Alright, this is the beginning of the first—and possibly the only—Skyrim Fanfiction I shall be working on. Before I get on to the rules I'll be trying to follow for this project and the disclaimers, I just would like to make a couple things clear.
First of all, this story is going to be very long as I'm going to incorporate a lot of quests into it, including whatever DLC (official DLC like Dawnguard and the new upcoming Dragonborn) I think I can work with. As such, I'm going to take my time with this project and go at a steady pace so I can get everything I want in the story, so you may not see another chapter for probably a long while. I'm not sure how long exactly, though I know one contributing factor to the long wait would be other Fanfiction I'm also currently doing. If any of you would like to know what the other Fanfiction projects are, feel free to visit my profile page and check them out.
And second, this story will be a major crossover. It takes place in Skyrim, but the two main characters who we'll be seeing in chapter one come from two different games other than Skyrim. I'm also going to include monsters from another game and possibly that game's expansion pack—maybe even the next game in the franchise, which will be coming out this year. One of the monsters will be of my own creation, but it's partly inspired by a boss from one of the games.* Finally, I may probably put in bosses from two more games just to add some more variety and give the two main characters a challenge. These bosses will serve in the quest I'm devising for the main characters and possibly even some of the regular quests in Skyrim. All of the games and the movie shall be listed in the disclaimers below; even though I may not use some of them in the story, I'm still including them in the event that I do use them.
Also, the author's notes in each chapter may be pretty long and I do recommend you read through them too to get a sense of how this story is functioning.
Now with that said, time to move on to the rules:
This story will take place two years after the main quest and the civil war and seven years after the Thieves Guild questline. Those questlines and the Blades quests are out, but miscellaneous quests, other faction questlines, and DLC questlines are in—though I may not use every single quest.
The main characters shall not be Dragonborn; they're people who have their own backstories and history to themselves.
Characters I've created for my own playthroughs in Skyrim shall also be included as supportive characters and will fit whatever purpose I have for them, so some qualities they may possess in my playthroughs may be different in this story.
I shall try as best I can to place the correct lore wherever it's supposed to be with the help of the Elder Scrolls wikia and the strategy guide (and possibly my playthroughs), but I might have to put in my own speculation in some areas. In some cases I probably may use alternative scenarios rather than whatever is canon.
Dialogue may not be exactly the same as in the game because I don't really remember the exact phrases the NPCs say.
The descriptions of the locations in the story may or may not match up as they do in the game, but I'll try my best to make them as close as possible.
So far these are all the rules I can think of for right now. If I come up with anymore, I'll see how I can fit them in with what I've already put up and how they'll affect the rest of the story. If you have any questions regarding the rules or anything in the story, feel free to ask me in your reviews and I'll answer as best I can.
And now for the disclaimers:
I don't own The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or any official DLC for it; it's all owned by Bethesda.
I don't own Fire Emblem; it's owned by Nintendo.
I don't own Disgaea 2; it's owned by Nippon Ichi Software.
I don't own Amnesia: The Dark Descent or the expansion pack, Amnesia: Justine; both are owned by Frictional Games, which is collaborating with The Chinese Room to make Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.
I don't own Demon's Souls and Dark Souls; both are owned by From Software.
*EDIT: I put some more thought into this monster and decided to switch out Bane from The Dark Knight Rises and replace him with a boss from Dark Souls. Originally I had planned to use this specific boss as inspiration for the monster, but I chose Bane instead since I really liked his portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises. However, after considering which of the two the monster was more like, I went with the Dark Souls boss instead. So now the disclaimer for The Dark Knight Rises has been removed since it's no longer necessary. I'll go into more detail on this at an appropriate point in the story when I feel it'll be time to reveal which boss I chose as inspiration for this particular monster.
"Come on, Jordan," a voice tinged with slight irritation as the speaker trudged through the white blanket of snow covering the mountain path, calling out to his companion ahead of him, "how much longer till we find shelter from a snowstorm that's bound to happen any minute now?"
"Oh, pipe down, you big horker," Jordan retorted, obviously getting annoyed himself, but not because of the temperature. "You've done nothing but complain since we left Markarth, and it hasn't been even four days since we passed through Karthwasten. If I had known you'd be this negative, I would've left without you and gone on to find wisdom and knowledge for myself; hell I'd have thrown you in the Karth River for all I care."
"You dragged us through the wilderness instead of taking the road, like I had suggested in the very beginning!" his comrade shouted above the increasing gale that rose above their voices. "It was your bright idea that landed the two of us in this situation in the first place!"
"And it was my bright idea that earned us the experience we needed to set out in Skyrim! If we're going to be mercenaries, we'd better get used to the life outside the city, take in the wilder side of the country that we'll be traveling through on commissions!" Jordan yelled back, "You want to take the road, that's fine by me. Just be sure you don't come back crying because a rabbit put a dent in that armor of yours."
"I only came with you because I didn't want you to die at the hands of some bandit, or the paws of the largest cave bear Skyrim has ever seen!"
"Will you knock it off with those tall tales already, Arren? The bandits and the Forsworn we've encountered, yes, I understand they can pick off a lone traveler, but they chose to deal with a mage and wound up dead," Jordan laughed as he thought of all the charred corpses, each and every one a deceased bandit they had to go up against on their journey. "Skyrim's biggest cave bear of all time? Hah! Now that's definitely something I've got to see!"
"It's true!" Arren protested, rubbing his arms to provide at least some warmth to keep them from thawing, having removed his steel plated armor a few hours ago due to getting sweaty from all the walking they did. "Don't you know about Kyne and the sacred trials? One of the trials is to fight against Ursine! Don't tell me you haven't heard of Kyne's trials during your stay at the College of Winterhold!"
