Grazhir :: Skyrim :: Yvara :: 28

23052015-28052015

8.1

Civil War

Joining the War
First Seed, 24th, 4E 202

After spending a few days at Elysium, just relaxing and reading books I’d not yet had a chance to read, I headed out again, of a mind to go to Solitude and at least see that the kids were doing well even if I didn’t actually stop in at the house.

Once I got far enough out into the wilds I donned my disguise, just in time to be attacked by a dragon. It went down, but I could see another one circling a peak in the distance. Eldersblood Peak, I thought, but if it behaved. . . .

I was halfway there when I was attacked by a Dark Brotherhood Khajiit assassin. Aside from that one while escorting Esbern, it was the first, and I had no explanation for it. Was it possible that Ulfric was so pissed off at me that he would actually go so far? I had not seen anything in messages left with Lydia about another offer to join the Stormcloaks. The message the assassin carried did specifically say “Dragonborn” so someone out there was mad. The only other possibility I could think of would be Elenwen, but for what reason? Because I was no longer necessary and she was angry I wouldn’t let her cause trouble at the peace conference? I had half a mind to assassinate Elenwen myself.

First Seed, 25th, 4E 202

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I realized I had made my way to Castle Dour with the intention of seeing Tullius and joining the war effort. I even had the dossier on Ulfric with me. I verified with one of the soldiers there that the general was present and entered the castle. I could immediately hear him speaking with Rikke as I slowly walked forward.

“I’m telling you,” she was saying, “Ulfric’s planning an attack on Whiterun.”

“He’d be insane to try. He doesn’t have the men.”

“That’s not what my scouts report, sir. Every day more join his cause.”

“It’s not a cause,” Tullius said sharply. “It’s a rebellion.”

“Call it whatever you like, General. The man’s going to try to take Whiterun.”

“Jarl Balgruuf. . . .”

“Jarl Balgruuf refuses the Legion’s right to garrison troops in his city. On the other hand, he also refuses to acknowledge Ulfric’s claim.”

“Well, if he wants to stand outside the protection of the Empire, fine. Let Ulfric pillage his city.”

“General.” Rikke packed a lot of censure into that one word.

“You people and your damn Jarls,” Tullius complained.

“Sir? You can’t force a Nord to accept help he hasn’t asked for.”

I rolled my eyes, but I did understand that Balgruuf wanted so much to just stay out of it all.

“If Ulfric’s making a move on Whiterun, then we need to be there to stop him. Draft another letter with the usual platitudes, but this time share some of your intelligence regarding Ulfric’s plans. Embellish if you have to. We’ll let it seem like it’s his idea.”

“Yes, sir.”

And by then I had made it to the entrance to the planning room they were in, and passed into it. Tullius seemed surprised to see me, and asked why I was there.

I eyed Rikke for a moment, then said, “I am here to discuss the possibility of me assisting the war effort. Not as a Legionnaire, mind you. I might swear to do my utmost to support the Empire in this war, as I am a loyal citizen, but I will not swear myself as a soldier. I have reason enough to lend my aid, part of that being some of the things you yourself have said.”

He arched a brow at me. “And other reasons?”

“Well, I could cite the Dark Brotherhood assassin who attempted to kill me on my way here, but as I was unable to find anything about the contract holder I cannot use that as a basis for a decision. However, I do have information which marches with something you said some time ago, and that, along with how I have witnessed just how poorly Jarl Ulfric rules his city, has greatly influenced my choice.” I produced the dossier and offered it to him.

He took it, his eyes widening at the title and said, “How did—no, never mind. It’s better I don’t know.” He flipped it open and began reading, eventually closing it and offering it back, so I took it and tucked it away again. “I see,” he said. “You have clearly thought this out, which is more than I can say for many who join the Legion out of some dream of chasing glory.”

I snorted softly. “I think I already have that part covered, General. It would be greedy in the extreme to seek more.”

He nodded. “Still, I can see where visibly having the Dragonborn fighting on the side of the Empire would have a certain effect.” He reached up and rubbed the back of his neck before saying, “All right. Speak to Legate Rikke for an assignment. I know you can more than handle yourself when it comes to dragons, but let’s see how it goes with other things.”

“Certainly.” I gave him a respectful nod and stepped over to his adjunct.

