Tarrin cursed his luck when the first drop of rain fell against his skin. The road to Whiterun was cold enough with him only wearing a tunic and leggings so thin that he may as well not be wearing them at all, but the rain would soak him clean through and most likely freeze him to death when the night came. The young fifteen - year - old growled as more droplets started falling.
"I should have stayed in Falkreath," he muttered to himself, quickening his pace, "At least I could have worked up enough coin to buy a bloody good horse!" The past two days had seen the young man in the small hold, spending a few nights in comfort and doing a few odd jobs around to put a few coins in his pouch.
He'd even gotten on well with the Jarl of the hold. He had been a fairly flippant sort of man, not much older than himself, which he respected when he thought of someone close to his age being a Jarl of a city like Falkreath. His steward had, to his surprise, been a kindhearted Altmer, a High Elf, and she had helped him in finding a few easy jobs to help him on his way.
Thanks to her, Tarrin was fifty coins richer than when he crossed the border.
Still, in the past week in coming to the cold land, he felt he should have remained in Cyrodil with his family...though he couldn't be counted as a true Imperial. His father had been a pure-blooded Nord of Skyrim, which is what prompted him to make the journey. He had wanted to see the country that his father had spoke of when he was a child of five. To see that great mountains covered with snow, and the vast evergreen forests that covered the lowlands.
It is a wild place, his father had told him once, a man must be strong to make a living there. To farm in the lowland fields, mine in the high mountains in the deadly cold, or fight for his right to live...Tarrin, Skyrim can change a man within a moment's thought. You could lead the life of the farmer, and the next thing you know, you have a sword in your had just so you can keep raiders away from your crop.
Tarrin smiled at those memories. His father had been a great man. Strong and powerful enough to fight off a troll with his bare hands. A feet he had witnessed when one of the monsters had attacked their farm in the dead of winter looking for food...that had been his downfall. Though he had killed the troll, the troll had raked its enormous clawed-hands across his chest in deep gashes that no potion or magic could heal.
After his death, Tarrin had made up his mind, and, on the eve of his fifteenth birthday, he packed his things and stole away in the middle of the night, knowing that his remaining family, particularly his mother, would have his hide for even thinking of leaving.
"And now look where I am," he muttered as his clothes became soaked because of the rain. "Trudging through a forest, in a land I don't know without even a blasted map! Oh, yes, Tarrin, very smart, very smart indeed!" He berated himself, "I should have asked someone if they had one to spare!"
"Who goes there!"
Tarrin jerked his head up at the unfamiliar voice, looking around to find it source, then spoke, "Just a weary traveler caught in the rain. I have no weapons to speak of but a small dagger at my hip."
Suddenly the light of a torch flamed to life in the trees. The man holding the torch was a large, muscled man, almost like his father, except he was blonde-haired, and had a larger nose.
"I am Rayof of Riverwood," the man said, holding the torch high so he could see the boy's face, "I don't know your face. Are you a Nord?"
"Half," Tarrin said, raising a hand to shield his eyes, "My mother was an Imperial, and my father was Nordic."
Rayof grunted, "Where do you stand then?"
"What do you mean?" Tarrin asked in confusion, then took in the armor Rayof wore. It was blue, with a grey cloak over his shoulder, and warm fur-lined boots.
"I mean in the war, boy, are you with the Imperials, or the true sons of Skyrim?" Rayof clariffied, placing his right hand on his hip while he still held the torch aloft, "If you side - "
"Hold on a moment," Tarrin said, holding up his hands, "I was not aware of the war. I thought Skyrim was at peace, else I may not have come here."
Rayof growled, "Why did you come here, then, Lad? You have the look of a farm boy, not ever having held a sword in his life, or even felt the touch of a woman."
Tarrin blushed at the last bit of his statement, "My business in this country is my own, but if you must know, I came because of my father." Tarrin said, glowering at the man, who was more a few feet taller than he was, "he spoke of Skyrim often when I was small, and told me that it was the place men go to prove their worth...so I suppose you could say I came here to find out what it means to be a Nord."
Ralof, seeming to accept this, smiled and held out his hand, "Welcome to Skyrim, brother Nord." Tarrin smiled and gladly took his hand and shook it. "Come, my comrades and I have a fire going further into the trees. You can have one of our spare tents as well. The night comes early this time of year, and a wolf or troll wouldn't mind catching a little fellow like you in the dark."
"Lead the way master Ralof," Tarrin chuckled nervously.
"Ah, you better hand over that dagger of your's first," the Nord said, holding out his hand again, "You may not look it, but you could still slip my throat or stab me in the back."
