelves. “It is going fine thanks, and please do not touch my merchandise.” Addressing the second guard who was touching the spell books.
“I think you can tell the reason why we are here, you need to pay your “taxes” to us.” The first guard said leaning closer towards Zazar. “But….but i already paid a couple of days ago. I will not pay extra to what i already paid.” The Argonian shook his head in disbelief. This caused the first guard to violently grab the collar of his robes, pulling him close so he was face to face with the guard. “You know if you don’t pay your taxes, then your store will be sold off and you hauled off to jail.” The second guard cheered and added into the conversation, “Yeah or perhaps we should send him back to his swamp with the rest of the lizards?” A notion that the first guard agreed on. “I think that would be for the best, all you beasts shouldn’t even be in Skyrim.” The first guards said as the second guard started knocking off some books from the shelves. “STOP THAT!!!” Zazar screamed loud enough that people outside the store could hear him.
Steel blue eyes, peering from behind helmet, focused on the enemy before him. The large warhammer he was wielding came down with enough force it almost broke the shield his opponent was carying. The warrior grinned, a terrifying sight, with his eyes filled with hate. Once more came a blow so hard it forced the other to his knee. In a desperate attempt, he raised his shield to try to block what came next. As the warhammer was lifted to come crashing down, his steel sword pierced the belly of the warrior. His grin turned into a grimace of pain and he grunted lowly, almost animal like. His eyes remained as they were, filled with a hatred the other could not understand. The hammer came down and all went black.
Dar'jhan woke up in pain, in a fur covered bed, and groaned as he touched his head. It was pounding as if being hit by a blacksmith hammer and he pitied the anvil that had to deal with this all day long. He noticed that his head was bandaged and so was his left arm. His attempt to raise himself off the bed failed as pain shot through him again and he sunk back into the straw pillow. He narrowed his eyes trying to get his bearings as he tried to look around, not knowing where he was. The woodwork and stone hearth reminded him of a cabin, the likes you see in the wilds of Skyrim, and the furs, hides and animal heads hanging on the wall told him that most likely this was the home of a hunter. Across from him, a mounted sabre cat head looked back at him, making him feel very uncomfortable. In the light of the fire burning in the hearth, he could see another bed, a small cupboard and a large wooden table on which he could smell, more than he could see, the food set on the table. At least his nose was working. His stomach reacted to the smell with a growl and Dar'jhan wondered how long he hadn't eaten.
How long have I been here? Where is here?
A door opened, letting the cold wind come in which made the fire in the hearth flicker. A cough and a stomping of feet later a broad shouldered, tall man entered wearing clothes made out of all different kinds of fur. He had no hair on his head but the beard he wore was dark and impressive to say the least. Though strokes of silver in it revealed that he wasn't that young any more. His whole demeanour said that he was a Nord. And a bulky one at that. The Nord's eyes turned towards Darj'han, who was trying to get up once more, and a friendly smile formed on his face.
“Oho! You are finally awake! Good. Good! When we found you I wasn't too sure you would live!”
His voice was hard and loud, the laugh that followed even more so and Dar'jhan raised his hand back to his head to try and calm the pounding inside.
“Ulfhild! Our guest has awoken!” The voice boomed out through the open door.
“I thank you for your kindness...uh...” His voice was hoarse from not using and his throat felt dry.
“My name is Brandr Stone-Biter, my Khajiit friend. And this...” A young and small child entered the room with a curious look in her eyes and a smile much like her Brandr. “...Is my daughter Ulfhild.”
“Hi!” She waved enthusiastic. “I was the one who found you and asked to take you with us. Papa first thought you were a bandit but...”
“Ulfhild get some food for our guest, he must be famished.” His voice, though stern, still got a bit softer and his eyes told Dar'jhan that he loved his daughter very much. Eyes only a parent could have for his child.
“Yes papa.” She walked to the table and started to gather things on a plate while Brandr turned towards a wooden keg and grabbed two mugs.
“My name is Dar'jhan. Or Half-moon as some call me.” His stomach growled and his mouth started to water from anticipation.
“Dar'jhan Half-moon eh?” Brandr said as he was filling the two mugs with mead. When he handed one of the mugs to Dar'jhan he looked him up and down with a worried look. “How are you feeling?”
“As if I have been trampled by an entire herd of mammoth.” Came the honest reply while Dar'jhan groaned and grimaced.
“If that would have been the case not even the Divines could have patched you up.” Brandr smirked and even Dar'jhan chuckled even though it still hurt him. He drank from the mug and a warm glow entered his stomach. He let out a sigh of bliss. Then he looked around with a confused look. “Where...am I?”
“You are in our humble home near Whiterun. We fished you out of the White River some...three days ago and...Whoa, what do you think you're doing?”
Dar'jhan was trying to get out of bed and started to search for his things, seeing that he was only wearing pants and nothing else. His steps were not steady at all and his legs felt wobbly.
“I have to go. My caravan...Do you know anything about it?”
“We only found you and no one else.” Brandr tried to stop him and make him sit down again but Dar'jhan was stubborn and tried to make his way outside.
“I have lost so much time already...I...” He almost fell down and finally he let himself guided back to the bed where he had spent the last three days. Meanwhile Ulfhild, who had been waiting and watching, handed him a plate filled with cheese, chicken breasts, baked potatoes and a small loaf of bread. Dar'jhan waved his hand as a sign of gratitude and bowed his head. His energy had not been completely restored and he cursed himself for being in this situation.
“I don't think it is wise to go out as you are now.” Brandr took a chair and sat down on it while Dar'jhan decided and started to eat from the platter.
“Tell me, my friend. What happened to you?”
Dar'jhan told the Nord everything he knew and still remembered. How they had been on their way, a caravan of six, two guards and 4 merchants, towards Riverwood and planning on making a stop near Falkreath. Even though it was not a big city still the merchants believed that perhaps they could earn some coin. The other guard had rather gone straight back over the border and home, having enough of the troubles that had been brewing in Skyrim. He believed that it was not safe for them anymore and insisted repeatedly to return home. But the merchants pressed on. Around Riverwood they got attacked by a band of thugs. They had been heavily armed, more than the average bandit, so one could think they were Stormcloak soldiers but they were not wearing the Blue uniforms from which they are known. Nevertheless they were eager to fight and it took Dar'jhan all he knew to try and keep them away from the caravan. Until a warhammer ended the fight for him and all went black.
“The jarl needs to know about this, though I don't know if he will be willing to help with how things are going at the moment. When jarl Balgruuf was still in charge it would not have been a problem and I'm sure he would have sent Irileth his housecarl to investigate but with Vignar Gray-Mane...Ah what am I saying. Don't worry my friend. Even the jarl must realize that bands of bandits preying on caravan must be stopped. You eat and rest. Tomorrow you and I will go to Whiterun and speak to the jarl. One more day will not make a difference.”
Somehow Dar'jhan wasn't too sure of that yet he decided to listen to Brandr and agreed.
Moon light fell upon the ancient ruins that housed the capital city of The Reach. It’s bustling streets now lay silent and empty, leaving only the sound of the waterfalls and the heavy steps of patrolling guards. These ghostly nights had become a common occurrence in Markarth, ever since the husbanddatory curfew was placed. Unless you wore the uniforms of the Stormcloaks, you were to be indoors by nightfall. Anyone caught outside or without a place to stay past curfew would be forcefully escorted to Cidhna Mine.
Such was life in Markarth. For outside the walls, The Forsworn threat had grown larger with every passing day. These new laws led to establishments like The Silver Blood Inn to be crowded by refugees and vagabonds alike. Rooms would be given to the highest bidders, while the rest had to fight over stools and chairs. Those unfortunate enough to get neither had to settle for a space along the cold stone walls. The proprietors did not seem to mind housing well over capacity. With outside commerce dwindling each day, they couldn’t afford to turn anyone away; so long as they were a paying customer.
Seated at a round wooden table near the bar were three patrons. A Breton couple both dressed in common garb, and a Nord mercenary clad in leather armor. Though things had started off peaceful, the three were engaged in a heated argument.
“You can’t be serious! We agreed upon 500 septims!” The Breton man nearly screamed at the merc, but did his best to keep his voice down so as to not cause a scene and risk upsetting the old couple who ran the inn.
“The price has gone up.” The Mercenary stated. He leaned back in his chair and took a drink from his mug of mead, completely unphased at the anger of the Breton. “I’m not going to risk fighting The Forsworn for a standard fee. 2000 septims. Up front.”
“Please,” The Breton woman begged. “We already sold everything we had to pay the original fee! We can’t afford what you’re asking.”
“That’s not my problem.” The mercenary scoffed, looking into his mug as if he had lost all interest in the conversation. “You should consider yourselves lucky I’m even offering. There’s not another soul in the city willing to venture outside the walls. Either come up with the coin or accept that you’re stuck here.” He stood up from his chair and simply walked away, turning his back to the helpless couple. “Everyone else has.”
“What are we going to do? We gave up everything for this.” the husband placed his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. His wife wrapped her arms around him in an attempt to comfort him, while she fought back tears of her own.
As the couple sat there, overcome with grief at their predicament, the sound of metal boots clashing against the stone floors announced the approach of one of the other patrons. Another Nord, though this time one suited in steel plates, took the recently vacant seat at the table. He placed his mug down, and waited for the couple to compose themselves before he addressed them.
