It is cold here in Whiterun as I put pen to paper, but I am mostly content for now...
I am Vikar Wolfson, named by my Nord mother and to the agreement of my Redguard father. Upon their death I received a letter that spoke of my father's involvement in the Dark Brotherhood, particularly related to their sect headquarters in Skyrim. I journeyed from my home in Hammerfell to the cold, unwelcoming and beautiful land of Skyrim to seek answers and to take revenge if needs be.
I had not long crossed the border when I was caught in a battle between the Empire, curse their iron-fisted ways and the Nords, who I would later on discover were part of the Stormcloak Rebellion and led by a man who is called Ulfric Stormcloak, a man who also claims to be the true High King. Their politics meant nothing to me as a once-loyal supporter of the Empire I was ready to oppose the Nords alongside the Imperial soldiers, however I was struck by a powerful spell and rendered unconscious, I was scarcely able to draw my sword and join the soldiers of the Empire.
When I awoke with a spinning head and aching limbs, I could hear the creak of wheels beneath my body and the sound of voices. I was in a cart or wagon, around me were three other men and we were part of a procession - I was also tied quite securely. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that things were about to get worse, I could not have foreseen the events that transpired in the next hour, nor the part that I would yet play in the overall conflict.
I elected to play the silent protagonist to begin with, to listen and to learn. A warrior can gain much information from the tongues of others, or so my father once told me. My mother was an altogether different temperament and she would have tested her bonds more than once, trying to escape the Empire and dying rather than bound as a prisoner or some lamb led to slaughter.
So it was that I learned the names of my companions on this journey. I was in the company of Ulfric Stormcloak, gagged and bound, which I found odd to begin with but the answer soon became as clear as crystal to me. I learned however that Ulfric is the Jarl of Windhelm and that we were being taken somewhere to be executed; my mother had spoken of Sovengarde before...the afterlife of the Nords...
A Nord's last thoughts should be of home, she'd said to me when I asked her about death. This memory had been triggered by two men talking on the wagon, a horse thief from Rorikstead and the most vocal of us all, a Nord who I later on came to know as Ralof. But I am getting ahead of myself here journal. I discover the name of the man who will put us to death, General Tullius the Military Governor no less. I should feel honoured but I am confident that the Empire will sort out this mistake and realise that I am no part of the Stormcloak Rebellion. Ralof dislikes the man intensely and blames the Thalmor; damn elves are behind this he snarls.
He shares memories of Helgen, the place we have been taken to and reminisces upon his childhood. I find we have a slight bond of kinship already, bothers and sisters in binds as we are...he too felt safe behind Imperial walls and towers. Yet his fate is sealed, if he is truly part of this rebellion...there is nothing I can do for him. So I remain yet silent...as we draw into Helgen proper I can see the accusing looks upon the villager's faces, their silent support or hatred painted in the depths of their eyes or written on their lips.
End of the line, Ralof tells us that we should not keep the gods waiting. Our horse thief is scared out of his wits but it would take a stronger power than death to frighten me...I am the product of my father's strict training in Hammerfell. As we disembark the wagon I am apprehensive, nothing more. The thief pleads ignorance; this will do nothing to sway the iron hearts of the Empire. I know this as fact.
A female voice rings out, I can see her just. She is an Imperial Captain strutting about safely behind her people, swaggering with a voice full of pregnant authority. We are told to step forwards one at a time when they call out our names, step towards the block and the eager headsman who is ready to deliver us to the afterlife. My muscles tense for the first time, there is perhaps a twinge of fear now but I control it, master it, and make it my own.
Ulfric is called first, then Ralof of Riverwood. Now I know my companion's name, the man who felt safe as a child behind Imperial towers and walls. I regard the thief, I can see he is about to make a mistake. He twitches a little now and then, fear overriding his heart and his feet shuffle on the ground. Lokir or something is his name; I don't care to remember it correctly for he takes the cowards way out and makes a run for it. Imperial archers soon put a stop and he dies with a dozen or so arrows in his back, not a death that neither the Nords, nor I...respect.
Now it is my turn, only they do not have my name. I am still called forwards and questioned about who I am, where I come from and what I was doing there. I answer to the best of my ability, keeping the reason that I have crossed the border into Skyrim a secret. I do not yet wish to tip my hand that I seek the Dark Brotherhood in relation to my parent's death...they may have spies inside the Imperial garrison here.
This is where I discover that the Empire is not the shining beacon of light I once trusted or believed it to be. In one fell swoop I am told that I am to go to the block regardless, forget the list. That...woman...if I ever escape this situation, she will be the first to die should we meet again. So I am now counted as part of this rebellion, an innocent Redguard going to his death because of dubious bureaucracy and one woman's arrogance.
Follow the Captain...
So I do, I am no fool. If I am to meet death early, then I will go like Ralof and Ulfric and those of the rebellion, with a Nord's fearless desire to reach Sovengarde and prove they are worthy to stand there in the afterlife. I learn that Ulfric murdered the previous High King using his voice, this explains the gag...yet it really means nothing to me. I have my own death to consider now.