"I have indeed read about Kyne's sacred trials, and just as we've established, I'm a mage!" Jordan stated the obvious, "Those trials are for strong warriors like you; they mean nothing to a mage like myself."
"That's not the point!" Arren argued, "What matters is whether you know of them or not, and I'm glad you do acknowledge them! Besides, even a mage like yourself can take the trials, provided you've been anointed with the symbols of Kyne's guardians, of course."
"Alright, now that we've covered that, let's get off this rather touchy subject and change the topic to something more intelligent and sophisticated."
"I never said it was touchy!"
"You were just whining about 'a giant bear existing in Skyrim' and 'Ursine of Kyne's sacred trials. If it's not touchy, what would you call it?"
"My belief in the old ways of Nordic culture and tradition, that's what," Arren stated as-a-matter-of-factly. "Not that you would care, what with you being a mage from the college."
"One of my goals at the college was to learn about history besides magic. When it comes to being a mercenary, there are three things of major importance: politics, finances, and history," Jordan explained.
"Yeah, you had me at finances back in Markarth, but Skyrim's political matters and historical tales don't mean anything to me."
"Didn't you just say that you believed in Kyne's sacred trials?" A small smirk spread across Jordan's face as he chuckled, "A Nord like you who lives only for gold would want nothing to do with history!"
"Beliefs and history are two different things, Jordan! Beliefs are religious, whereas history is written down as accounts of what happened and who caused whatever it was!" Arren countered, "And you're wrong about us Nords! We care greatly about our beliefs, mind you; one of the reasons why Ulfric Stormcloak began a bloody civil war throughout Skyrim in the first place was to win religious freedom for the Nords! We would've had it too so we could include Talos with the other Eight Divines we worship, but then the Imperials had to go and defeat the Stormcloaks!"
"Religious practices mean nothing when a person's life is at stake!" Jordan pointed out, turning his head slightly to watch a fox disappear into its burrow. "You're aware of Ulfric's discontent for the Dunmer, right? They practically had no freedom under his rule while they were living in Windhelm; furthermore, some of the townspeople there had plans on kidnapping innocent Dunmer for the purpose of torturing them, and for what I may ask? Information on whether or not they were allies of the Thalmor!"
Arren took a deep breath and exhaled, noting the sight of his own breath. It was getting colder and the sky was getting darker. Looking up, he knew sooner or later he and Jordan would have to set up camp for the night. The bedrolls slung around their shoulders were rather heavy compared to everything else they were carrying.
Jordan had his books and a staff enchanted with frost magic—funny how he choose that element over fire or lightning when considering where they both were right now—along with food and potions stuffed into that knapsack of his with the books. Besides the rather light load he brought with him, he had also brought a small box with two pairs or robes, gloves, and boots, all enchanted to keep the wearer warm in cold weather. Jordan was already attired in one set, so the remaining set for his companion still stayed in the box.
Arren, by contrast, carried his armor in a small crate just large enough to hold the cuirass and greaves. He still kept his boots and gauntlets on so his feet and hands wouldn't suffer from frostbite. The steel warhammer his father had wielded in the Great War against the Aldmeri Dominion thirty years prior to Skyrim's civil war rested firmly against his back, slung next to the crate.
Sighing, Arren figured that it would be pointless to argue in the middle of Haafingar's cold forests of the mountainous terrain. If he and Jordan wasted energy conversing over matters that were trivial to them, they might not find shelter soon enough. "Look, Jordan, you made your point. Now can we hurry up and keep searching for a place out of this foul weather?"
"Alright, fine by me," Jordan agreed, though there was something else he wished to know. "I don't understand why you hate the cold when you're a Nord. Your race is pretty resilient against the element of frost, so it's only natural for you to feel right at home in a snowy environment."
Arren scoffed, stepping over a log Jordan gestured towards as a way of indicating where it was. "Bah, I grew up in the city of Markarth, surrounded by mountains that weren't covered in snow as thick as this. Everywhere I looked there was nothing but rocky terrain with plateaus level enough for people to walk on without stumbling every so often. As for you, I could say the same thing."
"What, my departure from the College of Winterhold?"
Arren shrugged. "Yeah, that and you being a Redguard," He stopped walking when Jordan turned to face him. "What, you got a problem with what I said?"
"First of all, I left the College because I felt there wasn't really anything left the scholars and wizards had to teach me. I believed that in order to truly become a master mage, one mustn't just stay cooped up reading books and practicing spells, but should also explore the outside world."
"So this is what you'd call field study, am I right?" Arren asked.
Jordan nodded. "Correct. The college understood why I had to depart so they let me go, but they'd always welcome me back as a member in good standing."
"So you're still a member?"
"Yes, but I fail to see how I can't be a mage because I'm a Redguard."
"I never said you couldn't be a mage, nor did I imply it," Jordan held up his hands in a defensive motion, a few flakes of snow falling from his rugged beard. "I just think it's odd for a Redguard to be studying magic when your kind is more adaptive to combat, that's all."
Cocking his head to the side, Jordan crossed his arms and looked up at a nearby boulder to check for moss. "True, but not all Redguards would take to the frontlines, clad in armor while wielding a weapon. Some of them, myself included, prefer to learn magic. One of the more well known Redguard practitioners was a man named Trayvond, a member of Cyrodiil's Mages Guild who was stationed at the guild hall in Cheydinhal. He sold some spells and could also teach a bit of destruction magic to anyone wanting to learn."
"Was?" Now it was Arren's turn to cock his head to the side, though he kept his gaze on Jordan. "You mean he's deceased?"