“I overheard your conversation.” He said, resting his arms on the table. “Can’t say I’m surprised you’re wanting to leave Markarth. This entire hold has seen better days, even during the war. But I must ask, why now?” His eyes darted back and forth between the couple, only focusing on one when they spoke.
The husband cleared his throat before speaking. His voice still shaking after the previous conversation. “My wife and I used to run one of the stands in the market, but ever since The Forsworn started ravaging this area, hardly anyone comes through here. The Stormcloaks have been confiscating all the supplies that do make it here, and anything leftover goes to the Silver Blood’s and their businesses. It was already hard enough to compete with them before all this. But now? It’s simply impossible.”
“I can understand that.” The Nord said with a subtle nod. “But why not offer to work for them? The Silver Bloods aren’t known to turn their noses up at cheap labor. Between the two of you, you should make enough to at least get by.”
“That’s… Not going to be an option I’m afraid.” the husband slowly turned to look at his wife, who in turn lowered her eyes down to her dress. The Nord raised an eyebrow as he followed their gazes. It was hard to see at first, but as his focus was now drawn to the wife, he could make out the subtle bump of her stomach pushing out.
“I see…” The Nord let out a deep sigh now that he knew the full extent of their situation.
“My brother lives in Solitude.” The wife explained, slowly lifting her head towards the Nord. “If we could get there we’d be able to stay with him until we get back on our feet. Start a new life in a place where our child won’t have to live in fear.” She grabbed her husband’s hand, determination echoing in her words. “But we’re not warriors. We wouldn’t last a day on our own.”
The Nord raised his hand from the table and pinched the bridge of his nose. His eyes shut tight as he tried to fight the urges in his mind. Along with The Forsworn, there were still wolves, bears, trolls, all manner of beasts running wild on those roads. He knew what the couple had to offer. It wasn’t enough for the risk of traveling in The Reach. There was no way he could do this. And yet-
“Can you manage 600?” He asked, lowering his hand and resuming his soft stare at the couple.
“Excuse me?” the husband nearly choked in surprise.
“200 now, 300 when we reach the gates of Solitude. It’s about a 3 day journey from here, so use whatever septims you have left to buy supplies, and something to arm yourselves. If you can manage that,” The Nord removed his arms from the table and sat up straight. “I’ll take you through The Reach.”
“Y-yes! We should be able to manage that!” the husband could barely contain his disbelief.
“Good.” The Nord stood up and looked down at the couple as he explained the plan. “We’ll meet at the market in the morning. I’ll help you buy what you need. I should be able to convince the guards to open the gates for us, but once we’re outside the city, there will be no turning back. Understood?”
“Understood! Thank you so much! We cannot begin to express how grateful we are!” Excitement lit up in the couple’s eyes.
The Nord stayed for a moment and watched as the couple laughed and embraced each other. Though they had a dangerous journey ahead of them, they finally had a chance at a better future. They had hope again. Knowing that he had brought them that feeling was worth more than any amount of septims. The Nord cracked a smile, and turned to take his leave when he heard the wife call out.
“Wait! We never introduced ourselves.” She said. “I’m Calinna Beleav, and this is my husband Theore. What do we call you?”
The Nord looked over his shoulder back at them. “Holgarth Hammer-Song. Now get some rest. You’re going to need it.”
The people of Rorikstead were a stalwart, stubborn bunch. Ulfric Stormcloak's claim as High King had affected them very little. They maintained their steady trade with Whiterun and Windhelm, and very few ever went hungry. Most of the population were Nords, and those who weren't already had their place in the tightly knit town. Any and all outsiders were treated with suspicion. True, they tended to trust the Nords quicker - but given the climate in bigger cities, the civilians considered their stance open-minded, and felt any naysayers should be satisfied with that. After all, they weren't obligated to be hospitable. Indeed, for an outcast seeking safety, it was one of the closest places to ideal they could wind up in. But the fact remained they were a small community, and word travels quickly in those sorts of places. When a high elf arrived early in the morning, exhausted and half-starved, this was a topic that spread like wildfire. The mystery deepened when it became apparent he was mute. Rumours abounded. People shared their theories - all out of earshot of the subject himself, of course - the most popular being that he was a spy; whether Imperial or Thalmor, they could not seem to decide on. Some suggested both. Even his name was unknown to them. He had flat-out refused when asked to write it down. The local innkeeper knew the high elf's daily routine, and was not discreet about sharing it. The elf paid for food and drink with what little he had, then retreated to his rented room and locked the door for the day. Curious to know what in Shor's name was going on in there, the innkeeper had watched through a peephole. The high elf was working some kind of magic - a light glowed from his hands, and he caressed the air in front of his throat. After some time, whatever he'd tried evidently hadn't worked, because the elf slammed a fist into his pillow out of frustration. "He's trying to fix himself up, I'd wager," the innkeeper had told his patrons in a low voice. "Doesn't like not being able to prattle on about the inferiority of man." For his part, the Altmer could only be relieved that Rorikstead tolerated his presence. He felt a gnawing dread that the peace could not last forever. Already the coin was running low. Unless he was able to find work, he'd have to sell off his enchanted sword, and that thought depressed him. It was lucky for the Altmer, then, that an individual took notice of him: another outsider, one who did not disclose her name. In this they were similar, if one overlooked the fact that he was an Altmer and she a Nord.
Epesorn paid for his evening meal and ate it at a table, quite alone. From his arrival, he had noticed how his very existence set the local Nords on edge. He had no wish to antagonize them any further. He had had no success with his restorative spells today, and it was beginning to look hopeless for him. His training had always focused on the offensive - only now did Epesorn wish he'd been taught how to reverse curses as complex as his own. For the thousandth time, he felt a sneer creep onto his face at the thought of his former mentor. Epesorn bit into his bread with a vengeance. "Can I join you?" a woman's voice said, startling him. He turned and saw a Nord cloaked in travelling garb. She had a lopsided grin, and looked every bit your typical adventurer. She was also holding a bottle of mead. Epesorn nodded, and the woman plunked down. She poured a tankard for herself and Epesorn. He waited until she began sipping to drink it himself, not all that trusting of a friendly Nord. "I've heard you're mute," she began, drumming her fingers against the table. "It's all anyone in this blasted village will talk about. People are quite taken with the idea of an undercover spy in their midst." Epesorn shrugged, smiling. He knew he had caused a bit of commotion. He preferred that to the abuse of power by guards he'd face in a bigger city, such as Whiterun or Markarth. Better he find a quiet place and stick to it until talk died down. "But being mute isn't all bad," the woman said, lowering her voice enough that Epesorn had to strain to hear. "You can keep secrets. Am I right?" Epesorn's gaze sharpened, and he grinned at her conspiratorially. Even more quietly, the woman said very quickly, "I'm with a small pocket of resistance. Ulfric has tyrannized Skyrim, and he needs to be stopped. We're recruiting." He sucked in a small breath at this, widening his eyes and glancing around the inn quickly. The Nord laughed, resuming the one-sided conversation in a normal voice. "Not so flighty, Altmer. It's not a good look. Listen, if you want to talk more about taking up the job, I'll be at the stables. I'm leaving tonight." And without further ado, she downed the rest of her mead and left.
In the end, there wasn't much to deliberate over. Was he, a Thalmor-trained Altmer mage, going to waste away in Rorikstead for the rest of his life, trying in vain to remove a curse that seemed to be quite permanent? No. His pride wouldn't allow it. For more practical reasons, Epesorn would run out of money eventually, and he needed some way to get by. This hardly seemed any worse than becoming some accursed Nord farmer's manual labor. He met the Nord in the stables as night fell. She was just saddling her horse, and seemed pleased he'd shown. "No potential eavesdroppers this time," she said. "If you're interested, we're headed to Windhelm. We'll be received by my superiors and a wave of other recruits. Room and board are provided." Epesorn nodded emphatically, glad this was the real deal and not some ragtag team of rebels. "Glad to hear it," the Nord said. "Can you use that shortsword at all?" Thumbs-up. "What about magic?" Double thumbs-up. "You're the jackpot," the Nord said happily. They stole away that very same night.
The townsfolk would never get the answers they desired. On a day just like any other, the Altmer vanished without explanation. It was left as a curious chapter of Rorikstead's otherwise quiet history.
Whew! The snow was thicker here than she'd ever seen. Were it not for the bound visor over her features, she would have been struggling with snow in her eyes, and face. She'd found a shelter to stop in and change into warmer clothes, earlier; the man in Windhelm had told her it would be savagely cold, even colder than Windhelm, so she'd prepared. As though the spirits themselves were trying to freeze the place, he'd said, and she couldn't deny him.
The city wasn't really much of a city at all. She saw ruins before she got to anything inhabited, it was much more like a ghost town. She'd stopped at the tavern to offer the local economy some of her gold and learned that the college had miraculously survived a collapse of the cliff face that Winterhold existed on. Most of the city had gone, but the college, most defiantly, had continued to exist, undamaged, on a plateau beyond the collapse line. She could see why the locals viewed the college with such suspicion, but it only convinced her more of the power to be found within the place.
There had been a sentinel at the bridge to the college, leading her out past the collapse, to the defiant campus building balanced precariously on a pile of uncollapsed rocks. If she were a local Nord, the sight might unnerve her, but magics had a way with these things. She passed the test of the sentinel easily, memorized the cantrips to activate the waypoints and gain access to the gate as she saw them, and passed through to finish enrolling in the curriculum.
