It was the type of day that didn't give you immediate cause for alarm but this being the mountains of Skyrim you had to always be ready for random foolishness to try and kill you. Sure, everything could be nice and quiet but then a troll comes out from behind a tree, a lost cliff racer takes a dive at you, some demon materializes from oblivion, and to top it all of it an idiot thief with nothing but a knife is actually going to try and rob you after they just saw you deal with the other three using your trusty war axe that weighs more than two bandits put together. Or as is called in Skyrim, Middas. You don't even want to know what happens on Fredas.

Helga was just finishing her efforts to preserve the meat she got from the deer. It was her personal mission to kill every last one of these monsters. It was a beautiful animal of course but to anyone who would argue that as a reason not to kill and eat them Helga had about twenty or thirty choice words to scream at them revolving around the fact that deer are actually very dangerous animals. Sure, they're nothing compared to a bear but after you've seen a deer trample an infant's head you loose all sympathy for them. Helga had occasion to bump into woodelf hunters who do some stupid religious crap and pray to the deer's spirit to explain that they need the meat. Idiot Bosmer were annoying on their best of days but before Helga would put up with seeing them do that she's slap them in the face with one of those dwarven gauntlets. The thin layer of corrosion on the metal was said to discolor the skin of Bosmer for some time afterwards.

The bears and the wolves and the who knows what else were all leaving Helga alone today. As she made her way around a bit of a lake that had formed at high altitude she saw some signs that there might be a wild boar in the area but upon closer inspection it looked like that animal had moved on. She had enough supply wise to stay up in the mountains for a long time and with the survival skills she'd picked up over the years she could likely stay up there indefinitely but that was not the plan. She liked to go hunting for about ten to fifteen days at a time and then sell her take and relax for the rest of the month. Of course if a deer dared get anywhere near her house she was going to shoot the damn thing down but she liked to control how often she went looking for trouble. Speaking of trouble, she wondered if that alchemist squatter would be at her house again. She had to run him off the last time.

The next day would be her last day. She would camp that night and head down the mountain in the morning. There didn't seem to be anything going on at all. It was an uncharacteristically quiet day. She could see Stendarr's beacon in the distance and the smoke from Red Mountain beyond that. She knew as long as she could see the beacon she was still in Skyrim and hadn't crossed the border into Cyrodiil.

It was about midday when Helga realized that it was actually a bit too quiet. The ambient sounds of birds, wind, leaves were somehow less. Not just less, they were missing. She brought her hand to her sword scabbard to pat it and sure enough her ears were working. Maybe she was just spooking herself. It was definitely time to head down the mountain and get some in time with other people.

Other people. She usually couldn't stand them. They were so … uniformed. "Oh no, I don't have enough salt to cook the dinner I want. Dear me, I can't find a good oven. How do you mix these ingredients together again. Someone please help me." Most other people were a bunch of whiners. Helga wanted to sit them down give them all a good talking to about just how harsh and cruel the real world was. You didn't get to experience the real world sitting safe and secure behind a city wall. You had to go out there and live it. You had to go out and find the monsters that ruined your life and pay them back … Every last one of them. Other people didn't understand. When Helga tried to explain they would patronize her with by trying to show "empathy". She didn't need their pity. That would not reverse what happened. The only thing Helga cared about was systematically putting down every deer she could find. She was following in the footsteps of the great Jiub, the man responsible for single handedly decimating the cliff racers. Decimate wasn't even the right word since that would mean killing one in ten. Jiub was said to have brought the animals to damn near extinction. Good for him. And in time they would sing songs of Helga the great deer hunter who rid Skyrim of their menace once and for all.

As she thought of how to suffer though her two or three days in the city without decapitating anyone there came a new sound and a new scent in the air. Running for dear life a man raced down the mountain from the south. He passed through without noticing Helga, screaming like a little girl the whole way. Behind him were skeevers. They had gotten the scent of this milk drinking Imperial. He wasn't fast and didn't seem to be carrying any weapons so as soon as he was out of breath the rats would feast. There was one thing and one thing only he could do to save his life and he figured it out just in time. He jumped to grab the branch of a tree and scrambled up.