"Any other day I would take that as an insult," the boy said, reaching for his dagger, before handing it to him, "But I'm too cold to care right now. And you have a fair point."
"Smart boy," Ralof smiled, "Come, let's get out of the rain."
Tarrin followed him into the forest, staying close so he wouldn't stumble from the dark path, but soon he saw the light of another fire. Four more men and one woman were seated around it, not bothered by the rain as the tree branches kept them relatively dry. One of them was a very big man, dressed in black robes, and had an air of power around him. Said man looked up at his companion, and noticed the newcomer. "Who've you brought with you, Ralof? A spy?"
"Just a boy stumbling around in the dark," Ralof said truthfully, "His name is Tarrin of Cyrodil."
"An Imperial?" One of the others spat.
"Only half," Tarrin explained for himself. "I'm half Nord."
"Hmph, he picked a fine time to come to Skyrim," the man in black said, poking at the fire, "The Imperials are taking over this place, and the damned Elves aren't helping matters."
"Elves?" Tarring queried, "I've only met one Elf while I've been here, and she was fairly nice."
"Ha! Since you came from Falkreath's direction, that must have been Nenya," another warrior said, gesturing for him to sit, "She's been here longer than most of her kin. But the Thalmor are the ones that we need to worry about. They seem to have the emperor in the palm of their hands."
"Olaf, enough of Elves already," said the man in black, "It's not enough that they called my honor into question, but they have turned half of Skyrim against me. If something's not done soon, then I might as well place myself on the headmen's block myself."
Tarring seated himself on a log, looking at the man curiously, "Are you some sort of lord?"
"Tarrin, allow me to introduce Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King of Skyrim," Ralof said, though he said this a little bitterly.
"A king?!" Tarring gasped, nearly slipping off his stump, quickly bowing his head, "Forgive me if I said anything rude, my lord!"
"Stop sniveling!" Ulfric snapped, "I may be the true king, but not yet."
Tarrin raised his head, "If I may ask, sir, why not?"
Ulfric sighed, throwing his stick into the fire, "How much do you know about the politics here, boy?"
"Not much," Tarrin said, "I just know that the land is ruled by a king that lords over several holdings."
"That's the simple version of it, yes, but the succession of the king or queen is done through battle," Ulfric said, "I fought and defeated the king in single combat. But it was deemed and unfair fight because I used the Voice to disarm him before I killed him."
The boy stared at the man with wide eyes, "The Voice? Really? I thought that was a legend?"
"It can be learned," Ulfric said, "It took me years to learn that shout. But a lot of good it did me. Now they are saying that I shouted the king to death."
Tarrin nodded, "Father always told me that death by the sword is the way of all Nords," he said, thinking back on all the times his father had lectured him, "I don't know how he would have taken the Voice, but I think you won the fight fairly. Father also always said that it is best to know your enemy before the battle."
Ulfric nodded, offering Tarrin a smile, "Your father was a wise man...is he here with you?"
"No," he said, hanging his head, "He died a year ago after fighting off a troll. I left home to see this land he loved with my own eyes."
The one called Olaf chuckled, "You're certainly a brave lad considering you're so scrawny, even for a Nord."
"Half Nord," Tarring said, slightly annoyed.
"That doesn't matter," Ralof said, "Whether your blood is pure or not, only those that can survive in Skyrim dare to call themselves Nords, lad. It's a hard place."
"So I've heard," Tarrin nodded. "I've already seen a few critters around here that I'd never seen in Cyrodil."
"Oh?" Olaf smirked, "Like what? A large dog? HA!"
"While I was in Falkreath, someone came back from a hunting trip with a giant bear in his wagon." Tarrin said, ignoring Olaf.
"That'd be a cave bear," Ralof nodded, "And there are nastier things around here. Wait til you see your first mammoth. Good eating, them, but bloody hard to kill. Then there are the giants around them. Like big sheep dogs, those brutes. Gentle if you leave 'em be, but hurt them or one of their mammoth's then you'd better make a run for it."
"We had something similar to them back home," Tarrin said, "Ogres are almost like giant trolls with green skin...I wouldn't want to meet either one."
Everyone laughed at this, including Tarrin, and soon they were all talking about their homes and things that they had done before Ulfric had tried for the throne. Olaf turned their attention back to the Thalmor Elves, saying that they were the cause of all the problems in Skyrim. Though he really didn't believe that one single race was responsible for a country's problems, but he listened intently as Olaf went on.