She wrinkled her nose thoughtfully, shuffled through some papers, then said, “I’m sending you to clear out Fort Hraagstad. The ancients built many of the fortresses that dot the landscape of Skyrim. Sadly, most have fallen into disrepair. And nearly all have been overrun by bandits or other vagabonds. Fort Hraagstad is one of the few that remains mostly intact. We’re going to install a garrison there, but first, you’re going to clean out the bandits that have moved in.”

I produced my map and asked her to mark it for me, and once I had it back I nodded. “Consider that fort already yours.”

I had the place cleared out and was back by mid-afternoon. The soldier Rikke had sent along with me had been there purely for the purpose of observing, and returned with me to Castle Dour. On the way in I could hear Tullius and Rikke speaking again.

“Tell me again why I’m wasting men chasing after a fairy tale.”

“If Ulfric gets his hands on that crown, it won’t be a fairy tale. It’ll be a problem.”

“Don’t you Nords put any stock in your own traditions? I thought the Moot chose the king. We’re backing Elisif. When the Moot meets, they’ll do the sensible thing.”

“Not everyone’s agreed to the Moot. You’ve been here long enough to know that Nords aren’t always sensible. We follow our hearts.”

“So what—Ulfric gets this crown and then suddenly he’s High King?”

“No, it’s not as simple as that, but the Jagged Crown would be a potent symbol for his cause to rally around. But, if we found it first. . . .”

“And we gave it to Elisif?”

“In the absence of the Moot, it would further legitimize her claim.”

“Perhaps,” Tullius said wearily. “I’m entrusting you with what resources I can spare. But I’m warning you, if this turns out to be a waste of time and men. . . .”

“It won’t be a waste. Stonefist’s no fool. He’s found the Crown. But we’ll get to it first.” Rikke glanced over and noticed us waiting. The soldier with me made some sort of hand signal, then left after she nodded. Then she said, “Welcome back. I’m glad you made it in one piece. I’ll send men to garrison the fort right away. You did well. I’m impressed.”

Tullius had turned to look at me as she spoke, and he added his own thoughts. “I as well. I already had some measure of your honor and now I know you can handle more than just dragons. Legate Rikke will explain the next assignment to you. You probably heard some about it coming in.”

I nodded and looked to Rikke.

The Jagged Crown
First Seed, 25th, 4E 202

“Ulfric’s right-hand man, Galmar Stonefist, has located what he believes is the final resting place of the Jagged Crown. We’re going to make sure he doesn’t get his hands on it. The rest of my men will be assembling outside Korvanjund. I’ll meet you there as soon as I finish up here. Let me see your map for a moment.”

As soon as it was marked and I had an idea of where to go, I nodded and departed. Even if she left at the same moment I did I would still get there first, so I could afford to track down the odd bandit to kill and have a fresh meal. Along the way I ran into a mercenary who told me, “You need anything, talk to Master Dreth.”

For some reason that name sounded familiar, but I shrugged it off and started forward. That is, until a Dunmer in mage clothing stopped me and said, “Your crown . . . gods, it’s made of Aetherium! Pure Aetherium!”

‘Ah, that’s it. The faithless, thieving apprentice.’ His additional two guards came to a stop as I said, “Yes. I had some help getting it. From Katria.”

“Katria? No, no that’s not possible! You . . . you know too much. I can’t afford to let you live.”

I scoffed and summoned, then starting flinging lightning around. All four of them were quickly enough dead and I gleefully drained Taron Dreth of his blood before stripping him and his guards of anything of value. Katria had been avenged, to some extent.

As it was I still arrived before Rikke did, though not by much. Hadvar was there, actually, and said, “I’m glad you’ll be with me in there. I don’t like the looks of this place . . . and I’m not talking about the Stormcloaks.”

“I know what you mean about these old ruins,” I replied.

“You, too, huh? I’d much rather a straight up fight than creeping around a place like this. But never mind all that. We’re the Emperor’s soldiers. We’ll do our duty no matter what stands in our way, right?”

I nodded at him, mostly to be polite. As I recalled, Hadvar was a bit. . . . Well.

“What’s the situation?” Rikke asked once she ghosted on up into the party. Unlike Lydia she could move without making a lot of noise.