On her way in, she'd heard curious rumors and hushed whispers, various things from various corners. As one from High Rock, she found herself somewhat distanced, but she could almost hear her mother in her ear. That Skyrim was in such a tumultuous state, and by one man, no less. That he... shouted the old high king asunder. She'd never heard of such a spell, and couldn't think of how to conjure such a thing. A shout of such power... Skyrim had many secrets, as well as history. Well, was that not a historian's duty?
She'd come to fancy herself as such, after realizing just what she was doing in all those caves and ruins. More so than viewing herself as a mage. Magic was just another avenue through which to discover ancient secrets and knowledge.
So the college was where she would begin. It didn't take her long to follow the information to high hrothgar. Honestly, she was surprised there weren't more orcs involved, with a name like that. High orcs up in the high mountains or something, but no, apparently, she was to find some old Nords up there... South past Windhelm, where she came up from in the first place, gods damn it.
So it was back south for her. At least it would be warm... For a moment.
“Move scum! I want a steady flow of that ore to the smelter or ten lashes for all of you!”
“Shut your mouth, Grayskin. Just keep moving.”
Lieutenant Hrolf Beinison stood glowering over a hunched Dunmer pushing a cart full of jagged hunks of ore from the mouth of Darkshade Mine. The cart was rather small in size but the ore was heavy and the Lieutenant knew it was a stout chore to push it across the uneven mine floor and then up the short ramp at the entrance and out. Not that it mattered of course, the mine was rich with gold and the dark elves had their purpose which was to strip it down to the last pebble broken backs or not.
Besides, they has made their choice not to support High King Ulfric in the war. In fact the dark elves had been nothing but a nuisance ever since tromping over the eastern border years ago and nesting down in Windhelm. Putting a heavy burden on the cities’ resources, taking work meant for Nord people, and the endless complaining about their lot in life when they were the ones who decided to intrude into Skyrim to begin with. It was bad enough the previous High King had let the damned elves into Nord lands, but they expected special treatment just because they were immigrants and fleeing a crisis of some sort.
Hrolf’s view on the current position of the dark elves was the view of many in Skyrim these days, thankfully. If they wanted to be part of Skyrim, they can make themselves useful. And what better way to do that than repay their debt to society by working the mines and filling Skyrim’s coffers? The fact that they had to be whipped and penned for such an arrangement just made it clear to Hrolf how much of an ungrateful nuisance the grayskins were.
The elf dumped the cart’s contents near the smelter where two others of his kind worked to purify the ore under the supervision of a guard. Hrolf watched arms crossed as the carter came by him again and descended back down into the depths of Darkshade to collect more ore. The hammering of pickaxes, scraping of shovels, and voices of guards and workers alike could be heard from within echoing against the cavernous walls. Dampened only by the rushing of the waterfall that roared over the nearby cliffs down into the White River.
The lieutenant turned his gaze off to the right where the Stormcloak encampment was. Four tents sat on the mine side river bank shared by the guards who kept watch outside. The night watch were all resting up until sundown when they would be roused from their tents for their shift. A wooden watch tower was built against the scaling rock wall near the small camp occupied by a single bowman, his eyes scanning the road near the opposite bank as well as the woods on the far side. The other two guards walked the opposite riverbank but never strayed out of sight. There were more men inside who were charged with overseeing mining and keeping an eye on the labor. At night they camped inside the mine and shared shifts to make sure no one attempted to flee or sabotage the mining operation.
Cracking his neck Hrolf strode forward walking past the two elves working the smelter and approached the guard watching them who snapped to attention, “Lieutenant, sir.”
“How is the load looking for today?” Hrolf asked.
“Rather sparse. Not as much ore today and I expect the same tomorrow, sir, perhaps even Middas as well.”
Lieutenant Hrolf grimaced though in truth he wasn’t surprised. This past week had been a rich load that was sent to Whiterun and the laborers were more busy today with opening up new tunnels and simply uncovering more veins than directly mining them. He figured it to take them all day today and most of tomorrow, but by Middas he expected more ore and less rock to come out in that cart. And if that meant pushing the elves harder past sundown tonight and tomorrow, so be it.
Lanikil Helothron winced, teeth gritted as the armored hand slapped him across the face causing his cheek to sting and head to throb. "Pick it up and move!" Lanikil bit his tongue as he knelt down and gathered the chunks of rock he had dropped when he first fell. He was walking down one of the many narrow tunnels with an armload of ore for the cart when his shackles caught on a root poking out from a crag in the wall. He fell on his stomach and the rocks scattered across the floor, causing the guard near the entrance to leap on the chance to waylay him across the face. Such chances they all treasured it seemed as he heard a Dunmer woman cry out across the large central chamber as a Stormcloak struck her with his shield for some reason. No, there is no reason for any of this... Lanikil thought as he stood with his burden.
They just hate us.
The young Dunmer somberly dumped the ore into the near full cart and turned back for the tunnel from whence he came. He stepped to the side letting a red-haired Dunmer pass, the two’s jingling shackles pairing them as slaves under the boot of the Nords. And I used to think the Gray Quarter was bad. Lanikil thought darkly as he seized his pickaxe from where he left it and went back to work, each swing he would pretend was to the skull of Ulfric Stormcloak. Chips of rock ricocheted off his arms and face as he struck the stone again and again, every breath was laced with a growing flame of hate within his soul.
I will not spend my life as a slave in this land serving a foreign king. And neither will the others.
Lanikil planned to escape, he been planning it for weeks now, though in truth he was still working out exactly how. The mine and outside camp were well watched and secured day and night and the locks on the sleeping pens were far from simple. Lanikil was no rogue and lock picking and sneaking around were not his vocations. Before all this he had been a hunter who sold meats and skins in the Gray Quarter to his fellows. Tracking, shooting a bow, and cleaning game were all he knew, he wasn’t an assassin of thief. Perhaps if he could get the key to his cell - but alas he was no pickpocket either and he dared not be caught by these Nords. At the very least they would lash or starve him for several days, at the worst he would be executed to set a more compelling example.
But Lanikil had no intention of dying in this mine or in Skyrim. Where would he go if he did escape? He would worry about that after he escaped. Part of him saw it as a futile concept, a ham fisted mental construct of misguided hope. The other half of him said he just had to wait - wait for the right time to make his move. Wait, and watch.
So he worked and toiled, sweat pouring down his gray flesh and matting his hair against his scalp and brow. His back, arms, and core burning and aching as he struck and struck, breaking stone and hauling it by the armfuls, the rocky jags scraping his skin and making his arms and hands gritty. His bare feet tender and callused from walking across the abrasive and harsh mine floor. His heart pained from the screams, cries, and groans of his fellows. Good men and women suffering under the tyranny of “The Bear of Markarth”. This pain would inevitably turn to anger and this anger drove him to survive and to wait for his moment to break free.
Brunwulf Free-Winter was no fool. When his associate Tilsi told him of the four new potential recruits to their cause that would be coming to see him he knew that he needed to meet them somewhere other than his home. Receiving letters and having a sole Dunmer woman come and meet him every few days was one thing, but four strangers coming and going from his home was something else. Especially as he was already being watched by the Stormcloaks for his reputation of being opposed to Ulfric.
With Tilsi’s aid he had found a suitable enough place in the Gray Quarter to have a meeting with these four. It was an abandoned house that once belonged to a cobbler, an unfortunate soul that had been dragged off to work as slave labor in the mines. The house had been cleared out mostly aside from two beds and a few pieces of furniture here and there. And Brunwulf had even sound a stash of Honningbrew mead in a secret compartment in the upstairs bedroom.
He had asked Tilsi about these four new prospects, a Dunmer, an Altmer, a human, and a Khajit. The Dunmer, Velyn, was from right here in Windhelm and frequented the Corner Club. Brunwulf thought he recognized the name but he said nothing. The Altmer was found in Rorikstead which Brunwulf found a little odd but did not press. When he asked for a name Tilsi said the agent who had found him said he was mute, and while this troubled Brunwulf a little he would give the man a once over chance. The human was named Gungnir. The agent who had sent him along gave little on the man other than him having Nord blood and having recently been thrown in the Pit in Falkreath after a run-in with the guards. He certainly had a personal stake in joining the cause for sure. The Khajit had been separated from his caravan or something like that and seemed a bit of a wanderer now. The details on the cat were a little sketchy but Brunwulf certainly was not turning anyone away. He told himself that more recruits would come and for now this was a good start.
And now here he sat by the fireplace in the abandoned house, Tilsi standing across the room leant up near the doorframe, the bald Dunmer woman constantly glancing out the window nearby for any sight of a patrol. Before Brunwulf sat the four newcomers, potential additions to the Resistance. Each looked intimidating in their own right, and grouped together they looked rather formidable without doubt.
“So,” the weathered Nord said, breaking the silence, “you have come to join the Resistance, then? You are quite the group. Tell me a little of yourselves then. And what brought you here.”
After a couple of hours the Nord & Breton spent as they conversed and enjoyed their drinks, it was about time Andre began his mission. He asked Olgaf, "Would you know of someone I could speak to in regards to finding the amulet?"
It took the Nord a moment as he thought of a suggestion, "Aye, i'd say Iyna. She has a small antique shop west of the Temple further in the city." nodded Olgaf. Andre finished his drink before he began to make his leave, but Olgaf spoke up again "Don't suppose you bumped into an old Orc before coming into the city by chance?"