The Altmer had been known to take Talos worshipers away for questioning, and were never seen again. Talos, Tarrin knew, was the hero god that the Nords worshiped, and had indeed been an actual man long ago. It was a mystery to the boy as to why the Altmer hated the Talos worshipers so, and he had seen that hatred first hand when they had gone to the Imperial city and run into a faction of the Elves. His father had nearly been imprisoned because of the incident, but thanks to his friendship with a noblemen, he was spared the Thalmor's mercy.
Not long after Olaf finished speaking, Ulfric suggested they all get to sleep. They were to make a long journey back to Windhelm to following morning, while Tarrin would travel with them to the Darkwater Crossing mines to find more work, and hopefully a place to stay. Tarrin knew it would be a long trek without a horse, but he still needed to go. Many of the other mines were abandoned for various reasons. From bandits to Drauger.
As he lay down to sleep that night, he wondered if he would find a true home here in this strange land. Perhaps he could make a life in one of the larger cities, and join a military faction. Ulfric had offered him a place with the Stormcloaks, but Tarrin had said that he would be of little use to him until he had built some muscle on his arms, as he could barely lift a sword, let alone move around in armor.
Little did he know that he would soon have little choice to do anything else.
The morning came all too soon for the young man as the light shone through the trees, and Ralof stoked the fires to get their breakfast cooked. Ulfric was the last to wake, rubbing his neck to work a kink out, "Shor's bones I miss my bed at times!"
"Oh, come off it Ulfric," Olaf grinned, "It wasn't that long ago that you and I were out on the roads doing our Jarl's dirty work!"
"Bah! Don't bring up old things like that!" Ulfric said, giving the man a good-natured shove.
Tarrin had grown to like the loud Nord. He was almost like the big brother of Ulfric's group. Olaf always seemed to have a smile on his face.
After eating a small meal of bacon and bread, the group, with Tarrin riding behind Ralof, was saddled up, and moving on.
"Oh there once was a hero named Ragnar the Red, who came riding to Whiterun from ole Rorikstead," Olaf sang out, grinning as Ralof and Ulfric groaned.
"When his ugly red head rolled around on the floor!"
"Olaf, one more verse of Ragnar the Red, and so help me - !" One of the other men growled.
"You'll kick a mouthful of my axe," Olaf grinned, hefting the large battle axe strapped to his back.
Ulfric turned in his saddle, "He's right, Olaf, your singing is terrible!"
"Ah, bullocks! Tarrin likes my singing, don't you, laddie?"
"Leave me out of this," Tarrin said, trying to shrink behind Ralof, not a hard thing to do, considering how much smaller the boy was.
"To hell with the lot of you, then!" Olaf growled, getting a laugh out of the troupe.
"How dare you speak to the king like that!" Larina, the only female warrior of the group said jokingly.
"Off with ya," Olaf grumbled, urging his mount forward.
"At least he's not singing anymore," Aron, another warrior said, much to the amusement of the others.
Gunjar, the last of the group, grunted, "He could make a giant go deaf if he broke into - "
"Halt!" Ralof yelled, "Someone's coming!"
Tarrin raised himself over Ralof's shoulder so he could see, and saw a man riding a sorry-looking paint horse, sorry, but strong.
"Look out!" The man yelled, and suddenly Tarrin found themselves set upon by his kinsmen. Thirty Imperial soldiers burst out of the trees, their swords drawn.
"Ambush!" Olaf roared, unstrapping his axe.
"Tarrin, run!" Ralof yelled, tossing the boy off their horse.
"What about you?!" Tarring yelled, not wanting to leave his friends.
"Run, lad, we'll be fine!" Ulfric yelled, unsheathing his sword. "Now run, and save yourself!"
"Lieutenant, catch that boy!" Yelled a woman.
Tarrin scrambled to his feet and made a mad dash for the trees. But the poundind of horse hooves reached his ears, and he knew it was hopeless. the shadow of the horse and rider passed over him, and a hand reached out and grasped him by the scruff of his neck. "Got you, rebel!"
"Let go of me!" Tarrin yelled, "I'm not a rebel!"
"A likely story!" The man growled, turning his horse about. Tarrin roared and swun his leg around, smashing the man in the face, forcing him to release the boy. Tarrin landed heavily on his rump, flipping over and making another rush for the trees.
"Archers!" The woman yelled.
"Tarrin, get down!" He heard Olaf yell. Tarrin ducked down low just as a hail of arrows sailed over him, scrambling up again, only to come face to face with the man that he had kicked moments earlier.
"You little runt!" He raised his sword, "I'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget!"
"Leave that child alone you Imperial bastard!" Ralof roared, and the man was suddenly tackled from behind.
"Get down, all of you!" Ulfric roared, and Tarrin saw him taking a deep breath, and the boy suddenly knew that it meant something big, "Fus!" The resounding shock wave that came from his throat was like a thunder clap, knocking many of the Imperial soldiers and their mounts down.