I am not given much time, Tullis rants on for a while and we are all disturbed by an odd noise. Part scream, part roar in the distance. We are to be given Last Rites by a canting priest...no matter however; death soon comes for a soldier of the rebellion who tires of being lectured. The headsman's axe is sharp at least as the Captain pushes him down on the block with her boot, the man's head rolls free. He is at peace now...the village erupts harshly in condemnation or support of this action.
I am called forwards, once more the sound echoes in the heavens and I look up. Nothing, are the gods playing tricks with me. I hope for a miracle that pulls me from the jaws of death, yet nothing comes. So here I am pushed to the block that is slick with the blood of one brave Nord...I can smell the ichor from this morning's executions still, the fear of men and then I feel the pressure of her boot.
The axe rises before me and before it comes crashing down, the sound returns a third time. There is no mistaking it; an alien sound to these people as a giant creature comes tearing out of the clouds to perch upon the stone tower to my left. A dragon, a real dragon, comes from the myths and legends to devour us all. Now that my friends is a true warrior's death there between those magnificent jaws. We share a look between us, and the dragon seems to see something in me that I cannot.
He speaks a language that I do not understand but the sky above does; it rips apart in a violent storm and brings fear and ruin to the Empire. Those who I would have supported staunchly in the past, now I smile grimly as the headsman falls to his knees from a thunderous sound that accompanies this sudden storm. Then I am on my feet with Ralof pulling at me, he ushers me forwards and we make a break for it. The gods have given us this chance perhaps, or fate...I care not which one. I take it. I rush into the tower on the right and there Ralof and Ulfric, now unbound share a revelation. The dragon is real and it has come from myth and legend to return. I am eager to escape this doom and rush up the tower; a man clears rocks and is soon smashed to pieces as the dragon breaks through the upper floor. Fire fills the area and the stench of roasting flesh soon follows, I backpedal down the stairs and let it escape, bound as I am...I have no way to fight this damn beast let alone defend myself from a child.
With a gap made though and the dragon gone, I am through it and atop the broken inn opposite. I quickly make my way down and through the rest of the inn until I am outside, fear and chaos rule as the dragon makes short work of defender and prisoner alike. Fire sweeps from the sky and torches buildings. A child makes a run for his father and I recognise the man, he is the one Imperial that reluctantly I have a like for; he is the man who held the list yet did not wish to see me killed.
We join forces for a while, keeping low and avoiding the dragon's relentless attacks at it sweeps through the village and kills yet more of the Empire's dogs. Odd isn't it how a man like me can go from loyalty to hatred in a short time, yet I did not start this campaign against them...and I would have gladly given my life for the Empire a few short days ago. Now they would discover that I had little love for a people who tried to kill me, even if one of them had led me to safety.
Another tower beckoned in Helgen, Ralof blocked the way and warned my saviour that we would be escaping together. Yet did I follow Ralof or the Imperial lapdog, my choice had been made clear. I slammed the door on the dragon and the Empire, choosing to follow Ralof's lead and help the man escape since he had saved my life. Our fates were interconnected now and my mind was still reeling from the dragon's relentless attack upon Helgen.
I was finally freed from my bonds thanks to this man, I rubbed my wrists and slipped into the discarded armour that he told me to take. The man who wore it was dead so he did not need it any longer. Now I was at least somewhat protected, though I did not care much for the Nord's weapons...the hand axe would do until I had something more suitable. This would not take long since the Imperial soldiers found us and that Captain, that woman...strode into the room as though she owned the world.
Our battle was short lived since I was fighting for my life and she was lazy, blood flowed freely as I cut her down in a few strokes. Her body fell limply to the floor and I had at last taken my revenge. I never imagined that it would be so easy to kill someone like her, perhaps in another life she and I might have been friends or more. But this was my life now and my own fate carved from the cold ice of Skyrim lay in my hands.
I turned to see Ralof put down both of her guards and he urged us to escape. I won't bore you with the details of our flight from the dungeon, our battles with spiders and soldiers as we made our way out of Helgen - the ground shaking as the dragon attacked above relentlessly. I did not think we would make it, but after passing by a sleeping bear we finally emerged into daylight and the beautiful landscape beckoned all around. I was able to catch sight of the dragon as he winged his way over mountains and into the skies above, lost to vision and hopefully gone for good.
I took a moment to gather my wits and followed Ralof, even though he suggested we split up...he proved a useful source of information upon many of the features as we travelled, telling me of an accursed barrow and showing me where magic stones lay. I was able to feel the power of that known as the Warrior, so I surrendered a little of my soul to it knowing that I could easily transfer the bond to another stone if I needed to...it seemed fitting for the journey here I was about to undertake, stranger in a strange land that I am.
Our journey took us through a winding path, a road of some sort that led to Ralof's home of Riverwood. We had to tackle a small pack of wolves and I was able to make swift work of those beasts before my companion could draw his axes. Thanks in part to my stolen, or should I say...liberated Imperial sword...I will not wear the armour of those dogs for as long as I live now. After I had taken the pelts of the wolves to sell, since Ralof assured me that was a good way to earn some gold here...we walked towards Riverwood and I marvelled at how different Skyrim is to my homeland.