Andre hesitated for a moment as he stood up, "Yes I did. A former bard apparently. Why?" he asked in turn. "Rugburt is his name. And aye he was." nodded Olgaf, "He's also good with magic, mainly the type that allows him to read a crowd, or a single person. It helped him tell if folk were good or not, something to do with his way of performing or whatever." Olgaf then placed his mug back on the table before crossing his arms with an expression of curiosity, "Did he say anything strange to you?", Andre tried to remember what it was the Orc had told him, perhaps the ale had slowed him down a slight. "*An apple drops for the bunch.* I think that was it." he said scratching his head. Olgaf then stood up from his chair "Good, that means you're a good sort." he leaned in slightly with a hushed tone, "In three hours from now, please come visit me. I have a room here in this Inn, ask the Innkeeper for which one. I can explain what this all means if you're interested. If not, I bid you good luck on your travels." he gave a friendly pat on the arm to Andre as he turned and walked away. Andre confused and unsure of what to expect, finally began his search for the amulet.
Solitude, 10th of Sundas, Evening, 4E 205
Andre was tired, in part due to the travelling during the morning, but also from scouring Solitude for information. Iyna proved somewhat helpful, as she did indeed know of something sounding similar coming across her path, but all she could provide was that it was somewhere in either Whiterun or Riften, she couldn't remember specifically. Andre eventually returned to the Inn and purchased a room, only now remembering about Olgaf's invitation. He was apprehensive at first, but decided to give the Nord a chance and asked the Innkeeper about Olgaf's location.
After settling himself in his own room, Andre made his way to Olgaf's. Knocking on the door was brief, as the Nord opened it almost immediately. "Welcome friend. I had thought you weren't coming." "I apologise. My investigation took some time, and I must admit I was unsure about coming." replied Andre. Olgaf held the door open and gestured for Andre to come in, "Well i'm glad you did." As soon as Andre made his way in, Olgaf began as he closed the door, "What do you know of Ulfric Stormcloak?". Andre sat on a chair before choosing his words, "I cannot say. I had heard rumours prior to my arrival, but otherwise I know little." he shrugged.
Olgaf nodded as he sat himself down. He prepared a drink and offered one to Andre who declined. "Tell me about these rumours. Be honest with me." asked the man inquisitively. "Well..." Andre felt uncomfortable, he wasn't sure about speaking ill of another country's king, especially in front of one of its inhabitants. "I had been told stories about non-Nords, some of which lived in the country prior to Ulfric's claim of the throne. Some were enslaved and even killed." Olgaf simply relaxed back on his chair, "Aye. It is true." he gave an affirming nod, "I'm sure you've seen some of the poor fools that Ulfric's dogs strung up." he gestured behind himself. "Well thats why i'm speaking to you know. Would you like to do something about it? Would you like to join us in the resistance?" he asked Andre with a serious expression. The Breton sighed, "What could I do? This is not my home, also I merely came here for a personal matter. I have no experience in any of this." he expressed with minor frustration. "Yes I know. But what if I helped you?" Olgaf pondered. Andre raised a brow, "What do you mean?" "What if I could help your search? And in exchange you help us?" Olgaf proposed. "I can have some of my contacts dig up some leads. Did you learn anything from Iyna?" he asked.
Andre thought for a moment, he wasn't keen on the idea of getting mixed up in a civil war that had nothing to do with him, but on the otherhand, his personal quest could potentially be made easier with extra help. "She mentioned seeing it, or something similar to it in either Whiterun or Riften." he replied. "Hmm...Riften makes sense, as that was where the Thieves Guild had last been seen, but whos to say they have it." he shrugged. Olgaf leant toward Andre and held out a hand, "So, will you help us? So I can help you?". Andre thought to himself, "I should of listened to Father.", he then looked up and shook the Nords hand in acceptance, "Fine. But as long as you keep to your word." Olgaf smiled at the success of gaining another recruit.
"So what do I have to do?" Andre asked begrudgingly, and with that Olgaf stood up and walked over to his dresser to retrieve a small parcel before showing it to the Breton. "I want you to deliver this to the Resistance in Windhelm. I can't tell you what it is, i'm sure you understand. And if for some reason you find yourself on the verge of being captured by Stormcloaks, destroy it. Those bastards can't be allowed to have it. I'd suggest slitting your own throat while you're at it if you do, I wouldn't want to be captured by them if I weren't a Nord." he dragged his finger across his neck for emphasis. "Get some rest for now though, and you can bring this to Eastmarch tomorrow." Andre nodded and left for his own room, it had been a long day today, but there would be many more yet.
The first part of the travel had gone rather smoothly, more so than Holgarth had even expected. After gathering their supplies and arming his employers with iron swords, they were able to persuade the guards that they would be fit to travel and took their leave from the city. From there they traveled along the northern road, keeping a vigilant eye and only taking breaks when necessary. It was almost a shame this journey was requiring such extreme caution. The road was situated between a sprawling forest mountain, and a quant river of clear water rushing by. In a different time, this would have been a peaceful trip that showed the true beauty Skyrim had to offer. But they were not allowed to slow their pace and take in the magnificent scenery. Any sound that was heard over the flowing water, every rock and pebble that tumbled from the otherwise still cliffs could spell danger for the party.
They had even abstained from basic conversation to try and keep as low a profile as possible. No point in alerting a potential ambush that they were coming with idle chatter. But once they reached the bridge passed Kolskeggr Mine, Holgarth halted his steps and signaled for the other two to do the same. He gazed towards the mountain range in front of them as he quietly pondered what he should say to the others. After a few seconds, the Nord took a deep breath and turned to face the couple. They too had been staring at the path ahead. As natives to Markarth, they no doubt already knew where they were, and what was lay ahead of them
“Once we cross this bridge, we will be directly under Blind Cliff.” Holgarth said, keeping a stoic composure. “If we stay close to the mountain side and move quickly, we should be able to get through here without being seen. But, if the Forsworn spot us, then you must run. Drop your backpacks and anything else that may be weighing you down and flee. Do not stop until you reach Karthwasten. If they catch you...” He paused in his speech, the next words were not easy to say. “Let’s just say your swords will be more merciful than the Forsworn.”
Holgarth was not surprised at the couple’s reaction. Both grew pale at the thought of what would happen should the worst come to be. Theore’s head lowered to look at the sword that hung from his hip, while Calinna placed her hand over her mouth to hold back whatever rations were trying to make their way back out. But their shock only lasted a few moments. Once Theore saw his wife in distress, he reached for her other hand and held it firmly.
“Whatever happens, we’ll face it together.” Theore whispered. They looked into each other’s eyes until the fear was overcome by their determination.
“We’ll make it. I know we will.” Calinna smiled at her husband before facing their escort. “Lead the way, Holgarth.”
The Nord nodded with a smirk. He was impressed with how quickly they rallied themselves. With love that strong, Mara herself must have been watching over them.
“Alright then. Let’s go.” Holgarth waved his hand for them to follow as he stepped onto the stone bridge and continued forward.
It only took a few minutes for them to cross the bridge and reach the bend in the road. Though their pace did not slow, the party could feel their steps grow heavy, uncertain what would happen during their final stretch through the Reach. As they rounded the bend, their eyes gazed upon a truly gruesome sight.
The road before them was littered with bodies. The corpses of Forsworn and Stormcloak alike scattered along the path with no signs of life to be found. Had the Stormcloaks foolishly attempt to take the Forsworn stronghold? Or did the Forsworn let their overconfidence push them to ambush a heavily armed patrol? Whatever the cause of this battle, the grim result was a victory for neither.
Holgarth cautiously moved closer in and kneeled down at the first body he saw. It was a Stormcloak soldier, slain by a Forsworn arrow to the neck. The body was undisturbed, meaning they were likely the first ones to see this. The blood from the wound had also stopped running, but it was still wet to the touch. This battle was recent, maybe even from this morning. It was a dark thought, but this skirmish actually gave Holgarth hope for his party.
“This battle must have only been a few hours ago.” Holgarth called back to the Breton couple who hesitantly approached him. Their eyes darted between all the still corpses around them. “If there were any survivors or witnesses, they’re long gone from here to inform their superiors. Which means we have a window before more come. If we hurry we can-”
“Wait!” Calinna interrupted. “I think I just saw something move. Behind that rock over there!” She pointed with an unsteady hand to a large rock on the side of the road, easily big enough for someone to hide behind.
Without hesitation, Holgard pulled his warhammer from his back and crept towards the rock.
“Who's there? Show yourself!” He demanded in a booming voice that echoed against the stone cliff. As he closed in on the rock, he held his hammer back, ready to swing should anything jump out.
It was another cloudy day in Eastmarch as Rorik waited impatiently just out of sight of the walls of Windhelm. He’d been camped here for close to a week now, waiting for Orla, a Nord woman who grew up with Rorik on the same farmstead. They came across each other’s paths as she was returning from Windhelm after delivering some vegetables to the capital. They’d spoken for a little while and about the reasons why he’d deserted the Stormcloaks. It turned out it was big news on the farm when soldiers had come looking for him at his home. Rorik hadn’t been home to see his parents and siblings since he did it, feeling too ashamed and believing they wouldn’t understand his reasons for leaving. He told her about needing to get into the city but for obvious reasons he couldn’t just walk through the front gates, this is when she agreed to smuggle him in the next time she was going into the city to sell food. The first night after he spoke to her, he hadn’t slept not knowing whether she would tell someone about him holding up close by. After a few days though he believed she had kept her promise.
