Being out on patrol during the night never was one of Thorin's favorite things, especially not when he was stationed in the hold of the Pale. Thorin may have been a Nord, and a proud one at that, but if he had been able to choose for his own, he would most likely have picked someplace warmer.
But at the very least he could comfort himself with the fact that Dawnstar, while being a fairly small town, was of strategic importance due to its small port. The same could not be said about Winterhold; where there even seemed to be endless blizzards according to some of the soldiers who had been stationed there previously.
But no matter what Thorin thought of being out in the cold, and no matter how much he would rather be inside Fort Dunstad and drinking mead with his brothers in arms, not once did he ever complain. He was proud to be among the Stormcloaks, and he would happily do whatever duty was bestowed upon him.
While it was a peaceful night, he wasn't letting his guard down for even a second. Imperial soldiers could choose to attack anytime. Reinforcement were supposed to be sent to Fort Dunstad, but they had yet to arrive which had made his brothers within the fort anxious. If the Imperials decided to attack the fort right now, they would be severely under-manned.
But if the time would come, they would fight to the last man, regardless of whether the reinforcements had arrived or not.
Thorin continued walking alongside the wall, keeping an eye out for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. There was no wind brewing, no snow falling, no visible moons. It was just the stars shining above, but while they were pretty Thorin never was much for star-gazing. Instead he continued to walk along.
It was only when the night sky seemed glow brighter, that Thorin took a second to glance upwards. And there was the one thing that had the mesmerizing power to draw his gaze towards it and make him lose whatever thought he had on his mind.
The northern lights had appeared as from nowhere, and whatever caused it was not known to Thorin. But it didn't matter to him, as it was a very beautiful sight to catch. It wasn't the most uncommon sight around Skyrim, especially not in the northern parts of the province. But no matter how many times Thorin would witness this phenomena, he never grew tired of it.
As the blue and green lights danced above in the sky, he couldn't help but think back to the first time the northern lights had appeared before his very own eyes.
"Thorin, wake up!" Leif whispered as he shook Thorin.
"What is it?" Thorin mumbled tiredly.
"You need to come and see this!" his older brother said with excitement in his voice.
"Fine…" Thorin said reluctantly as he sat up in his bed and rubbed his eyes. He then got out of his bed and followed Leif as quietly as possible, careful to not wake their parents up.
Whatever Leif had woken him up to; it better be important.
They snuck out of the cottage and into the night, and then Leif stopped right in the middle of the clearing, as he looked up and pointed towards the sky.
"Look!" he said to Thorin, who looked up to the night sky as well and what he saw made him stand there with his mouth wide open in awe.
Above the two brothers, streaks of lights seemed to dance in a rhythm as they shined at the ground below. The young boys had never seen anything like this before.
"Do you know what that is?" Thorin asked his older brother.
"No idea," Leif answered as he shook his head, "but it sure is pretty."
Thorin nodded in agreement. "Aye, it is."
As they stood there and admired the lights dancing above them, none of them noticed their father walking up to them.
"What are you boys doing out here in the middle of the night?" The brothers jumped at the sudden appearance of their father. There was no anger in his voice though.
"We're just catching the dancing lights," Leif answered with some shame in his voice. Thorin felt shame as well, as he now was looking down at the ground. But their father only smiled at them.
"I remember catching my first sight of the northern lights," he began telling in his calm voice. "It was like nothing I had ever seen before. It made all of my thoughts to go away, as all I could do was admiring how beautiful it was."
Neither Thorin nor Leif said anything as their father told them this, and as they looked at each other they saw that they were equally surprised by this. They had expected their father to yell at them for being outside in the middle of the night, not to join them in watching the northern lights as their father had called them.
"You know," their father then said, "when those lights appear, it's our ancestors coming to visit us. They sit up there and look down at us, and they smile at us."
"Really?!" The brothers said in unison.
"Really," their father answered with a cheerful grin.