"Yep, he was alive back when the Oblivion Crisis was threatening all of Tamriel. The Mages Guild had offered their assistance to help close the Oblivion Gates that were opening up all over the place. At the same time, they were also dealing with a more personal problem: Mannimarco, the most powerful necromancer in all of Tamriel who was known as the King of Worms."
"Did they manage to defeat him?"
Jordan turned his head back to Arren. "Why, as a matter of fact, yes. The Mages Guild triumphed over Mannimarco with the help of their new Arch-Mage."
Arren couldn't help but smile at that tidbit of information. "New?" he laughed as they resumed walking. "If their Arch-Mage was new, how were they able to defeat Tamriel's strongest necromancer?"
"Mannimarco knew how to cast a powerful spell that could turn living people into undead thralls, but Arch-Mage Traven killed himself and had his soul contained in a colossal black soul gem to prevent the spell from having any effect. As long as that soul gem was in the holder's possession, on his or her person, that individual wouldn't be turned into a thrall."
"So this Traven guy sacrificed himself for the sake of his guild?"
"Traven was a hero to the Mages Guild for his sacrifice, so I'd prefer if you could try showing him some respect for his deeds. The conflict between the guild and the necromancers stemmed partly from Traven banning necromancy from the guild and decreeing a large scale witch-hunt to eliminate whoever practiced the craft," Jordan explained, removing the map from his pocket and unfolding it to see if they were near an inn or a small village. "I've read his biography, and so far that's the only decision of his that I disagree with, though I still believe the Mages Guild had to go up against the necromancers sooner or later. In fact, the College of Winterhold has no qualms with necromancy, which is why some mages prefer it over the guild."
"Just one more thing, Jordan," Arren inquired as he caught up to the mage so he could look at the map too. "This new Arch-Mage…what was he or she like?"
"That I don't know for certain," Jordan replied, "There were biographies and an autobiography on the person, but the Aldmeri Dominion had all books on the new Arch-Mage burned as a condition of the White-Gold Concordat."
"Ah, tis a shame," Arren sighed as they trudged onward up the snowy hill. "If it were a young lass around the same age as I—"
"You'd look her up" Jordan finished for him, chuckling as a small smile spread across his face.
Arren couldn't help but laugh too. "You bet, hah ha! As long as the description of her is appealing!" For a couple minutes more they continued to laugh, Arren throwing his arm around Jordan's left shoulder and fist pumping the right one before pulling his arm away. "Anyway, are we near some sort of shelter, like a cave or something?"
Jordan directed his arm up ahead, pointing to the top of the hill in front of them. "Further up ahead is a ruined watchtower known Pinefrost Tower. I don't know what kind of state it's currently in, but hopefully it'll provide some shelter for the night."
Arren grunted in frustration. Evidently he wasn't pleased at the fact they'd be staying in a decrepit building that was likely on the verge of collapse…or disintegration if it was as old as a skeleton that had been around for a really long time—decades, centuries, whatever. "As long as the place doesn't fall down on top of us, I'd be glad to take it no matter how bad the accommodations are."
"Hopefully it's not too bad," Jordan responded, turning his head to look at the warrior beside him for a split second. "I looked into this region very carefully before we set out and I was able to glean a few details from a warrior much like yourself. Vorstag was his name, and if I recall correctly, he was a mercenary. He offered his services for five hundred Septims, but I kindly declined his offer since we didn't have that kind of money. However, after I remarked that we were going to become mercenaries the fellow offered his advice when I told him we were passing through the wilderness on the way to Solitude."
"He came out this way too, I take it?" Arren asked, already beginning to feel the effects of fatigue getting to him. He was getting tired of walking around with a heavy load, and he could tell that the frigid weather was taking its toll not just on him, but on the mage as well.
"Something like that, yeah," Jordan answered, his breath visible as he spoke while pulling up the collar of his robe to keep the snow from getting in his moustache. "He took a job for the Thalmor up at Northwatch Keep just to the north of here and he happened to pass by Pinefrost Tower on his way there. According to him, the upper half of the tower has already fallen over, yet the stonework was still in great shape; although, that was just a little over a year ago, so the structure probably weakened over time."
"Well if it did rot," Arren said, raising his voice a bit to talk over the wind, "let's hope it's only slightly damaged, but good enough to last the night."
"Agreed," Jordan nodded.
"Though I'm not too comfortable being so close to the damn Thalmor. Those sacks of shit are nothing but trouble. What are they doing up there anyway? Conjuring up a dragon to attack a small village? Worshipping Mehrunes Dagon?"
"Actually, Northwatch Keep is a prison for holding people who go against them, like Stormcloaks and worshippers of Talos," Jordan pointed out to put Arren's worries to rest.
"The Stormcloaks did worship Talos, too, you know," The warrior clarified in the event his companion didn't know of the belief the Stormcloak army shared.
"Yes, I was aware of that," Jordan nodded. "Still, no matter what someone does, anything can be a crime in the Thalmors' eyes if they believe the perpetrators are a threat to them and the Aldmeri Dominion. Though some say they purposely frame anyone in their way amongst other things so nobody can stop them from taking full control of the empire, despite claims from the Aldmeri Dominion stating they don't wish for full dominance over all of Tamriel."
"Wait, so the Thalmor can do more than just say someone did something wrong when the accused didn't even do anything at all?" Arren sounded surprised, but he was mostly shocked at how far the Thalmor were willing to go to keep their power.