“The Stormcloaks were already camped around the entrance when we got here. They don’t know we’re here yet, though,” said one of the soldiers.

“Well, that’s something at least,” she replied. She glanced over and saw me, then said, “No matter, we have the element of surprise.” She moved up and turned around to face the group. “Ulfric the Pretender wants that crown, but we’re not going to let him have it. I realize some of you may know men on the other side. But remember this. They are the enemy now and will not hesitate to end your lives either. General Tullius is counting on us to bring back the Jagged Crown, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Let’s show these rebels what real soldiers look like. Let’s go.”

We made short work of the Stormcloaks outside, then headed on inside, taking out yet more of the opposing side. Two Legionnaires were left to guard our backs from any further Stormcloaks coming in through the entrance and the rest of us continued on. Deeper inside we came to an odd room. Ahead was a narrow hallway, barely big enough for one person to go through. To either side were higher spots accessible by staircases.

“I don’t like the look of this,” Rikke said quietly, casting looks down the hall. “Perfect spot for an ambush. Ten to one they’re just waiting for us on the other side.”

“But there isn’t any other way, Legate,” one of the soldiers protested.

I felt like smacking the back of his head. Had the man not even looked around? Obviously he was unfamiliar with looking up, which meant his exposure to prodigious spiders was minimal to nonexistent.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, soldier. The Legion always finds a way. I’d rather take a moment and look around than walk blindly into an ambush.” She turned her head to look at me. “See if you can find another way through. We’ll charge in to help as soon as we hear fighting. There may be some other way to get through on the level above. Hurry!” she urged me.

Sure enough, there was an alternate route, and I was able to sneak into the next area from the upper level. There were several Stormcloaks milling around, four or five, and if I was lucky I could pick some of them off before they realized what was happening. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t all that great with a bow. Still, I tried, conjuring one and taking careful aim before releasing.

Though I was lucky enough to nail that one right through the eye, he fell in clear sight of another Stormcloak and the element of surprise was strongly mitigated. That being so I immediately released the bow, brought in a summon, and began throwing lightning. I had three of them killed before Rikke and the soldiers rushed in, and they took care of the other two. On reflection I wondered if I should have used something like Chain Lightning initially, instead of bound bow.

I dropped off the side and continued on, the group eventually coming upon a dead Stormcloak and a downed draugr.

“What in the nine holds is that?” one of the soldiers asked, causing me to look down in disgust?—disbelief? I was so, so jaded. “Is this what killed that Stormcloak over there? Can’t be. It looks like it’s been dead for a hundred years.”

“Steady now. The Legion has faced down worse than a few dusty old bone-walkers. We’re not leaving here until we get what we came for. Now let’s keep moving.” A bit farther in we came to one of those long, wide hallways with carvings on the side walls. “And this must be the Hall of Stories,” Rikke commented.

“Oh, I’ve heard of this,” a soldier said. “The walls are supposed to show the history of the ancients who built this place.”

“Too bad we can’t read these carvings,” a different one said. “Who knows what secrets we’d uncover?”

“One thing at a time,” Rikke said firmly. “Focus on our primary mission. We’re searching for the crown.” At the end of the hall were some dead Stormcloaks, which she commented on. “Looks like we’re not the first ones here, either. Even if these carvings tell us where the crown is, I’m sure we’re going to have to find a way through this door. See what you can figure out,” she said to me. “I’m going to check out these carvings over here. Let me know if you find something.”

Considering there was a puzzle door at the end I knew exactly what to look for. The soldiers were milling about staring at the walls, so I forged ahead and scoured the floor with my eyes, quickly spotting an ebony claw key and taking it. I wept for the general lack of intelligence from the dead Nords on the floor.

As I was inspecting the “palm” for the code Rikke noticed and said, “Hmm, what is that? Some kind of stone claw? I wonder what it’s used for?”

That told me that while she was far more savvy overall, she was still a Legionnaire. I looked up from the claw and quickly spun the rings into place, then used the key to open the door before tucking it away. I had a collection to add to, after all.

“Good job!” Rikke praised as the door slowly sank down. “All right, everyone! Keep your guard up. Let’s move out!”