That night had only been the first of many where Thorin had been able to witness the northern lights dancing above. But the first night he caught the sight of the lights would always be the most memorable to him, because even though he still never grew tired of watching the lights, nothing would ever beat witnessing them for the first time when one doesn't even know what it is.
He also remembered that night clearly, as it also happened to be the last time he ever saw his father.
His father had left before sunrise, as he had journeyed to Cyrodiil to join the Imperial Legion and fight against the damned elves in the Great War. When the war was over, they were expecting their father to come home in any day. But instead, an Imperial soldier showed up at their home, claiming to have served with their father, and brought them the news that their father had fallen on the field at Anvil.
The grave news had hit Thorin and his family very hard, and for Thorin and his brother it was hard to say farewell to their father before either of them had reached manhood. But there were two thoughts that managed to give him comfort. His father had fallen in battle with an axe in his hand, having sent numerous elves to wherever they went when they died; and thus his father would live on well in Sovngarde.
And then there were also his father's own words about the northern light. "When these lights appear, it's our ancestors coming to visit us", his father had said that night. And whenever these northern lights appeared, Thorin found comfort in that his father was watching down at him and his brother from the dancing lights.
Even now, many winters later, Thorin would still look up at the northern lights and think about his father. But as of lately, the thoughts had shifted to a question. "Are my father proud of me?" Thorin would ask himself every time, because he was fighting against the very same Empire that his father had fought for. But those had also been different times, as everything changed when the Empire signed that treaty with the damned elves, outlawing the worship of Talos.
But would his father still approve of that? That was a question that Thorin would never know the answer for.
Ever since the civil war had erupted, Thorin had always thought that Ulfric Stormcloak had the right idea. Yet he hadn't joined the Stormcloaks to fight the Empire right away. But here he was, patrolling along the walls of Fort Dunstad in the name of Ulfric.
And the reason he had joined the war after all, was because it was not only his father that was watching him from Sovngarde.
Thorin walked with the wooden logs in his arms towards the cottage. During the last hours, he had piled up as much wood as he could. Winter was still a few months away, but even so it was always a good idea to prepare as much as possible and then brace for the winter to come.
As he returned home, he was greeted by the sight of his lovely wife Helga. She waved at him, and then immediately put her hand on her belly. She had gotten quite big, and the baby was seemingly already causing some trouble. For a moment it looked like she would throw up, but Helga managed just fine. Just as she always did.
He could still not believe that in a few months' time, he would become a father. A thought that even now seemed like it was not real, and more of something from a dream. But it was real, and so far he had not panicked at the fact just yet. But if Helga's words were to be believed, it was only a matter of time.
But then a frown appeared on Helga's face, as she had caught sight of something, and then her expression changed to one of shock. Thorin knew something was wrong. He looked at the same direction, and froze at what he saw.
There was a man coming out from the woods, and he was wearing a Stormcloak uniform. His hand was clutching his side, and even though his face was covered in a combination of dirt and blood, Thorin recognized the man's facial features and his red hair.
It was his older brother Leif.
Thorin dropped the wooden lodges he was carrying, and ran up to his brother.
"Leif, what happened? Are you alright?" the questions blurted out of him.
"Not here, I've been hunted by Imperial soldiers, I managed to shake them off but I can't risk being out in the open…" Thorin supported his brother and walked quickly with him inside the cottage. He helped Leif sit down, and Helga was already gathering some things that would help Leif with his wounds.
"I'm sorry to intrude like this, and I know I'm putting both of you, as well as your baby, in great risk by showing up here… But I had nowhere else to go…"
"There's no need to apologize! We will both help you out no matter the cost," Helga said.
"Which I'm grateful for," Leif said as Helga went back to gathering her ingredients in order to brew a healing potion.
"So, what happened? You were being chased by Imperials?" Thorin asked his brother.