Here the air is colder, colder than frost troll's breath. The mountains are magnificent and cast a huge shadow across the landscape, rimmed with ice as it is. Riverwood is a small settlement situated across a large river, where I was able to see salmon leaping against the current and watch a few rabbits make their way cautiously from the bushes to run across the road in front of us. Nord architecture is functional and impressively so; even though this is a small place...it still looked somewhat grand to me who has recently only seen a cart and a chopping block.
I heard a sound that reminded me of childhood, smithing...the sound of hammer and anvil. I always had an affinity for steel and shaping metal, so I hoped perhaps I might be able to take a turn on the forge here...if Ralof perhaps introduced me to the community and I found a place to stay for a while. He urged me on and we walked past people who stopped and stared for a moment before they carried on with what they had to do.
Ralof led us to his sister, Gerda, who was working at the nearby mill. I was impressed at the size of the mill itself and saw that the place was aptly named. There was plenty of forest to keep the giant saw moving and whilst it was only guarded by a small wooden wall in places, it was mercifully quiet. After a family reunion of sorts I was introduced to Gerda and Hod, Hod runs the local mill and both were quite happy to see me, not so much Ralof since he has deep ties to the Stormcloak's and Jarl Ulfric. Yet when I received thanks for my part in saving Ralof I felt a twinge of like for these people...I was given a key to their home and told I could stay as long as I wanted.
I needed better equipment however and a source of income. I was able to speak to the woman further, she told me about Whiterun and that I should seek the Jarl there to inform him of the dragon attack. Again, I argued in my head that I needed more resources and equipment even before I left this place. I was able to secure some small source of income for prolonged wood chopping sessions at the mill for a good few days. I also made friends of a sort with Alvor, the local smith. He finally let me use the forge and I was able to at least turn my hand to something useful between wood chopping and smithing.
I am also able to sell goods at the Riverwood Trader. Though I do not yet involve myself in their problems, I am but a customer and it would be forwards of me to ask what troubles them both. I do not even care for their names at the moment, so focussed am I upon my immediate need to improve my lot in this settlement. Yet they are useful people to know and slowly over the next week I begin to amass a small sum of monies and a slight reputation as a hard working soul.
I even discovered a talent for alchemy that I did not know I had, thanks to the Riverwood Inn or whatever the place is called. Again, this place may not become a home to me so I do not really bother to learn the proper place names for any of the buildings. That may well change over time as I become more accustomed to the people and life in Skyrim. A few more days pass and I discover it is called the Sleeping Giant, how...Nord...from inside I discover there is an undercurrent between two men in the settlement, fighting over a woman no less.
The woman is the sister of the man who owns the Riverwood Trader and she seems to be a nice enough person. I have no attraction for her myself; she is a little too nice for me. I desire someone far wilder and more dangerous...someone who could survive a land like this. I think of dabbling in their squabble and then I make my choice, I tell her that the elf plans to ruin the Skald's reputation...it upsets him greatly but earns me a friend in both the woman and her suitor.
I put this behind me regardless, it now grows dark again and tomorrow I plan to explore some local mountains and ground above Riverwood. I hear tell that there might be a mine nearby or at least a small camp of some sorts. Mines mean ore and I need that for my smithing, so it makes sense to take my newly acquired pick axe and seek this possible new source of materials for myself. It gives me something to sleep on, so I do just that...dropping into a dreamless slumber where the cold wind is no more and there is no shadow of the Empire hanging over my head.
The morning finds me moving through unfamiliar ground and gaining height as I make my way up a track, I know something is nearby, I can see the smoke of a small camp and I begin to ascend towards it. I should have known that it would not be easy, since I am greeted by a pair of bandits who guard their fire jealously. I was willing to turn and walk away from them but they sealed their fate, an arrow to my knee. This unprovoked attack made them enemies of mine and they needed to be taught a lesson.
The warrior came at me first and I easily avoided his clumsy blow, whilst my newly smithed sword sang through the air, frost rimmed in the early morning light and slammed into him buckling his armour in places. His companion attempted to stick me with more arrows, but he was a lousy shot. Now I saw an opening in the other man's defences and I took it, my two-handed sword broke through his armour and slammed the air from his lungs as he buckled against the massive blade. I heard his sternum crack and his spine give way as the sword poked through his back. He fell from the weapon, lifeless and I looted his corpse before I advanced upon his now terrified companion.
Their camp proved to be a useful source of goods. I ransacked it and stole everything that I could find that wasn't nailed down. This land had begun to turn me into a bit of a thief; I even knew how to pick some simple locks now. Yet magic seemed to elude me for a while, I could feel that the power sang at my fingers but I dare not summon it. I was a warrior born, not some hybrid mage child of the blade. Or at least that is how I saw it from my blinkered point of view.
I made my way back down the mountain and sold the hapless bandits goods in the Riverwood Trader. There would be some fireside tales by the hearth tonight in the Sleeping Giant Inn, so I stocked up on mead for a few of the patrons and went back to the forge. I needed to hone my art far more than I had done in the past few days and the money I made from the bandits' goods would be more than enough to buy some materials. The mine could wait...I had smithing to do.