It was early morning when she arrived on a big cart with two horse towing it. The cart was full of all sorts of veg and a few butchered pigs. Also, two big barrels at the front of the cart. Rorik smiled when he first saw her, Orla was the first woman he’d ever kissed and he had liked her ever since he could remember. She was a year older than him and when they were younger, she was always taller than him and stronger and when they wrestled with each other, it was always Orla who ended up pinning him, but Rorik had never really been too upset about that. “Hello Orla, I’m glad you to see you.” He shouted down to her as she got closer.
“I’m sure you are little Rori.” She replied using the same name she had always used for him, when they were younger everyone had called him that but now he was probably the tallest from his farmstead and she only said it to tease him. Orla laughed when she saw the expression on his face. “Do you still get upset with that name?”
“Well… no one really calls me that anymore.” Rorik answered. “Also, I’m a head taller than you so it doesn’t make sense.” Rorik studied her thinking she was just as beautiful as he remembered. She had golden blonde hair that was platted down to her waist and the colour of her eyes were a deep blue, you couldn’t help but stare at her eyes.
Orla smiled devilishly at him. “Well, you’ll always be little Rori to me.” She jumped off the back of the wagon and pointed to one of the big barrels. “Come and take one of these off and empty it. Well, you might as well go and pour it near your horse, give him something good to eat.” She looked at the little camp he’d made for himself. “No one really comes down this path so I can’t see anyone finding him or your camp.”
Rorik heaved the massive barrel onto his shoulder and it was heavier than he had expected it to be. He moved as quick as he possibly could and dumped a massive pile of leeks out next to his horse and dropped the barrel next to him. Rorik looked up at his horse who was just looking right back him. “Don’t worry fella, you’ve plenty to eat and drink and I can’t see myself being longer than a day… hopefully.” He patted the horse’s neck then turned back around. “So where will I be hiding?”
Orla shook her head and answered with a question. “Why do you think you emptied that barrel for?”
“Will I fit?” Rorik asked staring down at the barrel unsure.
“You will… you’ll be very uncomfortable but you’ll fit.”
Before he went back to the cart, he took one final look to make sure his armour and axe were hidden well enough inside a hollow tree where he had made the camp. He thought he didn’t want to look too suspicious with armour on so he decided on just plain clothes, a cloak and a dagger. Grabbing the barrel, he went to the cart and put it back on and jumped onto the cart and looked at Orla. “Thank you, Orla. I really needed your help.”
Orla smiled at him and replied, “Stop being so soppy and get in the barrel. Besides I know you’ll make it up to me one day.” She winked at him making him blush.
He folded his knees in the barrel and curled into some ball and suddenly it went dark when Orla put the lid on the barrel. “Please keep me safe Talos.” Rorik whispered a little prayer to himself, trying to think whether this was the smartest of plans but he knew he couldn’t stay in hiding for the rest of his life. A second later the cart started to move, it was too late for him to back out now.
The journey felt like an eternity to Rorik, he was just too big to be stuffed inside a barrel. The longer he stayed in there, the more he started to think he could have just hidden under a blanket in the back of the cart and Orla put him in there as a joke. They got through the gates easy enough. The guards both knew her seeing that she’d go into the city every week. Even if they didn’t know her, she was so beautiful that she could convince the guards to let her through without checking what she had.
A few minutes later, light flooded back into the barrel and Rorik got a tap on the head. “Come on you can get out now.” Orla said and straight away Rorik shot out then started to stretch, his back had gotten very stiff being hunched over for so long. He looked around to see that they were in an alleyway with no one around. “Are you sure you want to go through with this Rorik? It’s not too late to go back on this plan… I just don’t think you’ve thought it out well enough.” Orla stared at him as he got out of the barrel and instead of her usual teasing smile, she actually looked concerned. “I’ll take you back out the city tonight when I’m leaving… I… I just don’t want you getting into any harm for some stupid cause.”
Rorik looked at her and smiled, “A stupid cause for a stupid person.” He said as he jumped into the street. He held her hand and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you, Orla.” They looked at each other in the eyes before Rorik continued to speak. “I have to go though, I don’t think I can just sit by and not do anything, I need to fight for my country.”
A tear started to run down her face before she wiped it away and laughed. “If anything does happen to you though, I’ll come to Sovengarde myself and beat you up… just because you’re bigger than me now doesn’t mean I couldn’t take you out.” Suddenly she grabbed him by the collar, pulled him close and kissed him. When they broke apart Rorik still had his eyes closed, he tried to speak but only a moan came out. “Well, it’s good to know I can still make you speechless.” She said as she rode off. Rorik just stood there and watched her.
Say something to her you fool, Rorik thought to himself. “Look after my horse if I’m gone for a while.” He shouted to her as she was halfway down the street. He turned around and shook his. “Out of everything you could have said you talk about your horse.” Rorik said out loud to himself feeling like a fool for the hundredth time as he slapped his head.
The first and only place he thought about going was The Boars head Inn, a tavern that was opened up by his old commander who had retired a few years before named, Bjorn. The commander was an angry Nord but one who also fair and kind to people who needed it and would always do what was morally right. Rorik saw him as a father figure.
Rorik lifted the hood of his cloak and went to the inn. The walk there was uneventful with the streets being busy and everyone more bothered about their own business.
The Boars Head was a very standard tavern in the same style as most of the other taverns in Skyrim. There was a long table in the centre with all smaller tables running along the side, at one end there was a huge fire place and above it a boards head hung on the wall. A few people sat drinking and a Nord woman was singing a slow sad song, it wasn’t really the happy environment someone would want from a tavern, but everyone seemed to be sticking to themselves which suited Rorik.
As he looked around the place, Rorik saw Bjorn leaning against the bar, the same scowl on his face that he always had. When Rorik walked over to him the expression stayed the same, the one eye that Rorik had left just stared straight at Rorik. His chest and arms were as big as a bear and he was as hairy as one except for the top of his head since he’d become bald. “Didn’t expect to see you in these parts again lad.” Bjorn said with a slight nod.
Rorik walked over and sat on a stool next to the bar, Bjorn pushed a mug of ale towards him. Rorik started to speak, “Yes, I didn’t really expect to be in this city again, but I needed to come back.” He took a swig of the drink.
“Do I even want to know why you’ve come back.”
Rorik looked around and leant in, whispering, “I heard about a res…”
“Shut your bloody mouth right now.” Bjorn interrupted him and pointed his finger right into his face and then pointed to a door behind him. “Get in the back right now.” Rorik marched into the back without questioning his commands. As he walked into the back, Bjorn pushed him forward to get in quicker, he was smaller than Rorik and a few decades older but was still stronger. He slammed the door shut behind him. “Are you actually serious Rorik, you’re here to join the bloody resistance.” You could see the anger in his eye but he kept his deep voice low. “Are you wanting your head on a pike outside the walls, because that’s the way you’re heading lad.” Bjorn just shook his head at him. “To be honest I don’t think losing your head would do you much harm.” He let out a raspy chuckle but went back to the usual stern face straight after. “You’re really ready to betray your brothers and sisters for people who aren’t even your own?”
Rorik just looked at him with an almost sad expression. “I’ll never betray my own and I’ll always want Skyrim to be ruled by us, but we can’t get there on the back of others, this isn’t the right way.”
There was a short silence before Bjorn let out a sigh and sat down on a chair. “I’m afraid you might be right, I never thought I’d see the day that you’re right but you are. Skyrim’s becoming a country I don’t recognize anymore, our fight for freedom quickly changed to just enslaving others.” He sat there and thought for a while, “I have heard whispers and rumours of people in here talking, give me day or two I’ll find someone you can speak with.”
“Cheers Bjorn.” Was all that Rorik managed to say.
“Yes, yes, you’re very grateful, but you don’t need to get sentimental. You’re not leaving my attic though until I find someone, you’ll definitely get caught if you start wondering around Windhelm blabbering about a resistance.”
They stayed in the back for a while chatting about old memories and catching up, it was nice for Rorik, he’d not really made a friend since leaving the army.
Lilaia was just leaving Winterhold, boots crunching across the fresh snow on top of old snow on top of older snow, when a shout pierced the silence of the ruined city. A plea, coming from the nearby shop. She paused, gazing at the shop in question, before she sighed and approached. She got up to the door and pressed on it, taking a breath before she would enter the premise.
Lilaia assessed the occupants, remembering what she'd heard outside. Two guards and the shopkeep. "You've got a funny way of doing your jobs, guardsmen. Is there a problem here?" She glared, folding her arms across her armor.
"Shop's closed, why don't you go on back up to your rock?" It was the second guard, who stepped forward to put himself between his cohort and her.
A High Rock joke. Cute. "Is that your call?" The mage gave the guard a sharp stare before she shifted her attention, "what say you, shopkeep?"
Zarya was holding onto the hands of the first guard who was holding onto his collar. “Please remove your hands from me this instead” However the first guard kept his grasps on Zazar. “Quiet lizard, you leave Winterhold and if not then something terrible will happen to your store.” The first guard then waited to hear Zazar’s choice. Zazar looked over towards the woman that came into the store. “I would rather you stay and help me deal with these fools.” Suddenly one of his hands moved from the guard’s hand, punching the guard in the face. Watching him stumble backwards gave the Argonian much satisfaction.
He pulled out a small club from underneath the counter, jumping over the counter and starting to engage with the second guard.