"Yeah… I was part of a group that was traveling with Ulfric himself. But the damn Imperials ambushed us… We were outnumbered, and eventually Ulfric ordered us to surrender. But I managed to escape before the Imperial dogs could put me on that wagon."
"And then I ran … I knew the Imperials were after me, as I could hear their heavy armor in the distance. I managed to shake them off, but for all I know they might still be after me."
"That's quite a tale there brother, but you're safe now. Just be still and I'm sure Helga will finish that health potion soon," Thorin said reassuringly as he got up to check how Helga was doing.
"Damn it!" she exclaimed.
"What's wrong?" Thorin asked.
"I don't have enough ingredients to brew that potion. Could you run to Falkreath and get some blue mountain flowers?"
"Of course!" he said, and quickly got out of the cottage and steered his way towards Falkreath. He walked in a quick pace; he was not sure how bad Leif's wounds were but at the same time he didn't want to attract any attention from any potential Imperial soldiers. Falkreath was after all in the hands of the Imperials.
Luckily, the trip to Falkreath was uneventful. He bought some blue mountain flowers from the alchemy shop, and then was quickly on his way back.
When he finally arrived back at the cottage, the sight made his heart stop.
Three Imperial soldiers were gathered outside the cottage, and they were dragging Leif outside the cottage. They threw him at the ground and before Thorin could react one of the soldiers cut his head off with a greatsword.
"No!" Thorin screamed, as he dropped the flowers on the ground and ran at the Imperial soldiers. He brandished the woodcutting axe that he was always carrying around, and aimed his first strike at the nearest soldier. The axe went right into the surprised soldier's face, and Thorin could hear the cracks as his axe penetrated the soldier's skull with force.
As he pulled his axe from the now dead soldier, the other soldier right next to him drew his swords and went for Thorin's gut. Thorin jumped back, and then tried the same attack as he had done on the first soldier, but this one parried the attack away with his sword.
Thorin kicked at the soldier, and when he doubled over Thorin quickly hacked away several times at the soldiers back. The soldier dropped down on the ground, where he slowly bled out.
Thorin now turned his attention to the last soldier, who unlike the others were covered in heavy armor and were carrying the greatsword that had ended Leif's life. Thorin and the remaining Imperial soldier circled around each other, and then they both charged forward to initiate the dance of death. Thorin ducked as the soldier swung his sword in a level that would have cut off Thorin's head had he not reacted.
Thorin tried to find an opening, but whenever he thought he had one in sight, the soldier would parry his attack. But then finally, the Imperial made a move that Thorin dodged, and he saw an opening at the neck. He swung his axe hard, and with a heavy thud helmet landed on the ground, and the body collapsed without a head.
Thorin dropped his axe and ran towards the cottage, his heart in his throat as his greatest fear was being formed in his mind. When he got to the door, he saw Helga's body lying still on the floor, a dagger in her hand, a wound in her stomach and lots of blood surrounding her.
He ran to her and shook her, hoping she would wake up. But she was already gone.
He collapsed on the ground, tears forming in eyes at his loss and he screamed.
Once again Thorin felt sorrow when thinking back to that day, and even though a few months had passed it still felt like it was just last week that the Imperials took everything he had away from him.
After he had given them both a proper burial, he had travelled to Helgen the next day. He couldn't stand being in Falkreath anymore, he had to get somewhere else, where he wouldn't have to see the Imperial dogs.
And in Helgen, an extraordinary thing had happened. Just as he had arrived, he saw the damned Imperials setting up the execution for Ulfric Stormcloak and some of his closest men. But just when they had cut off the head of a red-headed Nord that even in the face of death showed great despise towards the Imperials, a big dragon had appeared out of nowhere.
In the chaos that had erupted, Thorin helped out a Stormcloak to escape, who later revealed his name to be Ralof. When they had gotten to Riverwood where Ralof's sister lived, he had asked Thorin if he by chance wished to join the Stormcloaks.
He didn't hesitate when he had said yes.