For those of you who don't know, humans had two unique abilities that made them able to survive everywhere. Unlike lower animals, humans can run very long distances without overheating. That may not seem like a big deal but it means a human can beat a horse in a long distance race on a hot day. In the south, running away from your enemy will save your life, and the farther south you go, the greater the human advantage got. Run away, use a bow, then run some more and you will eventually win. But this was not the south. This was Skyrim. That advantage was here turned into a liability. Humans could not keep warm enough and their speed suffered. That is why humans also had one other wonderful adaptation. They could jump.

It wasn't much of an advantage but the ability to jump, grab, hold on, and eventually climb up a bit just saved this guy's life. As long as he didn't fall out of the tree, have a branch break on him, or fall asleep he'd survive for at least a couple more hours up there until a random flame atronoch came along. This was Skyrim after all.

Helga let a smile materialize in her face as she watched the scene with amusement. It was like a little play. What was the milk drinker going to do? How was he going to get out of this mess? Would he ever stop screaming like a lass in pigtails? He took a moment to heal himself with some magic. It figured he'd have to be a mage. See a milk drinker, flip a coin and chances are, they're a mage.

He didn't seem to be a very good mage though. He repeatedly threw his hands at the enemy a few times in attempts at more magic. A couple of little bits of light flared up but quickly died down. He tried to get some fire going to drive off the skeevers now encircling the tree but instead of throwing flame at the rats, he lit his glove on fire and the flame quickly spread not only to his other clothes but also to the tree, its leaves, and its branches. He'd die from the smoke before he actually burned to death and the skeevers would have a nice cooked meal for a change.

Seeing this turn of events, Helga was about to run over and see what she could do to save the poor guy's life. She took her first few steps in his direction when he jumped out of the tree, threw his hands up with healing magic, and sprinted as fast as he could for the pond. Helga raced after him, dispatching skeevers as she passed them. The Imperial dived into water and hit with a splash as Helga brought the edge of her axe down on another skeever. Some of the other skeevers ran in fear of her but there was one who turned to try and take her on. Big mistake. She didn't even bother to use a weapon on it. She pinned the thing under her boot and slowly crushed its neck as it tried to free itself. It was a lost cause and Helga heard the bones make a crunchy sound and the thing stopped moving.

Helga looked up from the rat to see what had become of the Imperial. He rose out of the water, which was shallow enough to stand up in, shivering and covered in mud.

"You alright?" asked Helga.

The wimp had to get water and mud out of his eyes and face before responding. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"You saved my life." he said in a tone that indicated he really believed it.

"They're just skeevers."

"Sci – vors?"

"You're not afraid of a mouse are you?"

He as about to respond with another likely embarrassing question when the tree that had been his salvation suddenly exploded. The boom from the reaction hurt Helga's eardrums. If there were any animals around to hunt, they were long gone now.

"You're not very good with fire are you?"

He shook his head as he tried to climb out of the water and up onto the bank. "I never had any" he began as he reached up, grabbed some mud and tried to pull himself out of the hole. The mud gave way and he slid right back down to the water. Helga dropped a rope to him and he thankfully grabbed it and she pulled him out.

"Training." he said.

"What?"

"I never had any training. No one ever showed me how to use fire spells right."

"Well, try to be a bit more careful will you."

"Yeah, I know."

"What brings you to Skyrim, assuming you crossed the border on purpose and the rats didn't chase you over."

"College."

"Winterhold. Figures. What about your university thing you all have down there?"

"They rejected me."

"And you think you'll get accepted up north?"

"It's worth a shot. I have to learn from somewhere."

Helga got a fire going and found some suitable ground and started to set up camp. She hadn't exactly invited the Imperial to share her camp with her but he just looked so pitiful as he tried to warm up from the near freezing water that she wasn't going to turn him away. He was young. He'd be about the same age as … she didn't want to think about it.

The tent was up. Helga only traveled with one so the imperial would have to sleep outside. His clothes were ruined but Helga had picked up some Stormcloak armor from that thief a few days ago. That would keep him warm for the night as long as the fire didn't go out. Helga made up a meal for the afternoon and figured this would be an early night for her.