Well, this was all escalating quickly. Thinly veiled threats lead right into an altercation, but she wasn't about to put herself on the shit list. If she were a better illusionist, she could pacify the room, but that had never been her focus. As it was, however, she might be able to manage. There were only two, after all, and the Argonian had already shot himself in the knee.
Lilaia quickly shot of a Calm spell from either hand, to pacify the guards, before she grabbed the Argonian's weapon hand, stopping him, "think about what comes next, you fool! More guards, and I'm not going to help you get us both on the wanted list. May I suggest you leave quickly." It was not a question. She released the shopkeep and backed toward the door. "Before my spells wear off. I'm getting out of here before they remember my face too well," and she turned and left, back out into the snow and south toward Windhelm. Another bound visor, this one to hide her face as well as keep the snow out. Get out before she got tangled up with more guards. She'd have to wait for the heat to blow over before she came back.
He stood in front of the now unconscious guards, looking into the woman's eyes he felt stupid for being so cavalry with the guards. He had been so pushed and even tortured by the Stormclock, he felt that some sort of action would be appreciated at this moment. "Yes you are right, I apologize. But they deserved being knocked off their high horse." He quickly put away the club back behind the counter. "Let us leave this place. " He cast a spell to make himself invisible, casting another spell on the guards in the hope to erase their memories.
Walking quickly behind her out of the store, he wondered where the two of them would go or rather he wondered where he would go. He didn't know anyone that well here expect maybe the orc blacksmith. But the woman didn't seem to think of Zazar as a friend.
Lilaia had already left by the time Zazar started casting. She heard his crunching behind hers and turned, looking for whoever was following her before seeing the footprints in the snow. She stared at where he was standing for a moment before sighing, turning, and continuing on, "cmon, then. Let's see if we can't find you a new store front or something. A street stall, at least..."
In a moment, the man was on his feet. He double-checked his belongings, not exactly trusting of the Stormcloaks to return everything to him. His blade was there, as was his crossbow and bolts. And it also looked like the rope and bear-trap parts in his backpack were all more or less accounted for as well. Good. He slung the backpack over his shoulder, about where the sword rested as well. It was a peculiar weapon, curved (though not to the same extent as those found in Hammerfell) and more narrow than the blades typically found in Skyrim or even most of Tamriel to be honest. A knowledgeable enough individual could identify it as an Akaviri sword, the kind only known to have been previously wielded by the Blades. But most people in Skyrim weren't that knowledgeable on the subject, so he was rarely ever questioned about the sword in question. The rest of his gear was far more common and didn't stick out as much, so there was nothing really curious about any of it.
"Hmm... where did he say to go?" the man muttered to himself, trying to recall a... conversation of sorts he had had while in the The Pit.
A Couple Days Ago
The door leading into The Pit burst open and a new prisoner was tossed in without a second thought, "You heard, the Captain, no food or water. Have fun, you filth!" the Prisoner in question pushed himself to his feet and moved to a corner of The Pit, sounding like he was muttering something under his breath. He plopped back back on the floor and leaned back against the circular wall. He could tell already this was going to be a long three days.
That's when he heard it. Humming? It sounded like humming of some kind, coming from the opposite side of the Pit where there was more shade hiding whomever it was sitting there. Soon the humming turned into... singing? "So feline and fair... from the sands of Elsweyr... and through our glistening stare... perfect sight!" whoever this person was he sounded way too upbeat for a prisoner in The Pit. The singing stopped and a feline figure leaned forward from the shadows to look curiously at his new cellmate. He then offered a fanged smile, "Greetings to you, Friend! J'Varga welcomes you to The Pit." he said in what sounded like almost too happy a tone. He also reeked of Skooma, which certainly explained a lot about his current disposition.
"Let me guess... possession of Skooma?" asked the new prisoner. A rhetorical question, since the smell answered it for him. Or so he thought it would, anyway.
"Whatever makes you think that?" asked the Cat with an innocent chuckle, "Oh right, the smell. It was not J'Varga's fault this time, he swears it! That Skooma was not for smoking but for medicinal purposes, honest!"
The man rolled his eyes. Apparently he was to be cellmates with a crazy Skooma addict. Great. A long three days, indeed.
"Why does no one believe J'Varga?" the Khajiit asked in a sad tone, "The Stormcloaks did not believe J'Varga either, locked J'Varga up in this cold, wet Pit." he sniffed, almost sounding like he was gonna cry. But then he suddenly perked right up again, "But enough about J'Varga, it is very impressive - what you did. Standing up for a stranger is a noble thing, but as you can see, such noble things land you here in The Pit - with J'Varga."
"Wait, what?" suddenly this Khajiit went from being a weirdo to someone the man was immediately suspicious of, "You're down here, how can you possibly know that?"
"Ah, that is what we Khajiit like to call a... Trade Secret, yes?" replied the feline, "Truly a shame though. J'Varga senses much fire in you, yet no worthy cause to put it toward. Such a waste of talent and passion... unless of course J'Varga knew of someone who would be very interested in meeting you."
"Sorry, not interested in buying Skooma."
"No no no, J'Varga was not talking about Skooma. J'Varga was talking about another good friend in search of people with a fire like yours. Well, okay, maybe J'Varga was referring to Skooma also at first, but-"
"Okay, I officially think you're crazy. Goodnight." said the Prisoner, not appearing to want to hear what the Khajiit had to say. Both prisoners eventually fell asleep. But unfortunately for the newcomer, tomorrow was another day. He'd still be stuck in there with the rambling Khajiit.
"Are, are you serious?" asked Justinian the night before he was to be released. By then, J'Varga had talked his ear off about someone in Windhelm named Free-Winter. At a certain point, he decided to hear the Cat out if only to shut him up... not that that actually made him shut up at all. He'd also given the Khajiit his name, well, his adopted name anyway.
"Would J'Varga ever lie to you, his good old friend Gungnir?" asked the Khajiit with a toothy grin, "When you get out, go to the place J'Varga described, and take the hidden stash. Use it to get yourself some food and the rest to hire a carriage. J'Varga's dear friend Brunwulf will be waiting for you in Windhelm."
"Right..." he honestly still didn't know what to make of this crazy cat. Was the craziness just an act? No, no, the smell of Skooma was too real. But still, it wasn't like Justinian currently had any other leads for work or the like, so going to Windhelm might not to be a terrible idea. Assuming he could keep up his full-blood Nord act, anyway. If he was ousted, especially in Windhelm? Then things might go badly. So he would just have to make sure that didn't happen, "Fine, fine, I'll hear this guy out I guess. Can't be worse than sticking around in Falkreath, anyway."
"Ah, J'Varga knew you would make the right choice!"
The days following Epesorn’s recruitment set him on edge. It seemed nearly every waking hour was spent riding to Windhelm. Replacing her initial appearance of confidence and surety was a quieter and tenser demeanor. The Nord did not explain the change in her behavior, but her hurried attitude made a point just as effectively as words could: time was of the essence. Her stress was contagious, so Epesorn stayed on high alert.
He wondered if she trusted him at all. Not enough to give her name, clearly. Pity he couldn’t ask for it. They faced no extreme difficulties on the road. Sometimes they repelled wildlife, either by Epesorn scaring the beast with fire, or the Nord yelling loudly and waving her arms. Travellers were trickier. Epesorn was instructed to pull his hood over and make no eye contact when they passed others on the road. Thankfully, no one stopped them.
Each night, they cooked their food over a fire, unwilling to stop at any rest points. Occasionally, the Nord would tell him stories. Most concerned Ulfric Stormcloak and various atrocities she’d been witness to, but others were happier. She mentioned she’d fallen for a man in Whiterun. Her stories were short and often broken by long stretches of silence, but they interested Epesorn all the same.
At Windhelm, when the city was within sight, they stabled their horses and the Nord told him the plan to get in. She would feed the guards a cock-and-bull story, and once granted admittance, they would make their way to the Gray Quarter. Simple as that. If anything went wrong, he was allowed to do anything to avoid capture - apparently some tales had painted life imprisoned in Windhelm as worse than death.
As it turned out, things went without a hitch. The Nord explained to the gate-guards that her Altmer friend here was a fierce supporter of the Stormcloaks, and he had fought bravely on their behalf during the civil war. She was an admirable liar, and it didn’t take long for the guards to give them access to the city. Epesorn could still feel their cold glares on his back. So much for patriotism.
She led him to the drop-off point, a crumbling excuse for a house. It couldn’t have been abandoned for long, but still gave off a forlorn feeling. Mildew crept openly along the wooden boards. Every building in the area looked about the same - the Gray Quarter, had she called it? Apparently this was where the Dunmer went to rot. Even the poorest of Altmer did not live like this in Alinor. The Nord asked him to wait outside for a moment while she conferred with her associate. He kept on the lookout while waiting, feeling it was likely there was plenty of crime in this area. After a few minutes, she reappeared and waved him inside.
“Make a good impression,” she said, then vanished into the street. He felt a clench of momentary fear, not unlike the fear a child feels when separated from its parents - which was silly, because he could fend for himself. He took a deep breath, forcing his shaking hands to steady.
Epesorn stepped inside cautiously, taking in the scene. A bald Dunmer woman leaned by the door, unsurprised by his appearance. Looking past her and further into the room, he saw a second Dunmer and a Nord, both male. The Dunmer looked quite old. It came as no surprise to him that multiple dark elves were part of the resistance. Here in Windhelm, they would be the people hit the hardest by Ulfric’s reign.