We continued on, getting past a barred hallway (with me finding the way to open it, of course), through a multitude of draugr (with Rikke shoring up the confidence of the men), and eventually to a fairly large room.

“The crown should be around here somewhere,” Rikke said. “Spread out, and keep your eyes open.” But then she noticed a draugr seated on a throne at the center. “Well, King. If you don’t mind, we’ll just take that crown of yours and be on our way.”

As if it understood her it stood up and raised its weapon, preparing to fight.

“Have it your way. Let’s get that crown, men!”

Two other draugr joined the fight, stepping out of sarcophagi to either side after the lids cracked off. Thankfully by then the soldiers had mostly stopped getting wibbly over the undead and simply moved in to attack. I happened to get in the killing blow, so I quickly retrieved the crown before it could hit the ground and presented it to Rikke.

She nodded and said, “Take that crown back to Solitude, to General Tullius. We’ll stay here and see if we can find anything else that could be of use.”

“Understood,” I said, and tucked the crown away. Before I backtracked I wanted to check for a shortcut. Behind the throne was a chest I looted, and at the back was a word wall: Klo—Sand. There was a staircase back at that end, as well, and it led to a shortcut, which I gladly took, opening the bar across a door along the way.

Message to Whiterun
First Seed, 26th, 4E 202

It had apparently taken quite a while to get through Korvanjund, because it was on the latter side of midnight when I emerged to make the run back to Solitude. I made it back in decent time, but I was feeling tired.

Tullius greeted me with, “We need to stem the flow of silver to the rebellion. Until we retake the Reach, the Stormcloaks will plunder its mines to fund further violence.”

I ignored that and said, “Legate Rikke asked me to deliver this to you.” I produced and presented the Jagged Crown.

“Excellent work,” he said as he took it. “I have to admit, I had my doubts it even existed. Did you run into any trouble?”

“The Stormcloaks were there ahead of us, but they were also much closer coming from Windhelm.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t respond as quickly to the Legate’s suggestion as perhaps I should have,” he admitted. “But at least we ended up with the damn crown. Now then. . . . I need someone I can trust to deliver a message of great import to Jarl Balgruuf of Whiterun. We have it on good authority that Ulfric has raised enough men to attack the city of Whiterun. The Jarl, however, refuses the Legion’s support. This missive should convince him. Be aware, these documents contain sensitive intelligence for the Jarl’s eyes only.” He handed me a scroll.

“Understood. No one will see the contents but the Jarl.” I tucked the scroll away and left after he nodded. I knew I could make it to Whiterun before I was forced to rest, so I took the shortcut down to the river and swam across, then started cross-country.

Message to Whiterun
First Seed, 27th, 4E 202

I would not have stopped, but I arrived in Whiterun after midnight and was not about to wake the Jarl from a sound sleep. I ducked into Breezehome without alerting Lydia (she was sleeping, as I saw) and I was back out again before she awoke. My rest was not as good as I’d have liked, but it was more than enough. The Jarl was on his throne and was surrounded by the usual crowd. When I finally got close enough I fetched out the scroll Tullius had given me and said, “I have an important message from General Tullius, Jarl Balgruuf.”

“No doubt requesting to garrison his men in my castle. How many times must I deny him? Well? Out with it.”

I was so pleased to be the incidental recipient of his ire toward Tullius. “Ulfric plans to attack Whiterun, now that the temporary cease fire is no longer necessary. You are correct that the General wants to lend Legion troops.”

Balgruuf sighed. “I see. . . . Give the papers to my steward.”

I shook my head slowly. “I swore to the General. For the Jarl’s eyes only.”

“Don’t be daft. Proventus is my eyes,” he said testily.

My brow went up in disbelief. Was Balgruuf conveniently disregarding or forgetting the many times he and Avenicci had clashed?

“Just give me the letter,” he added. “I presume once I have it, I can do as I please with it?” He was, however, apparently curious enough that when he accepted the scroll he was moved to actually read it. “Hmm. These are interesting reports.” He offered the scroll to his steward, saying, “Proventus, what do you make of all this? If Ulfric were to attack Whiterun. . . .”

“As in all things, my lord, caution. I urge us to wait and see.”

“Prey waits,” Irileth said crisply.

“I am of a mind with Irileth,” Balgruuf declared. “It’s time to act.”