"Run, lad!" Olaf yelled one final time, his axe a whirl as he cut down soldier after soldier that got in his path, drawing Tarrin's eyes to the carnage. His Imperial brothers were many, but the might of the Nords they face was something Tarrin had only heard about in stories from his father. Olaf was wounded, badly, his body ridled with arrows, but the man just kept going, roaring as if in a berserk rage as his bloodied axe flew through the air.
Ralof had slit the throat of the man he had tackled, and was rushing to the aid of Gunjar and Larina who were facing down another large band of soldiers, while Ulfric kept shouting, and Tarrin could believe why some would think his shout could tear a man apart.
Shaking from the sight of his friends battling against his kinsmen, Tarrin felt his Nordic blood begin to boil at this. He reached for the sword dropped by the man Ralof had killed. It was heavy, yet it felt right in his hands.
The woman captain saw this and smirked, "And what are you going to do with that, boy?" She asked, brandishing her own sword.
"I told you," Tarrin growled, "I'm not a rebel!" He lunged forward, the sword raised high. The captain grinned and raised her sword to block him as his sword crashed down with surprising force. Tarrin was quick, this much he knew, and against a seasoned warrior of the Empire, he had little chance. But he knew their weakness. The Imperials favored heavy armor, thick and hard to move in.
Those that favored this armor moved slower than he did, and he intended to use that. As the captain staggered back from his attack, Tarrin spun around, weaving his sword through the air toward her stomach, the blade striking to high and screeching off the armor plating.
"Divines!" She swore, "You little demon!"
"Tarrin, I told you to run!" Olaf roared, barreling into the fight as the woman struck at him again, taking the blade on the shaft of his axe, and kicking her in the stomach.
"To hell with that!" Tarrin growled, "I'd never be able to face my father in Sovngarde if I left my friends, new or old, behind!" To this note Tarrin roared back into the fray, placing his back against the injured warrior's. "I stay!"
"Ha, that was well said, lad," Olaf chuckled, "I'm sure your father would be proud."
Ralof and the other rallied around them in a circle as the Imperial soldiers advanced on them once again. Ulfric was winded, he could see, and breathing heavily as the use of his Thu'um took its toll on him, and Olaf was still bleeding from his wounds. Larina looked fine, but she was covered in blood all down her front, and Tarrin couldn't tell if it was her's or not.
Ralof looked like he could still fight, a mad smile on his face, as well as Gunjar, who wore the same smile. "Tis a good day to die, eh, boys?" Gunjar asked, glaring at the soldiers.
"That it is," Olaf said, grinning at his back, "Its been a pleasure, men, and I'm glad to have known such a strong young Nord before my time," he said looking at Tarrin, then back at the soldiers, "Come, lads,I'll lead the way to Sovngarde!" He roared and rushed at the nearest Imperial, a cleaved him in half, head to toe before the man could even raise is shield.
Tarrin followed him, attacking another heavily armored soldier, "Forgive me, Mother, but today I am a Nord!" He yelled, jumping high, letting his sword flash down. Another weakness of Imperials. Their swords were thin and weak against heavier steel, such as the sword he now wielded. The Imperial blade cracked as the steel sword came crashing down, and Tarrin plunged the blade into the man's neck, drawing his first kill.
"Ata boy, Tarrin!" Gunjar laughed, bringing a mace down on the helmet of another soldier.
Tarrin grinned with the same mad glee of battle that Gunjar and Ralof had as he rushed another warrior, understanding now why Nords were so feared in battle. Seeing these men fight for their lives, and fighting for his own. It was a pure joy that he felt now. He was whole.
And then his world went black as he felt a blow to the back of his head, and the last thing he saw was Ralof and Ulfric rushing toward him.
Tarrin groaned as the swaying woke him, making his stomach churn. He cracked his eyes open open to see a blurred world around him. When his eyes finally cleared, he saw that Ralof was sitting across from him, his hands bound. He sat up and found himself sitting in the back of a wagon. Next to him was Ulfric, his hands also bound, and a gag wrapped around his mouth. Across from him was the man that had rode through them and had the Imperials right behind him.
"Damn," Tarrin said when he sat up, feeling a pounding in his head.
Ralof looked at him in relief, "Ah, good, you're awake!"
"Yeah, but what happened?" Tarrin asked, clutching at his head with his bound hands.
"It was an ambush," Ralof said, "I'm sorry that you got caught up in it...well, you and that horse thief over there." He jerked his head over at the man across from Ulfric.
