Pain. Like no other he'd experienced; the slow numbness of his body succumbing to its wounds is an insufficient blanket for the alerts blaring through his nerves, the smell of his own blood clouding his senses, his stomach burning hellfire broken by the blade; the complete shutdown of the senses at the inability to parse anything of what was going on. The death of empires. Incoherent alarm; I AM BLEEDING. IS THIS PAIN?

And then — darkness.

Unconscious but half-aware, a distant sensation. Impossible. As if being gently carried through his sleep. He can feel something pass him by, but what it was eluded him.

The darkness ends. Light — and a cold, sharp wind.

Bright Sanguinius, the Great Angel, is whole again, miraculously. Consciousness comes to him slowly. He's lying down. He can feel some type of rope binding his hands together, his feet, his wings, cold air, a distinctive smell — Fenris? No, not Fenris, but. Similar. His armor gone, replaced with something thin, ill fitting. Being carried somewhere. On — something? — he feels through the thin clothes; wood, old and worn. He opens his eyes.

"Hey, you," greets the man across from him, tilting his head to look at Sanguinius. "You're finally awake."

Sanguinius squints at him, confused. He tries to sit up and suddenly feels a sharp pain through his torso; he gasps.

"Easy there," the man across him tells him, gesturing with bound hands. "They found you near the border. Huge man like you, these Imperials probably want to study you. Us and that thief over there, we won't be so lucky."

"What are you talking about— Imperials?" Sanguinius says. Where am I?

Another man near the other end of the cart, squished between a few blondes around the height of Sanguinius's knees, huffs. Afraid. "Damn you Stormcloaks. Skyrim was fine until you came along. Empire was nice and lazy."

Sanguinius's eyes widen. "Lazy?!"

"If they hadn't been looking for you, I could've stolen that horse and been halfway to Hammerfell." The dark-haired man sighs. "You there. You and me — we shouldn't be here. It's these Stormcloaks the Empire wants."

Sanguinius blinks. "The... Empire?" He means the Imperium, right? This must be some local dialect. Where is he? Where has he gone— is he dreaming? He must be dreaming, he decides. He's been knocked unconscious by Hor— by the traitor and dreamed of some bizarre Fenrisian pastiche.

A strident voice comes from the front of the cart, asking them to shut up. The dark-haired complainer shakes his head, then points at the man in marginally more elegant clothes who's squished against him. "And what's wrong with him?", he hisses.

"Watch your tongue!", the first man chastises him. "You're speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King." He gestures towards the man, whom Sanguinius can now see is muffled. A dream, he rationalizes. Feudal worlders? Some ancient fantasy like that stories found by Ma— the stories found years ago, by the Imperium, that he'd so greatly enjoyed. He could do this. Stranger things had happened to him. A high king. All right.

"Ulfric? The Jarl of Windhelm?", the dark-haired man babbles out, incredulous. "You're the leader of the rebellion," he adds, conveniently for Sanguinius. Rebellion. Noted. "But if they captured you... Oh gods, where are they taking us?" Nowhere good? He'll be hard to kill.

"I don't know where we're going, but Sovngarde awaits," the blonde responds. He seems like he's accepted it. Wait—

"Sovngarde?", Sanguinius questions, as the dark-haired man freaks out. "What is that?"

The blonde looks at him with confusion. "The afterlife," he says. "The place you go after you die?"

Sanguinius is about to ask more questions when one of the soldiers in the front of the cart throws a large cloth over him. "Can't let him be seen," the soldier says out loud, and then there's some chatter. The Primarch is too shocked momentarily to do anything; he then easily snaps his bindings. He tries to sit up again; the pain is still there, but relents enough for him to uncover his face and turn around a bit.

They're in a town. He can see people surrounding them, curious; quite a few sneak glances at him, but he's been effectively disguised as cargo. Not bad.

"Shor, Mara, Dibella, Kynareth, Akatosh. Divines, please help me," the dark-haired man prays. So they're that primitive. A problem for later.