He hadn't hesitated again when he had approached Ulfric Stormcloak, and he had asked Thorin if he wanted to join his cause.
And all those moments had led to him being stationed at Fort Dunstad in the cold lands of the Pale. Despite the fact he was still a relatively fresh recruit into the Stormcloaks, his ranks had rose fairly quick and words were spoken about him, how fierce in battle he was and fearless about death.
Of course, death was not something Thorin feared, seeing as he had nothing to lose at all. In fact, he had more to gain by dying as he would be reunited with his loved ones in Sovngarde. But if he were to die, he would to do so in battle, so he could face his family with honor.
He caught some movement among the trees surrounding the fort. He looked carefully at the area where the sound had come from, but he couldn't see anything. Just as he was about to continue on his patrol, he heard something from the same area again and when he looked he saw an Imperial scout hiding behind some bushes.
"The Imperials are here!" he shouted, as he picked up his horn and blew in it. The quiet fort erupted into life as all soldiers within rushed to gather their weapons, armors and whatnot, and he could hear the Imperials swear as they had been discovered earlier than they had planned. Thorin picked up his two-handed axe, and he could feel the adrenaline building up in his body.
Archers took their position along the walls, and started raining arrows at the approaching Legion soldiers. The Imperials responded by shooting their own arrows, and when Thorin looked up he even saw a fellow Stormcloak being hit by an ice bolt, completely encasing her in ice.
"They have a Battlemage," Thorin thought to himself.
Thorin and the rest of the soldiers that were not carrying a bow positioned themselves in two groups behind the gates, as undoubtedly the Imperials would barge in in any second. Soldiers carrying shields took point, and they all waited for the inevitable.
Finally, the gates were opened and the Imperials poured into the fort, rushing towards the awaiting Stormcloak soldiers. Thorin and his comrades in arms shouted their battle cries as they ran towards the Imperial forces, and they clashed together.
Thorin swung his large axe at a soldier from above with such force; the Imperial almost got split into two. He then started cutting his way through the oncoming Imperials. The lack of fear made him an almost unstoppable force in battle, and Imperial soldiers fell left and right when he swung his giant axe. Blood splattered across his face for each soldier he slew in battle
Then Thorin laid eyes upon the officer leading the battle. He was clad in heavy Imperial armor, but instead of a helmet he wore a hood over his head. That must be the Battlemage, he figured. The Battlemage held a sword in his right hand, and his left hand undoubtedly was building up a spell.
The Battlemage saw Thorin had his gaze at him, and shot the spell at him. Thorin dodged the spell, and before the Battlemage could summon another he ran up to the Battlemage and swung his axe. The Imperial ducked to avoid the axe coming at him, and tried to swipe at Thorin's legs with his sword. Thorin jumped back quickly, but not quickly enough as the sword hit his left leg.
Yet, the Nord continued with the battle as if nothing had hit him. He swung his axe again, but the Imperial managed to get out of range again. He was about to swing his axe once again, and as he lifted it the Battlemage rushed at him. He brought the axe down where the Imperial once had stood, but missed, and then he felt a great pain in his stomach. He looked down, and saw the deep wound caused by the Battlemage's sword.
Thorin dropped his axe, and as he fell on his knees, he put his hands on the wound as if to keep the blood and his guts inside. He felt the blood leaving his body and coming out through the wound. As the blood leaked out of him and there was no way he could stop it from leaving the wound, he felt how he got weaker and weaker.
As he coughed up some blood, he fell down on the ground on his back, and as he looked up at the sky the northern lights above was still shining above. It even seemed like they were shining even brighter than before.
He knew that death was coming in just a few moments. He smiled up at the dancing lights above. He had fought honorable in battle, and now he would be rewarded by seeing the ones he had loved and lost again. With his dying breath, he said "Sovngarde… here I come…"
And then, as the northern lights faded from the sky, his soul departed from his mortal body.