"Damn you Stormcloaks!" The man sneered, "If it wasn't for you, I could have stolen that horse and been half way to Hammerfell by now!"
"Shut up back there!" Yelled the wagon driver.
The theif grunted and looked at Ulfric, "So what's your deal, huh?"
"Watch your tongue, Horse Thief!" Ralof yelled, "You're speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the one true king of Skyrim!"
The theif's eyes widened, "You Jarl Ulfric? But if they captured you then...oh gods, where are they taking us?!"
Ralof shrugged, "I don't know where we're going, but Sonvgarde awaits."
Tarrin sighed as the man started rambling to the divines for help while Ralof told him to shut up. "It looks like I won't be seeing my mother again."
Ralof looked at him, "You must have mixed feelings about Imperials after this, huh? Being half-Imperial yourself?"
"My family wasn't like these people," Tarrin growled, "We were farmers, peaceful folks. Mother always hated the soldiers, though, and now I can see why."
"Aye," Ralof said, nodding, looking ahead of them, "Helgen. I used to be sweet on a girl here...I wonder if Ulga's still making that mead with juniper berries?"
Tarrin turned ahead of them, seeing the walls of a small hold, "It's funny, being inside Imperial walls like this used to make me feel safe." He said, sighing again.
"I know how you feel, lad," Ralof said as the wagon lurched through the gates, then his face wrinkled in a sneer, "Oh, look, the Thalmor are here."
Tarrin swiveled around again, noticing an Altmer woman on horseback talking down to an Imperial general. "Who's that man she's talking to?"
"General Tullius," Ralof said, making Tarring gasp. He'd heard that name before. He was known to be utterly ruthless in battle and the sharpest mind of any of the Imperial commanders.
The wagon then lurched to a halt in front of Helgen keep.
"Why are we stopping?" The thief asked.
"Why do you think?" Ralof said, "End of the line."
"Everyone out!" Yelled the familiar voice of the female captain, "To the line when your name is called!"
"Damned Empire loves their lists," Ralof muttered as they rose and began jumping down from the wagon.
"Ulfric Stormcloak," said the man holding the list, and Tarrin noticed that he had the visage of a Nord, "Of Windhelm.
Ralof bowed his head a little as Ulfric walked past him, "It's been an honor, my Jarl."
"Ralof of Riverwood."
Ralof gave a nod to Tarrin, "Be brave, lad." Then he walked on to stand beside his fellow warriors.
"Lokir of Rorikstead."
"No!" Lokir, who was the theif, yelled, "We're not rebels! You have to believe me!"
"Silence! To the block, now!" The female captain roared.
"AH!" Tarrin looked on in amazement as Lokir suddenly rushed her, plowing into her with his shoulder and knocking her to the ground be fore running off toward the treeline.
The Imperials all drew their bows and let loose their arrows. Tarrin had to hand it to the thief as his body lurched to the ground, having six arrows in him, he hadn't gone down without a fight.
"Next, you there, the child in the rags!"
Rags? Tarrin looked down at himself, finding that his tunic and leggings were gone, replaced with ragged trousers and a burlap shirt. "ACK! Who stole my clothes!"
"What are you talking about?" The man asked, "You were dressed that way when you came in, now what's your name?"
Tarrin growled at him, "Tarrin of Cyrodil, a farmer from the East!" He snapped, "I tried to tell this stupid woman that when she had her dogs attack me!"
"An Imperial?" He asked, "You don't look like one. Your hair isn't the right color..."
Tarrin sighed. His lineage had given him more Nordic features than Imperial. He had blonde hair like most Nords, and dark blue eyes that seemed to be rare in Cyrodil, who's people seemed to have black eyes mostly. And he was tall for his age, though he was dwarfed by most Nords, if not for anything than bulk. "I'm half Nord on my father's side."
"Well, kinsmen, you picked a bad time to come home," he said, writing the boy's name down on his list, "Captain, this boy wasn't on the list of Stormcloaks, what are to do with him?"
"He goes to the block, same as the others," she huffed, probably upset at being called stupid by someone so young.
"Understood," he said, looking back to the boy, "I'm sorry, lad, but to the block, nice and easy."
Tarrin nodded, "My mother lives in the easter farmlands of Cyrodil, and her name is Helena...will you send her word?"
"I will try," he said, and Tarrin smiled in thanks, walking to stand beside Ralof.
"What happened to Olaf?" Tarrin asked, not seeing the boisterous Nord among them.
"He fell to that captain you just insulted," he said, hanging his head, "He went down as a true Nord, and died standing up, even with a sword through his chest...you were quite a little wonder out there, lad. I thought you'd never held a sword before?"