"I believe they can, and I can provide two examples they supposedly engineered." Jordan explained. "One: the Second Treaty of Stros M'kai between them and my native country, Hammerfell. As part of the White Gold Concordat, the empire gave a portion of southern Hammerfell over to the Aldmeri Dominion. My people continued engaging the enemy army, even though the Great War was essentially over and eventually a stalemate was reached. Soon the treaty was signed, allowing for Hammerfell to remain independent while the Aldmeri Dominion removed its army from Hammerfell."
"But what does that prove?" Arren inquired curiously.
"To put it simply, the Aldmeri Dominion demanded the cession of southern Hammerfell because they were well aware that my people would show resentment towards the empire for abandoning them to the Thalmor. Basically, they wanted to turn Hammerfell against the Empire, a plan that has worked in some parts of the country; though much resistance is still alive in the hope that Hammerfell can be brought back into the empire after the Dominion falls."
"Okay, and the second example?"
Jordan turned his head to look at Arren. "Skyrim's civil war two years back."
The warrior's mouth hung agape, his shock even greater. He knew the Thalmor and the Aldmeri Dominion were nothing but trouble because they banned the worship of Talos, but never had he ever heard they had a hand to play in the civil war. "You're not kidding, are you Jordan?" he asked in disbelief, "I mean, there's no way the Thalmor would've participated in the war; they never even sided with either the Imperials or the Stormcloaks!"
"Just because they didn't choose a side doesn't mean they weren't involved," Jordan went on, "If you're familiar with the terms of the White Gold Concordat, then you'll know the Aldmeri Dominion outlawed the worship of Talos. That, my friend, was the fuse that set off the explosion we know as the civil war. Now that we're in the aftermath of the explosion, the empire still has control over Skyrim, yet its presence has been weakened due to many casualties. Fortunately, things have been looking up for the empire since General Tullius is now attempting to get what the Nords want through peaceful, diplomatic means."
"I heard of that," Arren spoke as he looked up at the ever darkening sky, noting the clouds approaching over head. "From what I heard of local gossip back in Markarth, the Dragonborn apparently helped the general overcome his contempt for the Nords and now he's learning more about our culture, traditions, beliefs, and other subjects as well. It's like it's his way of apologizing for his past views towards my people. If you ask me, Tullius is turning out to be a great guy now that he's turned over a new leaf."
"I'll say," Jordan agreed. "If you ask me, that's probably the first sign of good things to come. Hopefully we won't have to experience another war anytime soon; I'd rather not risk returning to Hammerfell to have my ass handed to me on a silver platter after it's been cooked by a fireball thrown by one of those Thalmor mages."
"Oh, yeah, that reminds me!" Arren suddenly remembered something Jordan had mentioned a short while after they left Markarth. "Didn't you say a group of Redguards had come from Hammerfell in search of someone?"
"Sure did," the mage confirmed it, "though they haven't found her yet."
Arren's eyes lit up as he found what may have been the perfect opportunity for a contract the two of them could take on…and perhaps the chance to fall in love with a beautiful woman. "Is this person a princess or some aristocratic noble?" He asked, hoping Jordan would confirm that too.
"Sorry to burst your bubble, lover boy, but this woman turned the city of Taneth and her own family over to the Thalmor. Now the Alik'r are seeking to bring her back to Hammerfell to be tried for her crimes."
"Well that's just great," Arren sighed, "Can't believe I almost fell for a criminal."
"It's not so bad," Jordan tried to cheer him up, "At least it could be a possible commission for us if the Alik'r don't find her yet. That's what you were also thinking about, am I right?"
"Yes, but it's not going to have a happy ending—for me, that is."
"There, there, Arren," the mage lightly teased, "I'm sure you'll get hitched sometime in the near future."
"And I'm sure it will be a beautiful woman, but hey, life's never that fair. I only hope that it'll be fair enough to provide us shelter soon—if I'm lucky, that beautiful woman will be waiting there for me."
"Is this fair enough?"
Arren looked up when he heard Jordan, his eyes widening slightly as they took in the sight of a ruined tower just up ahead. Judging by all the dying vines growing out from within the cracks between portions of broken stonework and the upper half lying deep in the snow just next to the bottom half, it was in pretty bad shape. Aside from the damage, it didn't look half bad in its decrepit state.
"This is it?" the warrior held his left arm out and pointed to the tower, "This is what's left of Pinefrost Tower?"
"Afraid so," Jordan replied, stepping forward to better take in the structure yards away. "It's not the best, but it'll have to do for tonight. Vorstag was right on the money; the tower's the same as how he described it to be."
"Was he also right about it being inhabited by someone or something?" Arren asked, pointing to a strange figure hunched over by the tower.
Jordan shook his head and took a closer look at the figure. "Frost troll…" he muttered under his breath, but made sure Arren heard him. "No, Vorstag said nothing about the tower being used as a home, so that frost troll over there must've moved in some time after he had come by."
"So now we have to actually work just to make it in the tower?" The warrior asked while taking the warhammer over his shoulder and gripping the handle with both hands.
"If there's more than one, I'd say we'd have no choice but to fight, so keep that warhammer out until we can assess the nature of the situation," The mage said, gathering up the magicka within him.
"And how do you suppose we do that?" Arren inquired, tightening his grasp on the warhammer.
"Simple," a fireball took shape and grew in size in the palm of Jordan's hand. "Like this."
And with those three simple words, the fireball was forcefully pushed out of the Redguard's hand by the magicka he had built up to propel it forward. It shot straight through the air, whizzing along at such a terrifying speed that its intended target turned around when it heard the sizzling sound of fire…but the poor frost troll couldn't get away in time.
On impact, the fireball exploded into flames that engulfed the creature, burning through its white fur and charring the skin underneath. The frost troll screeched in agony as it took one final breath before dying of severe burns inflicted by the fire.