The blonde man scoffs. "Look at him, General Tullius the Military Governor. And it looks like the Thalmor are with him. Damn elves. I bet they had something to do with this." Elves? A faint memory; maybe vaguely based on eldar. Xenos? Mutants? Crossbreeds? Sanguinius is unsure, but the possibilities aren't pretty. And aiding the Empire? Strange. ...He has no room to judge, but he doesn't have to like it. The man chatters on about the town, but Sanguinius only barely hears him; there is chatter among the crowd. Then, the tarp is thrown over his head again.

Sanguinius zones out. This seems real, yet could only be a strange dream. Maybe a particularly vivid one. Whatever it is, he'll deal with it as it comes. He hears vague chatter, something religious, and then the unmistakable sound of a man being decapitated, and another being shot with an arrow. He tries to sit up a third time and, though the pain is great (and unfun, which he's not used to), he manages to shed it just as screams start ringing in his ears.

And then Sanguinius looks up and sees a great beast, covered in black scales, breathing fire on the city.

He tries to stand on his feet, but it hurts, unfamiliar and yet foreseen, and nearly stumbles to the ground. He manages to stand, assisting himself on the cart, and steps down from it. People look at him and gasp. He flaps his wings; he's too weak to fly. The great beast roars when it sees him, and tries to set him on fire. Sanguinius dodges by a hair. Thank his Father for his reflexes. Everything — he belatedly realizes — is on fire; a child squeals and hides inside his home.

The great creature is perched atop a tower. Sanguinius runs across the yard, bare feet on a familiar mixture of blood and dirt, and jumps on the tower, grabbing its stone bricks from above. He climbs, teeth gritted in pain. The beast takes flight before he can grab it, and he lets go of the tower to jump to a next building. The floor collapses under Sanguinius's weight and he's on the ground, inside a burning building, watching an entire town look at him in awe. He grunts ungracefully and stands up with some difficulty. When he climbs out from the building, the beast is flying overhead, occasionally spitting fire on the people town is done for, turned into ruins and ash.

Two men are arguing in front of him. The blonde from the cart — Ralof, according to his interlocutor —, and another one, a dark-haired man in strange armor — it reminds him vaguely of... Angron's? Well.

Ralof calls out to him, and Sanguinius follows after him, ducking under the door of some sort of building.

Inside, there are no windows. The ceiling's too low for Sanguinius, and he has to duck to fit. Disconcerted by the recent events, Sanguinius watches as Ralof discovers the body of a dead comrade and briefly mourns for him. Sanguinius puts his hand on his shoulder, confused but attempting to support his fellow man; Ralof dismisses him with a gesture. And then, Ralof tells him to take his gear.

Sanguinius stares at him, confused. "...His gear," he repeats, glancing at the body half his size currently lying on the floor.

"...Uh," Ralof says, an invisible script broken. "Might be a tight fit, true. We'll get you actual armor, eventually... But I figure you could still use his axe, right?"

I miss my power armor, Sanguinius thinks but doesn't say. Instead, he says, "The axe might be too small for me, too."

"Then we're in trouble."

"Not as much as you'd think," Sanguinius breezily replies. "I'm not as good bare-handed as some of my brothers are — were," he adds with a pang of sadness, "but I'm not too bad."

"You're a warrior?", Ralof asks, an eyebrow raised. He eyes Sanguinius's wings.

Sanguinius smiles. "Far more than that," he begins — but he's interrupted by a small group of other humans storming inside the room. They're wearing that strange red armor that reminds him of Angron's, once upon a time. The humans hold up axes and swords intimidatingly, but as soon as they see Sanguinius, they start cowering; of course.

Sanguinius gestures at the entrance with his head, looking at one of the humans blocking it in the eyes. His eyes widen and he pushes his fellow soldiers to the side. "Follow me," Sanguinius tells Ralof, and they make their way fairly uneventfully through the following catacombs.