“You plan to march on Windhelm?” Avenicci asked in disbelief.

Where in Oblivion he got that idea, I couldn’t say. But he seemed to be a man of extremes, in a sense.

“I’m not a fool, Proventus,” Balgruuf snapped. “I mean it’s time to challenge Ulfric to face me as a man, or to declare his intentions.”

“He’ll do no such thing!” Avenicci protested.

I zoned out at that point, waiting for them to come to some sort of decision, and eventually Balgruuf reclaimed my attention.

“Dragonborn, I’ve made up my mind, even if my advisers are still squabbling. I ask that you go to Windhelm and deliver this axe to Ulfric Stormcloak.” He detached one from the side of his throne and offered it to me.

As I accepted it I said, “The axe itself is the message?”

“Aye. Men who understand one another need not waste words. There are but a few simple truths behind one warrior giving another his axe. Ulfric will know my meaning. Keep your wits about you and you won’t be harmed. And then return. Because if Ulfric isn’t bluffing, I’ll need every able body to defend Whiterun.”

I nodded and hitched the axe to my armor, then departed swiftly. I really wished one of those Psijics had taught me how to teleport, though. I got the feeling I would be doing a lot of running around to see this war through to its end. True, I had absolutely no desire to be in the same room with Ulfric again, certainly not at his seat of power, but needs must and all. I doubt he could get away with much, anyway, not when half his soldiers were still in awe of the Nord hero of legend.

The guards at Windhelm did not seem aware I had sided with the Empire, so that was good. I had no trouble at all getting into the Palace of Kings aside from suffering a bit of hero worship along the way.

Laila Law-Giver was seated at the long table there, looking morose. “I feel so helpless out here,” she said. “The people of Riften depended on me, and I failed them.”

I passed her by and headed toward where I could hear Ulfric’s voice, off in a room to the left.

“We can’t march on Solitude,” he was saying. “Not yet. One thing at a time.”

“We need to move faster,” said who I assumed was Stonefist.

“It’s working, Galmar. Our patience has won us friends and allies. And our armies are systematically taking care of the rest.”

I didn’t know about that. From what I’d seen of various map tables, the Empire had control over more holds than Ulfric did.

I stepped into the room and Ulfric angled his head toward me and said, “Yes? Make it quick. I’m a busy man.”

Perhaps his peripheral vision was awful because I would have thought he’d react a bit differently to the Dragonborn showing up on his doorstep. “I bring a message from the Jarl of Whiterun,” I replied, slowly removing the axe from my armor and offering it to him on my open palm.

“Is that so? I’ve been wondering when he’d come around,” he said as he turned to me and saw my hand. “Oh. What’s this?” He took the axe briefly, stared hard at it, then said, “Ah. You’re quite brave to carry such a message. It’s a pity you’ve chosen the wrong side. . . .”

My eyes narrowed. I’d say they went all flinty, but it’s not like I whipped out a piece of polished metal to check.

Ulfric handed the axe back. “You can return this axe to the man who sent it. And tell him he should prepare to entertain . . . visitors. I expect a great deal of excitement in the city of Whiterun in the near future.”

I accepted it back and walked away briskly. I didn’t think he’d dare attack me, but neither was I going to run or sprint or show any sign that I might be scared. Outside the palace I sped up. I wanted out of his damn city, his stinking cesspool of racism and lawlessness. I rode back right then, despite the late hour.

Battle for Whiterun
First Seed, 27th, 4E 202

Perhaps I should have gone faster. I arrived near dusk and hastened up to the palace, and then up another level to the map table area, where a whole bunch of people seemed to be gathered. One of them was obviously with the Legion; he was leaning over the map table, examining troop deployments or something.

Obviously Balgruuf had sent a message off to Tullius in my absence and obviously there was an encampment close enough that they could fortify Whiterun on short notice. I hadn’t even been there a minute when a soldier showed up to gasp out a message about catapults being moved into position by the enemy—how in Oblivion I had missed seeing them on the way in—and that they were to be loaded with fire.

“So, he wants to take my city, walls intact,” Balgruuf said in response. He absently took the axe I held out and continued, “We’ll need to set up water brigades to combat the flames.”

I zoned out again until a soldier rushed in and said, “Sir, they’re on the move. They’ll be at the gates at any moment!”