He tried for a smile, all too aware his heart was beating quicker than it should. Epesorn took a seat next to the Dunmer, lowering his hood to expose his sharp, golden ears. There really was no logical reason he should feel so nervous, but this was far from his comfort zone. The weight of his shortsword pressed against his thigh. He wondered if he should have left it by the door, but refrained from standing now that he was here.
A frantic and sharp response came from behind the rock. There was a rustling of movement paired with the slight grind of boots on gravel as a shadow crept across the ground from behind the rock. A grunting could be heard as a hunched over figure slowly shifted his way out.
He was an elf, a Bosmer. He was adorned in cheap leather armor that was spattered in blood. His hands and wrists were bare, his boots were rather rugged and one seemed to have a large tear on the toe. He was breathing somewhat heavily, a red stream of blood poured down his right thigh into and over his boot. He was armed but his hands empty, a steel mace swayed at his hip and a bow and an empty quiver hung at his back.
He looked rather young, his face was clean shaven and a single large knotted braid of auburn hair hung down the side of his smooth cranium. “Wait…” he said again, raising his hands outward passively, “I’m no Forsworn. And certainly not a Stormcloak.”
He took a deep breath before continuing, “I was… attacked. I came upon this scene before us when two Forsworn leapt from the brush nearby. I managed to kill them both…” he nodded to a pair of the corpses nearby ,”but not before they got me in the leg.”
He groaned roughly, wincing as he shifted his weight, forced to plop back onto his backside as his thigh gave way. “Please,” he said,”I… I need your help. I can’t make it to Whiterun from here. Not with all the Forsworn and Stormcloaks prowling these hills. I just need help getting out of the Reach. You… folks don’t look to be bandits. Who are you?
Andre had been lucky that he had found a caravan that was setting up to make way to Windhelm, making a few stops along the way, including Whiterun. He checked to make sure the package was secured in his sack before joining the other travellers. The caravan itself was mostly made up of Nords, but it also consisted a few Khajiit and a pair of Bosmer.
Before getting onto it himself, Andre helped some of the others get onto the cart. The other travellers on this cart were the young Bosmer couple named "Celebar & Milwren", two old Nords, a brother and sister duo named Ryger & Danna. And there was the Khajiit called Silent-Tongue, she wasn't much for conversation. Andre made himself as comfortable as he could much like the others, as it had been said that the journey may be long. A short time afterward, the caravan made its way down the road out from the city, Andre caught a glimpse of the spot where the shriveled Orc sat, but he was nowhere to be seen.
After a while, one of the Nords spoke up, "So what brings a pair of Tree Elves to Skyrim?" asked Ryger in a friendly but rough manner. "We're hoping to meet my cousin in Whiterun. He said that he'd be working by the time we got here, but we thought we'd surprise him." replied Milwren in a partly excitable tone. Ryger nodded and turned toward Andre, "And what of you friend?" Andre wasn't paying much attention as he watched the scenery pull away from them. He turned to face the man after a few seconds to realise he was asked the question, "Ah apologies.." Andre shuffled to make himself more comfortable out of his slump, "I am here to search for a missing heirloom for my family. It had been taken a good number of years ago. How and by whom we do not know. All that we do however, is the possible whereabouts." "Ah I see." next Ryger turned to the Khajiit who just stared at him and opened her mouth to reveal that she had no tongue. They had only learned of her name as she'd been directed by a caravan foreman during the preparations. After a minor awkward pause, Andre spoke up, "And what of yourselfs?" he asked in turn. Danna spoke next, "We're heading for Morthal. Our mother is ill." she said evidentally saddened by the thought. "Ah, mother will be fine little sister." he said as he embraced her.
The rest of the journey went by pretty quietly. The caravan had to pass through Dragon's Bridge, which housed a sizeable amount of Stormcloaks which made some of the caravan uncomfortable, especially given a few of them heckled one of the drivers who was a Khajiit. Besides that, they were unimpeded and eventually stopped at Morthal for the evening, continuing early the next day.
Morthal, 11th of Morndas, Late afternoon, 4E 205
The caravan pulled up and stopped in an area just outside of the entrance to Morthal, a short distance from the town. About a third of the caravan left for the town, including the Nord duo that travelled with Andre and co. Andre took it upon himself to visit the town, and see what it was like. Morthal wasn't much to look at Andre thought to himself, he much prefered Solitude. Perhaps it was due to the high stone walls that guarded it had reminded him of home. The atmosphere was much the same here as it was in Solitude. It was the feeling of discomfort, and being unwanted.
After spending about half the hour wandering the town, he saw that the Bosmer couple had the same idea as him and decided to visit the town, only he noticed as they walked down the street in somewhat of hurried pace, Andre also noticed a trio of Nord figures were trying to keep pace and watching them as they moved. Andre fearing for their wellbeing decided to follow them all.
Unfortunatley after turning a corner, the Bosmer had come to a dead end. They turned to see three Nord men staring them down that reeked of mead, "We don't want any trouble, we we're just visiting your town." said Celebar, "A pair of lost lambs." one of the Nords piped up while chuckling to his friends, he was the shortest of the three and evidentally the roundest. "I've had enough of you're kind, killed plenty during the war." said the larger built of the three, he was scarred across the face and across the arms. The third member was a plain looking man, other than being the youngest looking, he was mostly seemingly interested in Milwren.
"Please le-" Celebar didn't finish as the large Nord had sent the poor elf flying with a single punch, the man practically dwarfed the elf. Milwren shrieked in fear for her beloved just before Andre bore witness to the scene. Milwren was about to run over to Celebar's concussed form until she felt a tight grip on her arm as the young Nord had just caught her, she desperately flailed against the grip as best as she could until a crashing sound surprised them all. The shorter Nord almost comically fell forward face first into the ground, with pieces of a wooden crate littering his spot. The Nords turned to see a partly surprised Breton. "I did not expect that to work." Andre said sounding satisfied. "Papa?!" the young Nord ignored the Bosmer and with anger twisted and went to throw a punch at Andre, however somehow tripping on a clearly flat surface face-planted the ground, and slowly recoiled in pain due to his now broken nose. The large Nord rolled his eyes in frustration before he approached Andre, "Lets see if you last longer than that weakling over there." he gestured to the wood elf behind him.
Andre was of average height to most men, but even to him this Nord was big. "I had heard of the hospitality of Nords, clearly what was said was wrong. Nothing but simple barbarians rule this land it seems." said Andre putting on a somewhat cocky attitude, this angered the Nord more so and with a rageful yell went in for full force punch that would hit only air where Andre stood. From behind the Nord, "That was an illusion you just struck!" the real Andre ran into the large man, slamming him into the building wall knocking the wind out of him. He then followed up with an uppercut and tripping the man over by knocking out the legs from underneath. The Nord laughed as he lay there upon the ground, "Not bad..." was all he said before he began to snore. Andre shook his head in surprise as the man he just assaulted just fell asleep. Shortly after, he went to check on the elves whom appeared fine, though Celebar was somewhat bloodied, missing a tooth at worst.
15th of Sun's Dusk 4E 205, on route and around Windhelm
Dar'jhan felt tired, his feet hurting from the journey. The first part had been easy, with the roads that ran through the grassy hills and green fields, well taken care of along the White River. The second part was harder where he had to sneak past Fort Amol, afraid an arrow would be fired at him from the ramparts. When snow had began to fall and the temperatures dropped to very low levels, he was glad to secure some place to warm himself and sleep at Mixwater mill. Dar'jhan never really could get used to the cold and often wondered how the people could even live here. As he continued his journey in the morning that followed, everything around him had been covered by the snow, at times he could not even see the road anymore. He felt as if it had all been much easier when he was in the company of his fellow Khajiit. More than often he had cursed under his breath, himself for being foolish to undertake the journey, the snow when he slipped and Ulfric Stormcloak. At times he even cursed loudly not caring if someone would hear him. Everytime he quickly turned quiet again, eyes and ears on the road while being reminded of the occasional Stormcloak patrol from which he hid as soon as he caught wind of them. His keen sense of smell and hearing helping to evade them. It had shown him how dangerous this journey had become, especially when he could see the city in the distance and he was nearing the lion's den. Or rather the bear's cave.
Four days ago, he had been standing in front of the massive gates of Whiterun. The eyes of the guards in Stormcloak attire ever watching his every move. If it had not been for Brandr Stone-Biter, who had accompanied him and had given the guards his word he would keep an eye on him, he wouldn't have made it through the gates or even out of the hands of the guards. The city itself had looked beautiful to Dar'jhan, who had never been inside before, but it had felt as cold as the snow on the highest mountains and it had made Dar'jhan feel even less welcome. At the palace of the jarl, Dragonsreach, the guards had told him to wait outside, which he did for many hours before another guard came to tell him that the jarl was absent. Disappointed Dar'jhan and Brandr had gone to the Bannered Mare to get a drink or two, where Brandr had told the Khajiit about his warrior days during the Great War. The Nord had been a great warrior but those days had been long gone, he had said between two gulps of his mead.
The day after it had been even worse. This time Brandr had to bribe the guards to get Dar'jhan inside and he had to wait even longer outside of Dragonsreach only to be told that the jarl was not seeing anybody that day. Once more they had ended the day in the Bannered Mare.