Tarrin shrugged, "Something just clicked...I felt right with that sword in my hands." Then he saw General Tullius walking up to Ulfric.
"Ulfric Stormcloak." He said, his face stoic, "Some here and in Helgen call you a hero, but a hero doesn't use a power like the Voice to murder his king and usurp his throne!"
Ulfric grunted at him against the gag.
Tullius growled, "You started this war, plunged Skyrim into chaos, and now the Empire is going to put you down, and restore the peace!"
Suddenly there was a loud, thundering roar as Tullius finished speaking.
"What was that?" Tarrin wondered aloud.
"I don't know," Ralof said, looking up at the mountains, "I've never heard anything like that before." He winced as the first man stepped up to the block...Aron.
"My ancestors are smiling down at me," the man sneered at the Imperials, "Can you say the same?"
Then the headmen's axe came down. Tarrin closed his eyes.
"You Imperial bastards!" He heard Larina scream.
"Death to the Stormcloaks!"
Tarrin opened his eyes just as the headmen kicked Aron's body out of the way.
"Next the Nord in the rags!" The captain yelled.
"Wait!" Ralof yelled looking at the Nord with the list, "Hadvar, you can't do this! He's not one of us!"
Hadvar hung his head, then motioned to Tarrin, "To the block, Tarrin."
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, Tarrin stepped out of line. "I hope you Imperials are happy...I was simply defending myself from your attack, all the while Ulfric and his men were telling me to run away before I was caught up in the battle...and here I am, a born Imperial, at your mercy..."
Hadvar looked away as Tarrin passed him, not willing to look into his eyes.
"A pretty speech, boy, but you could e lying, and there's no way of telling." The woman captain said, the Thalmor elf behind her on her horse. Tarrin sneered at them both.
"Lying, huh?" Tarrin said, "I was always taught never to lie by my father, a Nord man like Ulfric and Ralof...and now that I see the way you do things, I'd rather die a Nord that live as an Imperial!"
She growled and grabbed him by the collar and forced him down to his knees on the block. That was when the second roar was heard. The woman looked around, "What is that?"
Out of the corner of his eye as the headmen raised his axe, Tarrin saw something flying toward the keep...something large...something very large!
"What in Oblivion is that!" Tullius yelled as the giant black creature flew over them and landed on the tower, shaking the ground beneath them. Tarrin was thrown onto his side, giving him a good look a the monster. It was a creature right out of one of his father's stories.
"Fus Ro Dah!" The thunderclap of the shock wave was ten times as strong as Ulfric's had been, and stunned the boy as he tumbled back, his vision blured from the blast.
"Tarrin!" Ralof yelled, though it sounded to Tarrin like he was under water. He felt someone pulling him to his feet, "Come on, lad, we need to get out of here!"
"Ralof, you trecherous bastard!" Hadvar yelled.
"Treacherous in a snakes arse!" Ralof yelled, "Get out of here before that thing burns you to a crisp! Tarrin, get a hold of yourself!"
"R-Ralof," Tarrin, groaned, his senses coming back to him.
"Easy there, lad, I've got'cha," Ralof said, dragging the boy to the tower.
He shouldered the door open, dragging Tarrin inside with him. Tarrin collapsed to the floor, trying to get to his feet again.
"Is he alright?" He heard Ulfric ask.
"Just stunned, I think, "Ralof said, "That thing...was is really a dragon? Could the legends be true?"
"Legends don't burn down villages," Ulfric said, "Either way, this is our chance to get away. Quick, get him on his feet and get up those stairs!"
Tarrin shook his head, his vision finally returning, "Gah, what the blazes hit me?"
"A dragon," Ralof chuckled, hauling the boy to his feet, "That was a nice speech you gave, lad. Ever thought about joining politics?"
Tarrin grinned up at him, "No thanks, Mother always said I wasn't bull-headed enough for that!"
"That's good," Ulfric chuckled, his hands on his hip, "At least he still has his sense of humor." He took a dagger from his belt, "Here, show me your hands and let me get those binds off."
Tarrin nodded gratefully extending his hands as Ulfric drew his dagger through the leather bindings. Tarrin rotated his hands to get the circulation going again, then noticed Larina on the floor, "Hey!" He knelt beside her. She was clutching her stomach, and he saw a large amount of blood on her armor, and this time he knew it was her's from broken axe buried in her armor.
Rolaf knelt beside him and placed his hand on his shoulder, "It's too late for her, lad. Let's go."
Tarrin nodded, rising to his feet, and following the few remaining Stormcloaks up the stairs. One of the men was half way up, when there was a roar from the outside and the dragon's head suddenly plowed through the wall, and breathed a gout of flames. The man had no chance against the flames.