“This is it! Time to see what these Stormcloaks are made of,” Balgruuf replied.

The Legate nodded and said, “The men should already be gathering at the gates.” But then he turned to that same soldier and added, “Move it, soldier. Spread the word. Go. Go. Go.”

Balgruuf lagged behind a little on the way out to the battle. “You’ve returned with the axe. I knew that would be his response. As soon as you left I sent word to General Tullius, who’s been kind enough to lend us some of his troops and Legate Cipius. Let Ulfric try to make it past our combined forces.”

He left and Cipius came up to me. “Get down to the front line. We must hold the city.”

I turned and sprinted off. Night had fallen in that short amount of time. I was not particularly looking forward to fighting in a war battle like that, but needs must. On my way down to the gates I ducked into Breezehome and grabbed Lydia. Then I ran forward and got out to the approach to the city in time to hear Rikke give some speech I didn’t bother to listen to, but I did notice that Hadvar was present in the crowd of soldier.

And so it went. Stormcloaks by the dozen charging on up, dying, the twang and thunk of catapults being launched. There was a lot of smoke and flames and war cries or those of pain, but in the end we killed every last one that got anywhere near the city.

As Balgruuf was giving a victory-type speech I was amused to see Horse trot up and across the drawbridge that never seemed to ever be anything but down. Soldiers started to head off to various locations once the Jarl was done so I started eyeing the dead. Balgruuf came up to me and said, “Thank you for your role in all of this. It’d be my honor should you decide to make Whiterun your home. Speak with Proventus. He’ll make the necessary arrangements.”

It was then I wondered if Balgruuf had taken too many blows to the head. After all, the Dragonborn already had a house in Whiterun and was a Thane of the city. He wandered off with Irileth following, but she paused long enough to tell me if I made a move against Balgruuf she would gut me. I’d say Nords are crazier than a bag of cats, but Irileth is a Dunmer, so. . . .

I went back to eyeing the dead, finally stripping two of them down for the uniforms. One was an officer’s set of gear, which I thought would look fine on a mannequin at Elysium, and one was just normal, which might come in handy down the line.

It was then I realized Lydia was nowhere to be seen. Had the damn fool gotten herself killed? But before I could investigate more of the bodies Hadvar came to a stop next to me and said, “Do colours seem brighter to you? Everything seems bigger, too. Strange. . . . Are your ears ringing? I hope that goes away.”

‘Oh gods. I am never being a soldier for real or using melee weapons. These people have all had their brains rattled.’

“I’m pretty sure I killed more than you. I was counting,” he added.

I turned away and looked at bodies some more, then shrugged and went through the gates. It was then that I felt a white hot anger building up in my core—I was surprised I didn’t burst out with a flame cloak or something. Lydia was standing there, a bit back from the gates, idly messing with one of her gauntlets. The bitch hadn’t even joined the battle. What use was she as a damn housecarl if she couldn’t even follow orders! I had half a mind to boot her ass out of Breezehome for being a waste of air and get the lock changed.

‘Gods, fine, she barely knows me and apparently hates the idea of being a housecarl—or at least mine. But to brazenly avoid the battle?’ Her attitude was exactly why I’d never bothered to try to get to know her. I shook my head and went to the house, intending to get at least some sleep. Lydia followed me and I dismissed her once inside, then went upstairs and into my bedroom there. I also blocked off the damn door, just in case.

Reunification of Skyrim
First Seed, 28th, 4E 202

I checked in with Legate Cipius and he requested I check back with Tullius, so it was off to Solitude again, it seemed. On the way out of the city I saw that parts of it were still burning. Outside I disdained the roads and cut cross-country, heading for Labyrinthian. I was pleased when it started to rain; that should help with the issues in the city. I sprinted whenever I thought I could stand to, and given just how much territory I’d covered and how often, I had quite a bit of stamina.

Solitude came into view in the distance within three hours. An hour after that I was in Castle Dour (the water in the marshes slowed me down, not to mention that stupid chaurus I stumbled over). Tullius gave me an “honorary” promotion to Questor and sent me off to speak to Rikke at the Imperial camp in The Pale. I headed back across the marsh and toward Dawnstar.