Jordan turned to Arren, smiling broadly as he held his arm out to present the results of his spell. "How's that for playing with fire?" he asked jokingly, "Don't suppose we could sit around the flaming corpse and tell ghost stories?"
"At least it'll save us the wood!" the warrior laughed, "Hopefully it's not hot enough to carry! Speaking of ghost stories, let's hope that frost troll doesn't come back from the dead!"
As the two of them began to trudge forwards, getting closer and closer to the ruined remains of Pinefrost Tower, a loud screech suddenly erupted from within the interior of the structure. The two aspiring mercenaries froze in their tracks, preparing for whatever it was that cried out. Arren raised his right arm and held it in front of Jordan, placing the palm of his hand on the Redguard's chest, the warhammer in his other hand pointed downward towards the ground.
"What the hell was that?" the Nord inquired cautiously, lowering his voice to a mere whisper, "Another frost troll?"
"Definitely," Jordan nodded, "Frost trolls sometimes travel alone or in pairs, so it's no surprise to find a second one if the first is encountered."
"How can you be sure there aren't any more?"
"Because we're deep in the wilderness," the mage explained, "The only place where frost trolls are in a greater concentration is the Labyrinthian up in the mountains of Hjaalmarch, but that's only on the surface of the ruin."
"Well, then do you think I could take care of this next one?" Arren stepped forward and held his warhammer up, poised to charge the beast when it emerged from the tower. "If it's just one more, I think I could handle it."
"Sure, go ahead," Jordan gestured for him to go a bit further. "Just be sure to watch for its claws; they're strong enough to at least put a dent in your armor, but you're a dead man without it."
"Don't worry, I'll be fine," The warrior spoke confidently, flexing his muscles to warm up for combat. "The armor will just encumber me down and get in the way; without it on, I can move more freely than when I have the whole suit on."
"Flexibility is good," Jordan agreed, "but not when you're going up against something that can potentially kill you."
"It'll only murder me in cold blood if it's faster than I am," his companion stated, not bothering to point out the rather obvious pun. "The advantage is mine as long as it's slow."
"Then you have the advantage," the Redguard said while crossing his arms. "Frost trolls aren't the best at running. If you wanted to run backwards to get away from it, you'd be able to outrun the thing so long as there's nothing in your way. Hell, even a bear can outrun a frost troll if it's been injured."
"Great, then the battle's already been decided!" Arren exclaimed, swinging the warhammer around with ease, despite the ice that accumulated on it adding extra weight. If the ice was hard and black, then the warrior could dish out more pain depending on how tough it was.
He'd find out soon enough. The second frost troll had already come out to play and was lumbering towards the two men at a pace which would've matched a wagon if it had a broken wheel. A little closer and it was going to end up with a smashed in head.
Almost immediately Arren let the crate and the bedroll fall to the ground while a loud battle cry escaped from his mouth as he charged forward, running towards the beast to meet it head on. Quickly getting the warhammer in both hands, he swung it as he was about to collide with his opponent, just before the creature lashed out at him with its sharp claws. The strike connected with its intended target, inflicting a severe wound as the frost troll's head split open slightly. Unfortunately, its skull hadn't fully cracked open just yet, so the thing was able to grab the head of the warhammer and shove it aside.
As it moved to cut through Arren's shirt and bury its claws into his chest, the warrior pushed forward and shoved the warhammer right into the monster's belly. This move staggered the frost troll, but just as it was about to recover its footing, Arren ran right into it, pushing it back with his weight while discarding his weapon. Maneuvering his arms so that he could keep the beast's arms entangled in his own, the warrior lifted the poor frost troll up with such strength that it was expected from a giant, or even an Orc for that matter; and when he purposely fell back in the snow, he rolled backwards to get on top of the thing so it wouldn't get to its feet.
Trapping its left arm down underneath his body, Arren quickly grabbed the other arm with his right hand and formed the other one into a fist before smashing it down upon the beast's chest. The attack was so hard that the upper half of the frost troll's body was forced upwards while it screeched in pain. If the Nord's punch caused some damage, it was nothing compared to what the warhammer had done, as well as what the warrior was about to do.
Immediately, Arren clutched at the creature's head and got into a position where he had it in a headlock. With his right arm holding the frost troll by the neck, his freer left hand dug deep into the open wound left by his weapon, and, with much brutality, ripped a chunk of the beast's head right off. Blood splattered all over the area around them as the warrior threw the gory piece of head off to the side, releasing the now dead frost troll from his grip and standing up to admire the fruits of his work.
"Now that's how we do it down in the Reach!" He exclaimed proudly as Jordan walked over to the gruesome scene he had just watched.
"Yes, yes, quite a sight indeed!" the mage agreed, "Your physical strength is superb as always!"
"You can say that again!" Arren laughed, dusting his hands off as he walked over to pick up the crate and the bedroll. "With my skills in combat, the two of us will be the greatest mercenaries in all of Skyrim! Maybe even all of Tamriel for that matter!"
"I'm sure we will be, but tell me," Jordan inquired, "how do you suppose you'll wash the blood off you? Any sort of animal or creature nearby can smell you from about a couple miles away—give or take a few—and in case you aren't aware, we may be miles from the nearest river."
"Ah, quit worrying about that," The warrior casually brushed him off as the Redguard handed him his warhammer. "You've just burned a frost troll to death with a single fire spell, while I've slaughtered its mate here with just my little friend and my fists."
"Alright, you've made your point; we can handle anything," Jordan began to walk over to the sizzling corpse that was still burning. "Now let's go. We can set our things in the upper half of the tower and then sit by the fire and eat."