"Against the wall!" Rolaf ordered, and Tarrin flattened himself against the wall as the dragon withdrew. Ralof peeked around the opening it had made and smiled, "This is good, we can jump across to that house there!"
"But - " Tarrin said, not liking this idea.
"Go, I'll be right behind you!" Ralof said, and all but shoved him through. Tarrin yelled in fright as he tumbled down through the roof of the house, landing on his back with a thud.
"Ralof, I'm going to kill you if I live through this," he groaned, getting to his feet and running along the burning house. He jumped down through a hole in the second floor and landed heavily.
The dragon made another pass aboe the house, breathing out another blast of flames. Tarrin ducked down, covering his head as the dragon passed by. Then he scrambled back to his feet and ran out the door. He ran out into the street, skidding to a halt at what he saw. The bodies of the people of Helgen were all around, burned or crushed by fallen debris. The dragon was circling the hold, searching out any and all survivors.
He growled and ran forward again, and nearly tripped over the fallen body of an Imperial, his feet getting caught in his bow. Looking back, Tarrin saw that it was an Imperial bow like the one he'd used while hunting back home, and made a grab for it, and the quiver that was tied to the man's back.
"Alright, now to get to the keep," Tarrin said to himself.
"You there, Tarrin!" Tarrin turned around, immediately knocking an arrow, and found Hadvar crouched low with his sword drawn. "Easy! You'll live a lot longer if you follow after me!"
"Why should I trust you?!" Tarrin yelled, "You're friends nearly took my bloody head off!"
"What choice do you have?" Hadvar asked, rushing past him, "Now come on!" He yelled, running over to a small group, "Gunnar, get Haming out of here!"
"Right!" Said a balding man with a pale eye, "Haming, come, your father is gone, we have to go!" The man said to a boy that was cowering behind him.
Tarrin watched the boy run after him, growling in the back of his throat, he grudgingly followed Hadvar.
"Good, it's you and me now, Tarrin!" Hadvar yelled over the roaring of the dragon, "Quickly, to the keep!"
"Just move, or I'll leave you behind!" Tarrin yelled barelling ahead of him, "I've had enough of Imperials...and I'm part Imperial for Talos' sake!"
"Don't blame you there!" Hadvar shouted, "Get down!"
Again the dragon made a pass, and Tarrin could hear it saying something that he couldn't understand. Tarrin raised his bow up, pulling the arrow back to full draw, and loosed.
The arrow flew well ahead of the dragon, exactly where Tarrin was aiming, into the beast's flight line. As the massive dragon flew into the arrow's path, the sharp metal head buried itself in the thick, scaley hide. The dragon roared in pain as the dart pierced him. "Nivahriin joorre!"
"Did that thing just speak?" Tarrin yelled, shaking himself as he knocked another arrow, but was yanked by the shoulder.
"Not now, lad, we need to get to the keep!" Hadvar yelled.
"Hey, I hit the thing, didn't I?" Tarrin growled, following after him, "I've hunted things that can hunt you back, but you soldiers must need a lot of practice!"
"We're foot soldiers, not yeomen!" Hadvar grumbled.
"Tell that to Lokir," Tarrin grumbled back, then saw a familiar face coming toward them, "Ralof!"
"Tarrin!" Ralof yelled waving at him with his axe, "This way!"
Hadvar growled, "Go if you want, but you'd be going to the wrong side!"
"No," Tarrin sneered at the man, "I wouldn't." With that, he took off toward Ralof before the two of them crashed through the keep doors.
Tarrin and Ralof sat there a few moment, panting for breath as the dragon roared again, crashing through the hold.
Ralof, finally getting his breath back, laughed loudly, "That'll wake you up in the morning, won't it, laddie?!" He brayed, clapping the boy on the back, and staggering him, "That was a hell of a shot you made there. You're a natural with that bow!"
"Hey, when you grow up on a farm, you learn a few things," Tarrin grinned hefting his ill-gotten bow, "Like how to shoot a wolf between the eyes when he's after your goats!"
"Ha! The Stormcloaks could use that," Ralof said, getting to his feet, "After all this is done, why don't you head to Windhelm and join up? You'd be a captain in no time!"
Tarrin shook his head, "I don't know, Ralof. This is probably just my survival instincts kicking in. I really don't fancy getting roasted by an overgrown lizard."
"Neither do I," Ralof laughed, looking around the room, "Argh, so that's what happened to Gunjar..."
Tarrin looked ahead of them, and saw the body of their friend laying sprawled against the wall. Shaking, the boy walked over to him, and closed the man's eyes for him before looking back at Ralof, "Did Ulfric make it out?"