Rikke sent me on a mission to purloin some Stormcloak orders and gave me two locations to try to coerce innkeepers (where their messages regularly went through). I still had that Stormcloak gear so I could change beforehand and employ a little misdirection. The Nightgate Inn came into view a couple of hours after noon and I changed my clothes out of sight. I also wrapped some spare cloth around my face to “ward off the cold wind”. I probably didn’t need to be pushing so damn hard, but I wanted all of this to be over.

The innkeeper bought my story of the courier being in danger and pointed the way, or said I could simply wait, as they’d be back by soon enough. I chose to pursue. I was still geared up as a Stormcloak when I ran into her so at first she wasn’t suspicious. Something twigged, though, and she attacked me. Once she was dead and I had the orders I dragged her corpse to the nearby river and let it be washed away.

I waited until I was well past Nightgate heading west to change back to my Dragonborn armor. Along the way I had to pass Fort Dunstad; it was filled with Stormcloaks so I just used invisibility to get by. The sun was setting by the time I made it back to Rikke at the camp, and she pointed me to the next phase of operations: getting the “corrected” orders to Dawnstar.

Dawnstar wasn’t all that far from the camp, but it simply wasn’t going to happen that evening. I couldn’t possibly get there quickly enough, before the Jarl retired from court, and I was really tired from running hard so much all day. There was no help for it but to get some sleep and head out early.

Reunification of Skyrim
First Seed, 29th, 4E 202

I set out not long after the sun had risen, keeping my purloined Stormcloak gear to hand. It would be far less suspicious to wear it again in the event I couldn’t just invisibly drop the courier’s letter near the Jarl.

As it turned out, he tipped me for the delivery. Five whole septims. Gods above, I could retire soon on that kind of gold!

A little misdirection outside of town saw me back in my proper disguise. On the way back to the camp I was attacked by a crazed Khajiit. I attracted all the crazies. Maybe it was Sheogorath’s influence?

Dunstad, the fort I had bypassed the day previous, was taken with very few Legion casualties. I and one of the Legionnaires chased down the last two Stormcloaks trying to flee. Odd that, that a Nord would flee battle instead of going out in a blaze of glory for their cause. Rikke sent me back to Tullius and I employed my usual trick of going cross-country, sprinting as often as possible, and arrived at Castle Dour a few hours after noon.

He advanced my rank again, making me an honorary Praefect, and gave me another blade I would never use. I refrained from sighing in his presence, but it was difficult not to want to when the military sorts, even though there were plenty of battle mages to be had, all seemed to think handing over a blade or an axe was something to be welcomed by the recipient.

I had to wonder if things were happening so fast simply because I was helping out. Was it conceited of me to wonder that? He did say having the Dragonborn visibly siding with the Empire would have a certain effect. But it was also true that I apparently had more real-world experience than most of the people in the ranks, and I was far more decisive when it came to fighting.

Tullius sent me off to Winterhold next. That I went out the front gates of Solitude and took the long way down to the inlet instead of taking the shortcut through the tower just meant I was getting tired again. I would have to rest once I got to the next camp.

Rikke was waiting for me again. I almost asked how, but even just a little thought told me the answer. She obviously had a series of campaigns planned out with Tullius. While I was running around reporting to him back in Solitude, someone from our raiding party would have gone to report to her. She would have given orders to both the camp and the fort, and moved on to the next planned mission. If we’d failed, well . . . I didn’t know.

Still, I had to rest first, so I did. I hated sleeping in a bedroll in a tent that gods only knew how many others had used, and around a bunch of strangers, but there was no help for it.

Reunification of Skyrim
First Seed, 30th, 4E 202

Rikke, once I checked in with her, sent me off to Fort Kastav. Seemed we had some people being held prisoner there; we were to rescue them and take the fort. It was still dark when I arrived (did Rikke ever sleep? I wondered) and Hadvar was waiting, along with a group of soldiers. He suggested I be the one to go in for the rescue part of things.

I nodded and said, “Do you want to wait until it’s light, or. . . ?”

He shook his head.

“I’ll go in now, then.”

“Soon as we hear the fighting start, we’ll rush on it to join you,” Hadvar assured me.