"I like the sound of that."
"Ah, now that was a good meal," Arren commented on the three pieces of cooked beef he ate and the two bottles of Nord mead he drank down. "Just perfect for a day like today. Still, I wish it could've been better."
"I didn't mind it," Jordan said, brushing the crumbs from the slice of apple pie he had eaten out of his mustache. "After all, you'll have to eat like this when you're on the road or in the wilderness once you've become a mercenary."
"Yeah, but what if we find an inn to spend the night in?" the warrior asked while reclining against the cold stone wall of the tower. "If we're going to be traveling by road, we should at least have some food there before leaving in the morning." Hearing his companion snicker beside him, Arren turned his head towards the Redguard to glare at him. "And just what do you find so funny about that?"
"Nothing, really," Jordan held up his hands defensively, "I expected you to say something about staying a little longer for the wench, that's all."
"But it's just as you've been saying all this time," the Nord pointed towards him, "Before we had reached Karthwasten, you said we shouldn't focus on women we're not going to be around for very long."
"I do remember saying something like that, yes."
"So if we're going to be involved in romance, it'd better be with women in one of the Holds or a smaller village, for that matter," Arren went on in his explanation.
"Tell me, are you planning on starting a guild that's similar to the Companions?" Jordan inquired, "If you are, then why not join them instead of working as a sellsword? Last I heard, they were a guild of mercenaries."
"Bah," the warrior scoffed, turning back to the flaming corpse before them. "The Companions are like some sort of brotherhood, not a traditional guild like the Fighter's Guild."
"Ah, so you've heard of the Fighter's Guild?"
"One of my ancestors was a member of the guild, yeah. I've heard a few stories about him from my grandfather, but that was a long time ago," Arren said with some sentimentality, a single tear rolling down his face. "Now those times are over, and it's high time I lived up to the career my family has worked in for generations."
"So your decision to be a mercenary was based on your family's experience with the field?" Jordan asked out of curiosity.
"Yeah, it's been a choice we've had ever since my great, great, great, great grandfather first formed a group of mercenaries with his friends," the Nord went on, reminiscing over his memories of his grandfather's stories. "After he got married and had two boys who wanted to do what he had done for a living, the decision was made to turn mercenary work into a family business. It's always been like that, and I intend to continue the trend. I just hope I don't die soon enough, as I'm the sole remaining member of my family."
"Well, let's just hope you find a woman in time," Jordan said as he used a simple Flames spell to keep the frost troll's corpse burning. "In any case, once we reach Solitude we'd better do some jobs so we can make ourselves known to the public."
"While being careful so the Thalmor don't set their sights on us," Arren said, "I've heard their Embassy is near Solitude."
"But what if we're doing a contract for them?" the mage pointed out, "If they end up being our employers for a few contracts, we could make quite a small fortune, plus the Thalmor could send other clients our way depending on how well we do."
"I don't care if we earn our pay from them or find clients through them," the Nord adamantly refused his companion's idea. "I don't want to work for them, period. Besides, didn't you say that you didn't want to go back to Hammerfell because of them?"
"You got me there, but still, if we're actually going to go through with this thing, we'd better accept the reality that the Thalmor might one day hire us," Jordan said, crossing his arms as he stared into the fire, remembering his homeland, basking in the memories of his childhood and adolescence. "By the way, when I said the Thalmor withdrew from my country, I was talking about their army. They've still got an underground network of Khajiit assassins traveling with the merchant caravans from Elsweyr. There aren't many of them—only one per caravan from the rumors I heard—but they were quite a problem because they've always been on the road and the city guards aren't willing to pursue them any farther than the outskirts of their respective cities."
"I would expect as much from the Thalmor. They'll do anything to get what they want. If the guards won't bother with them, then why even arrest them at all?"
"Because after the modus operandi was discovered in several murders that were committed, the authorities tried to hunt down the caravans, but by that time they were constantly on the move deep in the wilderness." Jordan explained. "When a few of them tried to cross the border into Cyrodiil, the guards there slaughtered them all. Now the caravans are afraid to approach the borders because it's heavily fortified just like the cities, leaving the remaining assassins essentially useless to the Thalmor, so they won't be receiving any help from them anymore."
"So the people are content with them hanging around their cities, plotting to kill off one person after another?"
"Actually, after the final murder, everyone in Hammerfell is smart enough not to trust the caravans, and the roads are patrolled daily by small brigades of fifteen guards. The assassins numbered fewer than ten and they're not confident enough to reveal themselves even at night," Jordan went on, "A small handful of them can't stand up to Redguard soldiers, which is why they're in hiding. Nobody will trade with them and they can't purchase anything from shops in small towns without risking getting identified and caught, so they're living off the land for now. I only hope the government makes the decision to send several hundred men or so to hunt them down."
"I'm sure they'll die soon enough," Arren commented, picking up a nearby twig and tossing it on the fire. "But why won't the Redguards take up arms against the Thalmor? They did discover that those Khajiit were working for the Thalmor, right?"
"They sure did, but my people don't want another war with the Aldmeri Dominion anytime soon."
"Ah…" the warrior sighed softly, "I see…"
Jordan looked over at the Nord and saw that he was lost in thought. Perhaps all this talk about the Thalmor was getting to him. Maybe Arren had bad memories of an encounter with them in the past, a time that might've caused some trauma for his poor nerves.
"I know what you're thinking, Jordan, but I'm fine," the Nord said calmly, somewhat surprising the mage with how aware he was of the other's thought. "The Thalmor haven't done anything threatening to me…at least not yet. Even so, I do appreciate the gesture."