"I think so," Ralof nodded, then gestured to Gunjar's body, "Dishonorable as it seems, lad, Gunjar won't be needing that armor any more...the least you could do is put it to good use."
Tarrin nodded, kneeling back down to begin his grim task. A few minutes later, Tarrin was dressed as a proper Stormcloak warrior. Ralof nodded, "Looks good on you, lad."
"Thanks," he said adjusting the clothing since it was a little big on him, "How do we get out of here?"
"There's a tunnel leading out of this place below us," Ralof said, "We'll need to make our way down." The ground shook as the dragon kept up its attack. Ralof grumbled as he swayed on his feet, "That's probably the safest place right now with that thing flying around out there."
Tarrin nodded, looking at the iron gate against the far wall, "We'll need to get that open then...got any ideas?"
"We could try to force it open," Ralof said, shrugging the idea off, "Wish I had some lock picks, then I'd have it open easily."
Tarrin was about to say something when he heard voices coming, "Someone's coming through!"
"What luck," Ralof said, running to the wall, "If they're Imperial's we'll ambush them, then we can take some of their gear and get the hell out of here!"
Tarrin nodded, more than happy to settle things for Gunjar as he flattened himself against the wall, drawing back an arrow. the gate then swung open, and Tarrin lept out in front, loosing his arrow. The Imperial didn't have time to shout as the shaft buried itself in his skull. Ralof lept into action as the second soldier, the female captain, as it turned out, drew her sword, only to have Ralof slice his axe across her throat.
"That was for Olaf, bitch!" Ralof growled as she fell to the ground.
Tarrin quickly snatched up her sword and scabbard, belting them around his hips, before he and Ralof made their way through the gate and down the hall. "It's clear," Ralof said, "Let's go!"
And then they ran.
"That was too close!" Ralof groaned as he stumbled against the wall.
"You alright?" Tarrin asked.
"Aye, just a little roughed up," he grinned, "I'll give your kinsmen one thing, lad. They sure know how to use a sword!"
After running down the hall, the dragon had collapsed part of it, nearly catching them, and forcing them to take the route through the kitchens where they met up with a few more soldiers that were easily dispatched. Then it was on to the torture chamber where they found a few surviving Stormcloaks fighting off the torturer. Tarrin had felled him with a single shot, but he was running low on arrows by then.
The ones he managed to salvage from his victims were still useable, but the shafts had been damaged.
That problem had been solved when his group ran into more Imperials in the lower catacombs. They had been trying to get out just as they were, but when they saw the Stormcloaks, there had been no words, only battle.
The arrows he'd taken from their quivers were lesser quality iron arrow as opposed to the steel arrows he'd found outside. To top things off, when they'd made it past the soldiers, they had encountered a group of frostbite spiders. Ralof had been reluctant to fight as in the last battle, one of the Imperials had grazed his shoulder with their sword, leaving him lame. Tarrin had managed to take the spiders out with a few well placed shots, thankfully.
Now they stood, catching their breath, against the stone walls of the caverns.
"Think it'll be safe once we get out of here?" Tarrin asked.
"Safe enough," Ralof said, "Where you headed after this?"
"Back to Falkreath," Tarrin grinned, "I made a few friends there, and I'll be able to make a few Septims doing odd jobs around the city."
"A fine idea," Ralof said, "I'll be headed home to Riverwood for a while to lay low...I probably shouldn't ask this of you, lad, but if you're ever in the area of Whiterun, go to the Jarl and tell him of this dragon attack. He'll need to know."
Tarrin nodded, "I'll do that. But this is the end of my fighting, Ralof. I can already feel the guilt of killing my kinsmen like that...even if they had it coming to them."
"Shame, you would have made a grand soldier...but I have a feeling that you'll be fighting again some time soon." He said, looking grim, "There's a storm coming, lad, and neither you nor I can stop it. The Thalmor won't stand for Ulfric going free, and they'll no doubt look for you as well since some of the Imperials escaped along with that Thalmor bitch we saw."
Tarrin nodded, pushing off the wall, "I'll be sure to remember that...this is where I leave you, though. It's probably best if we split up before we get out of here. I can go unseen by most if I want to, but with two of us, it'd be easier to spot us."
"Agreed," Ralof said, smiling, extending his hand, "Do yourself a favor, and find a good woman to go with that heart of your's, lad."
Tarrin reached out and shook his hand, his face slightly red from his friend's comment, "You as well, friend." And with that, Tarrin took off down the cave, heading for the light ahead of him.
Well, what do you think? Is it worth continuing? Please review and let me know!