The third day, the guards had taken the bribe, yet they had not wanted to let him inside. It had taken all of Brandr's powers of persuasion that they had to see the jarl, for them to finally agree but not before one of them had asked Dar'jhan with a smirk if somebody had stolen his sweet roll. The nerve. Dar'jhan had been fuming and it had been because of Brandr that he had not taken out his sword and ran it through the guard. This time they were taken to the jarl where Dar'jhan finally had been allowed to tell his story and ask for the aid of the jarl. However before he had finished the story, the jarl had waved his hand and had simply said, in a very tired voice, that they would look into it.
Dar'jhan had let himself be led to the Bannered Mare once more by Brandr, feeling depressed and angry. For almost the entire evening he had not spoken a word or touched his ale while Brandr had done his best to cheer him up. It had helped a little bit and he had been able to smile slightly again. Dar'jhan had asked in earnest why Brandr had been doing all of this for him, a stranger and a Khajiit and Brandr being a Nord. Then Brandr had told him that during the Great War, a Khajiit had saved his life and that by doing this for Dar'jhan he had felt like he was somehow returning the favour. It had made Dar'jhan respect the older Nord even more. Then one of the guards had come in, who Dar'jhan recognized to be the one from the gate, ready to spend the money he had gotten from Brandr to let the Khajiit in. A devious smile had formed on his face as Dar'jhan saw what the guard ordered and he got up from his chair. The guard had been sitting near the door, his eyes not towards him but distracted by the Nord woman close by. Before Dar'jhan left through the door, he had quickly swiped something of the plate of the guard while he was still distracted and checked his prize outside: A sweet roll.
A few moments later someone had tapped his shoulder and Dar'jhan had almost been worried that it had been the guard but instead it had been a young woman. She quickly had given him a letter stating that he had dropped it and before Dar'jhan had the time to reply, she had already left. The letter had said that certain people had taken an interest in him, that they might be able to help him with his problem and he could help them with theirs. He had to go to Windhelm and meet at the stables there on the 15th of Sun's Dusk. It had all felt strange to Dar'jhan and perhaps it was a trap but he had decided he had nothing to lose so he told Brandr he had to leave. The Nord had been understanding and had merely nodded, giving him some supplies and dried meat for his travels. Dar'jhan had given the sweet roll to Ulfhild and thanked both her and her father for what they had done for him. One day he would repay them, this he promised.
Now he was standing in front of the stables where he was supposed to meet. A cold wind was blowing and he shivered as he stood there looking around.
“You're late.” Said a voice coming from behind him. “Others are already there.”
It was the same woman from Whiterun, though he hardly recognized her. She was wearing the Stormcloak blues and Dar'jhan took a step back afraid that indeed he had walked into a trap. Though it looked like she was alone, still he was cautious. She saw the look in his eyes and grinned.
“All part of the ruse. Just trust me, alright? I'm from the resistance against Ulfric Stormcloak. If you're interested to help us out, I'm sure we can help you as well.” She took a few steps in his direction as he relaxed a bit from her words but when she grabbed a pair of iron shackles his eyes turned wide again, ears flat against his head while moving a hand to his sword.
“All part of the ruse.” She said once more in a calm voice. “I swear, you Khajiit are so jumpy. I need to get you inside the city so you will be playing my captive.” She let out a sigh as if she was getting bored telling him all this information. He gave her another look, grunted and decided to play along.
The city guards at the gate found it very amusing to see a shackled Khajiit being harshly pushed forward towards them, captured by a fellow Stormcloak. Dar'jhan liked it less so but he played his part as was expected of him. He was introduced to them as a Khajiit turncoat, ready to spill the beans about the Thalmor to Ulfric Stormcloak and they gladly opened the doors after spatting on the ground in front of him. The woman led him, still shackled, through what looked to Dar'jhan as a maze of narrow alleyways until she stopped in front of a house. It looked as cold and broken down as the rest of the small houses nearby and he hoped that at least they would have a fire burning inside. She opened the shackles quickly and knocked on the door of the house.
“I hope the meeting hasn’t started yet. Others have arrived before you already.” “Who are these others?” Dar’jhan asked as he raised his eyebrows. She grinned at him. “You’ll soon find out. Good luck in there.”
The door opened up and he got pushed inside the dimly lit and sparse furnished room. As his eyes adjusted, he could see the other people in the room. He took a few steps closer to the fireplace, glancing at those present as he was sure they did the same. His eyes lit up and he flashed a grin.
It seems i'll be joining allongside all kinds of men and mer, he thought. At least there is no Argonian...
1 5 T H O F S U N D U S K 4 E 2 0 5 F E A T U R I N G : D A R ' J H A N , E P E S O R N , & V E L Y N
Dar’jhan shifted on the hard, pillowless stool he was sitting on, trying to get himself, but mostly his tail, into a better and more comfortable position. His eyes looked at each of the other potential recruits of this resistance, his new comrades-in-arms if the older Nord wanted them. Though Dar’jhan had gathered already that the man could use all the help he could get. It was a curious thing, to be able to fight beside a man, a Dunmer and an Altmer and be equals in this endeavour. A curious thing indeed.
With a sideways glance he made sure for himself that no one was willing to be the first to speak, or perhaps they were still thinking about the words the Nord had spoken or the reasons why they wanted to be here and join.
The Khajiit cleared his throat and bowed his head in greeting as he started to speak in his Khajiiti accent:
“I have been given many colourful names, here in Skyrim but my name is Dar'jhan or Half-moon as the Khajiit from my caravan call me. Whatever you decide to call me, this one does not care. That choice is yours. I was on the road with a Khajiit trade caravan, assigned to guard the merchants from terrors of the wilds and any kind of...barbaric hostilities by both men and mer. Sadly I have lost the other Khajiit after we were attacked and do not know where they are or what has happened to them.” During this, he had closed his eyes with a frown, as if the thought was too painful to talk about but as he opened his eyes again, he stared straight at Brunwulf Free-Winter and tilted his head. “To ask us what brings us here to this resistance, is a very astute question. For me, it is simple to answer. I offer my services to you in the hope and believe that you can help Dar'jhan find out what happened to the caravan.” He spoke calmly in his warm voice. “You will find me experienced and quick both with mind and blade. With sword and shield this one stands ready, fearless of what the road will bring to him.” He gave a courteous nod and grinned.
Epesorn listened attentively to the first person to speak: the cat. This khajiit, Dar’jhan, looked quite capable to Epesorn. He did not know much about khajiit - in fact, this was the first he’d seen in Skyrim. There were a few he’d met in Alinor, of course, but they were often in the lower ranks of the Thalmor, so there was no extensive interaction. Most in Skyrim must have been driven out after Ulfric took power. The khajiit’s face unnerved him - it was harder to read expressions on a cat’s face. The grin, however, was unmistakable.
Next to speak was the old Dunmer next to Epesorn, who was perched cross legged atop the chair in which he sat. He was dressed strangely, in a battered set of chitinous armour, much scratched and worn. It made him look like some kind of ancient bizarre insectoid creature, with the head of a Dunmer grafted on top.
“Under sun and sky, I greet you all warmly, though you’ll see little of the former here in this frostbitten land.” His voice had that dry rasping quality of many of his kind, at least the older ones who still remembered Morrowind, a side effect of growing up in the ash. “My name Serjo Redoran Velyn Virith, but most here just call me Velyn now. I am a warrior-poet who’s lived a long life and picked up some useful skills along the way. The reason I am here is to help my people, amongst other things.”
His lips turned upward in the hint of a sly smile at the end of his cryptic words. Velyn’s blood red eyes switched from the Brunwulf Free-Winter who sat opposite him to the one amongst them who had not yet spoken, the young golden skinned Altmer. They rested on him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. When he did not, the old mer cocked his head to one side and continued anyway.
“And what about you, boy? I was not expecting to run into one of your kind in Skyrim.”
Dar’jhan smiled at the words spoken by the Dunmer, Velyn. There was honesty in them but also a certain degree of mystery that seemed to surround him. It made the Khajiit wonder what kind of skills he could possess. He could only guess. The attention shifted to the Altmer who had yet to speak a single word. Darj’han sat back with his arms crossed on his chest and narrowed his eyes, waiting in anticipation for the story.
The male Dunmer, Velyn, looked quite old to Epesorn. He was clearly the oldest in the room, while Epesorn was the youngest. The Dunmer’s age had taken him aback at first, but he did not doubt the mer’s ability. There was an air of confidence about him, a sureness that belied his years, one that Epesorn immediately envied once as he sensed it.
When Velyn finished speaking, the group turned their attention towards him, and he felt a spike of fear, as one might feel before public speaking. Epesorn lifted his chin, tapping his throat, then tapped his lips, and made a crossing motion with his arms. The meaning was obvious - he could not speak.
To compensate, he first raised a hand, holding up one finger, then patted the shortsword at his side. He held up a second finger, and with the other hand, Epesorn splayed and let a small flame flicker overtop his palm, snapping his fist shut when they’d all got a good look. His two combat skills - sword and magic. He grinned at the group, both out of nervous energy and excitement for whatever task was to be had for the lot of them. Epesorn would have felt as if his own introduction was lackluster compared to the others, were it not for both the trained arrogance his Justiciar instructor had endowed him, and the more natural kind which tends to emerge from the ignorance of youth.
“Well,” Velyn began, chuckling softly at the mimed performance of the younger Altmer. “I have been known to talk enough for two, I think we should get along just fine.”
A male Nord - or, at least, that was what Epesorn assumed the human to be - was the last recruit to speak. Glad to have the attention on someone else, he watched the man curiously. Epesorn fidgeted with his hands and feet to release the tension that had built in his gut the minute he stepped indoors.