The ceiling increasingly lowers; Sanguinius finds he has to walk through most of them practically bent at the waist, but it's worth it for his presence's (expected, but always welcome) ability to make anyone gulp and stand back. A few brave men try to come at him, in one later hallway, and Sanguinius doesn't even need to get his hands dirty; one push with his wings is enough to throw them to the ground, mostly unharmed, and after that they easily give up.

The dungeon turns, eventually, into a cavern. There's a constant background noise, like footsteps on gravel and water trickling through the cave, and Sanguinius's pupils widen a bit to accommodate for the lack of light. As they walk, Ralof occasionally glances at Sanguinius, then away from him, until finally, he asks,

"...Troll's blood, what—where are you from?"

Sanguinius looks at him, and Ralof notices his strange eyes. "Baal Secundus," Sanguinius answers, a bit distracted. Still in high alert.

"Never heard of it. Where's that?" (To Ralof, the name sounds just a bit like somewhere in Morrowind — but this man doesn't look like an elf. He doesn't look like anything he's ever seen or heard of, except maybe some strange Daedric creature, or... no, he couldn't be — could he?)

"Orbiting Baal, in the Baal system," Sanguinius says. "A long distance away from here. Though, speaking of which... where are we?"

(Orbiting? System?) "We're in the province of Skyrim," Ralof replies.

"I'm aware. I meant, what planet are we on?" And Sanguinius looks back at Ralof like he hasn't said the strangest thing in the world.

"Planet?" Ralof frowns. "What do you mean? Skyrim is in Tamriel, and Tamriel is on Nirn— what are you?", he blurts out. He has the decency to look ashamed after those words, but Sanguinius takes it in stride.

"I am Sanguinius," he says, "Primarch of the Blood Angels Legion, son of the Emperor of Mankind. ...Though by how our conversation has been going, I figure that doesn't mean much to you."

"No, not at all," Ralof sighs. "Son of what Emperor, the current one?"

"The current one?"

"Titus Mede II."

"Oh, then no, it isn't him. My father does not have... a name." He's never questioned it, but now that he mentions it, it's a bit strange.

"And you're, uh— 'Primarch' of another Legion? Like the Imperial one?," Ralof begins, but Sanguinius shushes him. "What?"

"Living creatures, close by." Sanguinius is listening very intently to something. (Something completely inaudible to Ralof). "Large critters up ahead, some kind of giant—" scorpion? No, "—giant spider?"

"Frost spiders? Where?" Ralof turns around to look, but finds no spiders.

"Up ahead," Sanguinius says, "I can hear them crawling."

"...You have fine hearing, friend," Ralof sighs.

"You could say that," Sanguinius says, and then moves faster than Ralof can even see — reappears a great distance away from him, already grabbing a spider by one of its legs and swatting it ferociously onto the ground. It breaks. The liquid inside it leaves a splatter on the ground. Before Ralof can even process, Sanguinius is on the other end of the room, and two more spiders lay dead.

Ralof yelps with surprise and hurries forward. "How did you do that?" he asks, puzzled. "That was— you can't move that fast."

Sanguinius smiles at him beatifically. "I am not a mere human. I am a Primarch, I've told you." His smile turns a bit more sheepish, and spider juice drips down the rags he wears. "I'm surprised you don't know of us— I thought all the Imperium was aware of our existence."

"The Imperium— you mean the Empire?" Ralof squints at him. The cave is darker here, in the increased absence of glowing mushrooms, possibly thanks to the spiders' nesting.

"No," Sanguinius tuts, "the Imperium of Man. ...Though, Imperium does translate to 'Empire' in some ancient language or another." He attempts to pat his shirt dry, to no avail, ignoring Ralof's confusion, and grimaces when he can't get it clean. "Let's move on."

They walk quietly for a moment. Sanguinius's long strides take effort to catch up with, but Ralof just takes the time to think — try to process what is being told to him.