"Alright, let's change the topic then," the Redguard stated, "What do you want to talk about?"
"Well, there is one thing I'd like to ask you."
"If you're a mage," Arren inquired as he turned towards Jordan and pointed at him, "why do you want to be a mercenary?"
Jordan chuckled, smiling as he thought of another thing he had in common with the warrior. "Well, like you, I too have a few roots in the career, though mine aren't as deep as yours. It was my father, who first worked as a sellsword, and he specialized in magic; I looked up to him as he has been my influence for wanting to learn how to wield magicka as my shield and my weapon."
"Do you expect you'll marry and have your sons continue the legacy?" The Nord inquired, to which the Redguard casually shrugged.
"I wouldn't want to force my children to do something they don't want to. If they wish to take up a different occupation, then I'd rather give them my full support instead of preventing them from fulfilling their dreams."
"Same here," Arren agreed, "though I think it'd be a little disappointing if my child would want to choose a job as boring as driving a carriage or administrative work in some big business, like the East Empire Company or Black Briar Meadery. Anything will do, as long as it's got some excitement to it and the pay is good."
"Some people actually like that sort of work," Jordan commented, rubbing his hands together to warm them up. "Not too exciting and somewhat tedious sometimes, but it gets the job done and puts food on the table."
"I'm surprised somebody could actually tolerate doing that for the rest of their lives, at least until retirement." Opening his mouth, the warrior yawned and stretched his arms up in the air before he began to talk once more, "And speaking of retiring, I'm getting pretty tired myself right now."
The Redguard chuckled again. "So get some sleep for a couple hours. I'll be sure to wake you when it's my turn to rest."
Tossing and turning in his sleep, Arren tried his best to get into a comfortable position in his bedroll, but it was difficult given how he was lying on the ground and snow kept going down his shirt each time he moved. His arms were sprawled out against the white blanket of the stuff, and whenever he lifted them up while turning on his opposite side the little bit of flakes that had accumulated in his hands traveled down his sleeves and ended up around his armpits.
There was a good reason why it never snowed over mountains in the Reach; there had to be. The Divines probably forbade it, the mountains were higher than the clouds, the Deadra Lords thought it'd be funny to let the whole city of Markarth go without snow, whatever.
Arren wasn't a stranger to this kind of weather. When he was a boy, he and his parents would go out to visit relatives in the other Holds, so they'd have to take the snowy roads to Solitude when visiting his uncle. The man had been quite the archer in his day, boasting of how he could stick up to five snowflakes on the tip of an arrow he shot. That was until the day he had gone up against a few bandits near one of the farms on Solitude's outskirts and came back taking an arrow to the knee. No longer able to perform contracts for his clients, his uncle changed careers and became a guard so he could continue to help the citizens, but in a different way.
He missed his family dearly, but knew they were all looking down on him from Sovngarde. If they watched him grow and develop into something he promised them he wouldn't become, he would've let them down. That was what kept him going, what strengthened his resolve to push ahead, and he wasn't going to stop just because they were deceased. Rather, it was the fact they were paying attention to his deeds that warmed his heart, even in frigid weather such as this. Sometimes he could still hear them speaking with him in his dreams, saying how proud they were to have someone like him in the family.
Arren dreamed of Jordan too, imagining his family welcoming the Redguard mage with open arms, glad that he wasn't going at it alone. The job of being a mercenary was tough and riddled with danger, but as long as he had someone to help him along the way, he and his companion would be fine no matter what came their way.
They just had to stick together.
The sudden loud sound jolted him awake from his slumber. Instinctively, Arren quickly grabbed his warhammer and immediately stood up, believing something else was looking for a fight. It could've been another frost troll, he surmised, though Jordan had said those creatures were only encountered in pairs unless at Labyrinthian, so it wasn't possible that a third one was around. Maybe a wild animal, such as a bear or even a wolf, had somehow found its way to the tower, but the mage could handle himself in that situation. If not an animal, then what had made that sound?
Arren didn't know, but he had to find Jordan. Hopefully he was still at the little campfire made out of the frost troll's corpse, otherwise the Nord would have to look for him.
"Jordan!" he called out, "Jordan, you there!"
No answer. Everything was silent, save for the noisy gale outside the fallen tower and the mysterious crunching sounds, as if something was having a meal. Arren grew worried at the thought of his companion being supper for whatever had been blundering by—maybe it wasn't a good idea to brush off his earlier comment on washing off the frost troll's blood.
The mage still didn't answer, and that crunching sound was still going on.
Now the warrior had every reason to be concerned for the Redguard. "Hold on, Jordan," he called out as he rushed towards the gaping hole ahead of him, "I'm coming!"
Brandishing his warhammer, Arren made sure not to wield it just yet in the event he had no cause for worry, but his hopes were soon diminished at the sight of the…thing…that shuffled in front of him.
The Nord honestly didn't know what he was looking at. The…creature…whatever it was, appeared to have once been a man or maybe a woman, yet now it had been physically corrupted. It's eyes were about a foot apart and staring unblinkingly in two directions, with its mouth hanging agape, the teeth all jagged and crooked inside it. The left hand had grown deformed with sharp iron-like claws protruding from what may have been fingers; the right one by contrast looked fine, save for some leather straps wrapped around it just like the ones around the lower half of the thing's torso. The legs looked okay, but were still marred by marks just down to the clawed feet.
Worst of all was what had confirmed Arren's fears. The fresh blood painted all over the thing, but mostly on its clawed hand didn't appear to be from some animal or creature he knew of, and that could only mean one thing.
This monster wounded, or possibly killed Jordan.