Handing the Imperial his portion she asked "So, why'd you want to go to the college instead of getting an honorable profession?"

He had a look on his face that showed his annoyance with the way the question was worded. "I'm good at two things. I can goad someone into attacking me and then I can heal myself after the inevitable beating."

"Nothing else?"

"I was starting to get good with a bow."

"That'll serve you well up here I can tell you."

"I gave it up. I decided to try and become a healer instead."

"I don't know how things work in Cyrodiil but up here, you won't always survive an attack long enough to heal yourself. You're going to need to learn how to defend yourself too."

"I can see that now."

"My name's Helga by the way."

"I'm Drag."

"Drag? Tell me it's short for something."

"Oh it is."

"Well?"

"Draconigenus."

Helga laughed and shook her head. "You Imperials have the stupidest names."

"That's not even half of it."

"Come on. Let's hear."

"Draconigenus Nefasvorator Cordraconis III."

"The third? How could anyone with that name ever sire the second?"

"My family used to be rich."

"Used to be?"

"Yeah. Anyway, I got stuck with a name so ancient that only vampires remember what it means."

"Well, Drag, do you have a plan for how you're going to get all the way to Winterhold?"

"Follow the road and hope I don't get killed."

"You're going to need a better plan than that."

"I used to have a horse but I was robbed on my way to the border."

"And they only left you with the clothes on your back."

"Yeah, but I don't think they'll be very happy with their haul."

"Really? How so?"

"I put an enchantment on my staff. The farther away from me it gets, the heavier it and everything around it becomes."

"They could just drop it."

"Not this staff they can't. Since the effect is an area enchantment they wouldn't even know it was the staff and even if they did, the staff refuses to be dropped. Maybe one day I'll go back to Cyrodiil and pass by and see the whole gang of bandits with their lower halves sunken into the ground and their upper halves eaten by lions which … would still be right there, unable to escape now that I think about it."

"And you mages wonder why the rest of us hate you."

"Right because it would have been better if I had just put arrows through all of them."

"What about hunters, or soldiers or just some wonderer who happens onto the bandit camp and gets trapped? You didn't think about them."

"Um," he was speechless. "That's a good point actually."

"You go playing with things you don't understand and don't even bother to think things through."

"I have a lot to learn I know. But magic is the only way."

"Why? You could join the legion."

"I was in the legion. That's where I learned to use a bow."

"Why didn't you stay?"

"I need to get better at magic."

"Right. Because you're obviously so good at it."

"I have my own reasons."

"Did the legion let you out or are you a deserter?"

"I never finished training so I was never sworn in."

"And that's why you didn't go to college in Cyrodiil. You knew they could come and get you at any moment so you decided to hide out in Winterhold."

"I really do want to learn. You wouldn't understand but magic is important to me."

"The legion has battlemages."

"I want to be a healer."

"A healer?"

"Yeah, a healer. Is there something wrong with that?"

"Then why don't you join the temple? I'm sure the legion would let you out to do that."

"I … don't believe."

"Excuse me."

"I don't believe. The temple, the gods, the daedra; I don't believe in any of it."

"I can assure you they're real."

"I know they're real. That's not what I meant. I don't believe in it. I don't trust the temple. The Aedra are nothing more than Daedra that don't want to just kill you right away."

"So you believe the gods exist but don't believe they exist. I don't understand."

"When I say I don't believe what I mean is I don't think they are worthy of my worship. I know full well they're up there. I just don't think they care about us at all."

Helga eyed the young Imperial. "You haven't joined the cult of Black Marsh have you?"

"No. I haven't joined any cult. That's the point. None of them deserve my worship. None of them. They can see what's going on down here. They know. They aren't blind but they won't do a thing. They won't lift a finger to help anyone."

"Calm down."

"Sorry. I just, … I get fed up."

"Who died?"

"What?"

"Usually people aren't this passionate unless they lose someone."

"My mom." he relented.

"What happened?"