"...what I don't understand," Ralof finally says, "is what a primark is."

"Primarch," Sanguinius corrects.

"Right, primarck," Ralof says, nodding. "Is it some kind of— um." (This is an awkward question). "Are you... a daedra of some kind?"

Sanguinius frowns. "Daedra? What is that?"

"Spirits and beings, from Oblivion." (Or something. He doesn't know the details).

"I'm not a spirit, and I don't come from Oblivion, wherever it may be." Sanguinius suddenly feels homesick, but not for a place — rather, for the time where he would've laughed at Ralof, told him there was no such thing as spirits. He was wiser now. He wishes he wasn't.

"So you're a man. A man with wings. Alright," Ralof sighs. "A very tall man with wings. A half giant?" (How can he be so tall, otherwise?)

"Half giant? Well, my father is usually about fourteen feet tall," Sanguinius replies, humorously.

Ralof nods. That makes sense. The wings— the wings he'll deal with later, but at least the height made sense. A half man, half whatever... huge creature... fourteen feet sounded too tall for a giant, but. Hm. He'd deal with this later. For now, escaping— the dragon, oh gods, he'd almost forgotten he'd seen a dragon— was the priority—

Sanguinius stops Ralof with a hand to his chest. "Something else ahead," he says. "Let me deal with it."

"Alright," Ralof says, nodding. "Feel free to… to deal with it, friend."

Sanguinius looks at him and nods back, once, and is then gone. After a second there's a distant roar, and sounds of struggle. Ralof hurries up after Sanguinius, but by the time he arrives, he finds the bear he was wrestling with is dead.

"...You wrestled a bear to death," he says, distant with surprise. "With your bare hands."

Sanguinius blinks at him. "What, like it's hard?"

"...Yes," Ralof says, astounded. "It should be. ...Let's just go, the exit's near."

When they leave the cavern, Sanguinius finds himself in a forest, with a dirt road moving down and along a river. Ralof tugs on him to duck behind a rock, but Sanguinius doesn't bother. It wouldn't hide him. The beast flies overhead and roars one last time, and then it's gone into the sky.

"Are those normal?", Sanguinius asks.

"Not at all," Ralof sighs. "...Listen. I'll be going to Riverwood, my hometown. My sister Gerdur runs the mill there, it's just up the road. If you have... nowhere to go, feel free to come with. I'd— I'm probably a wanted man, but someone has to tell Jarl Balgruuf about...," and he sighs and says, "fuck."

"Come with me," Sanguinius offers then. "You know the land. And I won't let them take you."

"I know very little," Ralof admits. "Just what I was taught, what I think is right, and why I fight."

"It's still more than me," Sanguinius admits. "About this land, I mean. Though, the reasons why I fight—", fought, "—have become... moot, with my arrival here. But I'm sure I'll find new ones soon."

"If your arrival's got anything to do with the dragon, then yes. Without a doubt."

"Dragon," Sanguinius repeats, unfamiliar. "I thought they were children's stories."

"So did I," Ralof admits. "And yet. ...Let's move on," he says, "you'll need someone to guide you to Whiterun." And he starts walking down the dirt path before them. Sanguinius waits a moment before following him, aware of his own speed, and glances at the bright emerald trees and crystalline rivers that dot this land. Unpolluted; was there nothing the Imperium needed in this world, or had the pollution not overcome them yet, choking out the skies with black and gray?

...Is this world aware of the Imperium? It doesn't seem like it. Why he'd be flung to it after being ki—hurt by his br—by Hor—by the traitor Warmaster, he doesn't know, though. But it doesn't feel like a dream, or like a vision. And if this world is real, he muses as he walks in silence, his duty is to bend it to the Imperium's will, as he's done thousands of times.

He has no power here yet, though. He'll have to do it slower. Open warfare, he's more used to— but subtlety isn't foreign to Sanguinius.

He'll take this strange land on as it comes.