With that I sneaked off to enter the cellar of the fort. Surprisingly there were only a couple of guards down there and I killed them quickly and efficiently. The prisoners were calling through the bars, telling me one of guards had a key to the cell doors, but I ignored that and set about picking them open. A person couldn’t learn if they didn’t do, after all. Mastering a skill wasn’t about sitting there reading a damn book all day, either.

One by one I released them and one by one they rushed over to the chest holding their confiscated armor and weapons, and then we all charged upstairs into the main fort. By the time we made it outside, having left a trail of dead Stormcloaks in our wake, Hadvar and his bunch had taken care of the ones outside. Obviously one of them had good hearing, or had been lurking just outside the wall to give the signal to attack.

Rikke sent me back to Tullius. I sighed and started the run. The sun was low in the sky when I made it to Castle Dour and I was bone tired, and therefore unamused when he requested I go to Markarth. Or, as he said, “You better help me win back Markarth, or die trying. It was your brilliant strategy to give it over to the rebels in the first place.”

He also “promoted” me to Tribune and gave me another damn blade. I couldn’t decide if his comments and rewards were a bizarre manifestation of a quirky sense of humor or what.

Reunification of Skyrim
First Seed, 31st, 4E 202

I arrived at the camp in the middle of the night; dawn was a few hours off I estimated. An unused bedroll was commandeered and I got some sleep before reporting in with Rikke. But before I could enter her command tent I heard the distinctive sound of a dragon’s roar and glanced up sharply at the sky.

The soldiers milled around anxiously, hands on their bows, but the dragon merely circled the camp a few times before flying away. Maybe it was just curious? Or it knew I was there and that’s what made it curious? Checking up on me?

In any case, I spoke with Rikke, and then went off to cleanse Fort Sungard of rebels so that Rikke could garrison the fort for the Empire.

Tullius “promoted” me to Legate when I reported to him. And then, finally, he said we were off to Eastmarch. We were finally going to move in on Windhelm.

Battle for Windhelm
Rain’s Hand, 2nd, 4E 202

I confess, I managed to get a little lost on the way to the camp near Windhelm—a raging blizzard and lots of pines to crash into. Blech. I finally arrived in the middle of the night, but as with any camp there were always soldiers awake and alert.

On my way to the Battle for Windhelm I passed by those noble idiots again, the ones trying to get to Vici’s wedding. Words failed me. I also hoped that dragon flying around over there was non-hostile.

No such luck. I was forced to kill it before continuing on.

I eventually got to Windhelm and, after Tullius gave his morale speech outside the gates to fire the soldiers up, fought through the convoluted streets. Some were blocked by rubble, some merely by barricades that could be hacked down or burned. The palace loomed near in next to no time at all—or it just seemed that way after getting caught up in things—and I, the General, and Rikke all piled in.

Oddly—to me, anyway—the only people in there were Jarl Ulfric and Galmar Stonefist. I couldn’t for the life of me figure how he had been directing his troops, unless it had been to say, “Throw yourselves at them unto the last man!”

“Secure the door,” Tullius ordered quietly.

“Already done, sir,” Rikke replied.

Then they advanced, Tullius saying, “You are guilty of insurrection, murder of Imperial citizens, the assassination of King Torygg, and high treason against the Empire.”

“I’ll never surrender Skyrim into the hands of a corrupt and dying Empire,” Ulfric said ringingly.

“You are traitors and will die traitor’s deaths,” Tullius replied, then standing before Ulfric’s throne. “Stand down and face public execution, or advance and face summary execution by my hands.”

And then it was on. I took care of Galmar while Tullius and Rikke went for Ulfric. Galmar was dead by my hand and Ulfric was hunched over on the steps of his throne, gasping for breath around the pain he must have been feeling.

“Any last requests before I sent you to . . . to wherever you people go when you die?” Tullius said.

“Let the Dragonborn be the one to do it. It’ll make for a better song.”

I might have been inclined to do the deed, but he had just had to mess it up by adding that bit.

“Song or not, I just want it done,” Tullius said with minor exasperation.

I made certain my voice rumbled with power when I said, “You must be a fool if you think I’d want to give false glory to a man who aimed to govern this country when he failed so miserably at governing his own city, Ulfric. I’ll not give you the satisfaction.”

Tullius nodded, said, “Fine by me,” and finished him off.