"I went home to the family farm. It used to be an 'estate'." he said in false grandeur "but more recently was down graded to just a farm." There was obviously a lot more to the story but he stopped right there. He cleared his throat. "We traveled to a big event down in Skingrad for the crowning of the new count. On the way we met up with a group of dignitaries and we figured safety in numbers. We never saw what hit us. Assassins had us surrounded. They had hired mercenaries to soften up the guards before moving in to kill their target. They were Dark Brotherhood, no doubt. They must have gotten their man but in the process a lot of people died."

"You mother?"

"She wasn't dead. Not yet. She was injured. The healers and alchemists were working as fast as they could to get to everyone but it was taking too much time. I've always been a bit gifted in healing magic. I could heal myself with no problem. I haven't got a scare on my whole body but that's not for lack of trying to get one. Healing myself, that's easy. Healing my mom, I just didn't know how to do it. It tried. I did try. I hoped that if I could just keep her alive long enough for one of the real healers to get to her then she'd be alright but …" He tapered off.

"It wasn't enough."

"No. I was an archer. I was right there with my legion buddies taking shots and trying to hold them off but in the end we didn't need one more archer. We needed one more healer."

"What was her name?"

"My mom?"

"Yeah."

"Aurelia."

"Aurelia, mother of the man who is to become the greatest healer in the history of Tamriel."

Drag winced in embarrassment.

"I'll sing to her." said Helga. "We'll raise our voices and raise our glasses to her memory." She looked at the young man. She thought she could almost see her own son in him. "Then, in the morning I'll take you down to the road and on my life I'll see you get to Winterhold in one piece."

"Thank you."

That was the plan. That was the mission. Suddenly Helga didn't care about killing deer. All she wanted to do in life was help this young man get to his goal.

The night was very uneventful. Helga decided to share her tent with Drag and while a proper Nord man would have taken that as an invitation to a lewd joke or two and a couple of half attempts at copulation in the night, the young Imperial was nothing but the perfect gentleman he claimed to be. Helga had one of the best nights sleep she'd had in twenty years.

The morning was cold and damp. What else could it ever be? This was Skyrim. Helga was picking up the camp while Drag crawled out of the tent. Her mind was going through a checklist of all the things she needed to do before heading down to the road. She had her plan to pass by Iverstad and go north. It was a long trek all the way up to Winterhold. It would take several days and Windhelm was out of the way so she'd have to wait until Winterhold to barter. A little bit less out of the way was an inn on a lake that they could stay at if the timing was right.

Drag was shivering and rubbing his hands together when an arrow flew past him and struck Helga right in the chest. The impact of the strike knocked her off her feet and gravity brought her right back to the ground. It didn't kill her right away but she was helpless on the ground, unable to scream or yell out in pain. She felt blood guzzle up and spill out of her mouth. Her heart hammered hard to try and do its job but it was a loosing battle. She looked on as the Imperial Legion soldiers took turns beating Drag to the ground and kicking him over and over again. Helga saw but could not act as the Imperials were putting a bag over his head at the command of some young female officer with an attitude and a helmet that had a fake mohawk.

"That'll teach you to run out on me." she said to Drag. "Kiss a girl and think you don't have to mean it. Men are all the same; less than worthless."

"Captain" interrupted on of her soldiers.

She turned to face him. "Report."

"General Tullius saw our banner. His runner says they've captured Ulfrick Stormcloack but they request assistance transporting the rebels to ensure they don't escape. We need to get out of this hold and into Imperial controlled territory."

A huge smile came to the captain's face. "Pack this piece of garbage up and bring him with us. If I know the general he's not going to waste any time crossing the border. Get this prisoner in with his group."

"Yes, Captain."

She turned to address Drag. "Jure Viri. Till death do us part."

The last thing Helga saw before her spirit left this world was one of the soldiers dragging the young man away. He was going to learn to be a healer and she could sure use some healing now. If she were even a tenth as gifted as a healer as he was she might actually survive this. But as it was she died sure in the knowledge that the young Imperial who had crossed the border was going to get his head cut off. Only a miracle could save him but the gods weren't in the habit of granting those to mortals who didn't believe.