Unable to hold in his rage any longer, Arren screamed as he and the beast charged each other, only for the latter to die quick as the former swung his warhammer so hard it broke off the top half of the monster's head. The now dead corpse fell over as blood turned the beautiful white blanket of snow into a red carpet stained with the innards of a fallen foe.
Paying no heed to the cadaver, the warrior continued to run out of the tower and immediately turned the corner to check on his comrade.
Misfortune seemed to pull him deeper into the bowels of loneliness as he came upon Jordan—or rather, what was left of the Redguard lying on the ground. Split in two, the mage now looked like a discarded doll ripped in half by its owner in dissatisfaction before getting thrown away.
Pausing for what seemed like an hour or two—to him, time had slowed to an immediate snail's pace in a second—Arren eyed the corpse of the companion he had begun this journey with. That adventure had come to a grinding halt for Jordan as his internal organs were haphazardly tossed about while his blood covered a large chunk of the tower wall and the big patch of snow underneath his body.
Reminiscing of the time they spent together, the Nord started recalling everything the mage has said to him and the fights they got in against bandits and the Forsworn. He remembered the first time they had met in Markarth, sitting next to each other in the Silver-Blood Inn and initiating a conversation that tied the two of them together. He remembered all the friends Jordan said he made at the College of Winterhold as he spoke of each one, and the family the Redguard said he had.
He would be dearly missed by his fellow mages and the family that raised him from childhood to adulthood. Though, if there was going to be one person who would miss him more than any of those people combined, Arren felt it'd be him. As the sole survivor of his own family, the warrior had always been alone ever since he turned sixteen when his parents had been killed fighting off a scouting patrol of Forsworn near Harmugstahl Falls. From that point on he trained long and hard until he was as strong as they were, but it wasn't enough just yet. He wasn't strong enough to face the Forsworn and take revenge at the time.
When he met Jordan for the first time and struck up a close friendship with him, things were different. He couldn't avenge his parents' death alone, but with the mage's help he was able to put a dent in their numbers before they put the Reach behind them.
Furthermore, their adventure deepened their bond of trust towards one another as they shared stories of their lives and laughed at how futile the attempts made by their enemies at taking them hostage or killing them were. The bandits were stupid and the Forsworn were persistent, but it didn't matter because both fell to their combined strength as comrades destined to work together as mercenaries. Even the frequent animal or creature—like the two frost trolls they killed earlier—that took them for a meal didn't stand a chance.
Now those fun times had come to a drastic, dramatic end with Jordan's death. With the mage gone, Arren was all by himself again.
Thinking that it was the proper thing to do, the Nord gradually trudged the few feet towards the upper half of his friend's corpse and turned it over to stare deeply into the lifeless eyes of what had once been the greatest mage he ever knew. The Redguard looked back at him, but could no longer see him anymore; he'd still be watching from above in a place that was similar to Sovngarde, though Arren didn't know the name of it.
Tears gently rolling down the sides of his face, the warrior sniffed before looking away for a brief moment to wipe the sleeve of his shirt over his eyes to clear them of tears. It was no good; they just kept pouring out, but he didn't do anything to stop them. They had every right to slide down his face, so who was he to prevent them from expressing the sadness now welling up within his heart?
"I'll miss you Jordan…" he said while brushing two of his fingers down the deceased mage's eyelids to press them closed, "You were like a brother to me. Farewell, my friend. May you rest easy now."
Arren never was any good with words that described how he felt whenever somebody died. His life in Markarth, where Forsworn assassins constantly killed off the city's population, taught him that people die all the time. Despite it being one of the reasons why he didn't make a single friend back home, the warrior made an exception for Jordan since leaving with him meant he'd be getting out of what must've been the most dangerous city in Skyrim. With the Redguard gone, his death painstakingly reminding his friend of the deaths that came to the Nord's family, Arren felt he was experiencing another familial loss.
He wanted to bring Jordan's remains to someplace with people around so others could be made aware of what had happened. Then he'd write to his friend's family and visit them personally to share their loss. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be granted the opportunity to give the mage a proper burial.
That became apparent as a weird, aggressive moan suddenly made Arren whirl around to see another hideous human-like monster came running towards him, though this one was different. Rather than a deformed, clawed hand, the creature had a rusty iron cleaver attached in place of the lower half of its arm with nails to hold it together. Its face, in contrast to the other abomination, was split open to reveal several sharp teeth and a single eyeball staring unblinking at its prey. While leather straps were wrapped around the other one's body, scraps of iron covered much of this one's torso. It was fast too, a lot faster than the other one was considering how it covered a little over half the distance from the few trees it passed by towards the Nord.
Instinctively, Arren raised his hands to ready his weapon, but suddenly realized he had dropped it a few feet away while he had been looking upon the deceased form of his former friend.
By now the creature was over a quarter of the way towards him, speeding through the snow like an ice wraith zooming along the frosty winds blowing over the frigid terrain.
Aware that he'd be dead if that thing came any closer, the warrior made a mad dash for his weapon just as his assailant finally reached him. Hoping that he could get a quick swing at the monster, Arren closed his fingers around the warhammer and attempted to pick it up, but it was already too late. The strange monstrosity already raised its cleaver up in the air and brought it down hard upon the Nord's right shoulder, cutting deeply into his body and leaving behind a large gash.
Crying out in pain, Arren finally turned around as fast as he could with the warhammer in hand and struck at the creature. The blow staggered it for a few moments, leaving him with just enough time to use this next window of opportunity to get up and launch another swing at his opponent. It was a slim opening, but Arren managed to get to his feet and strike the monster down to the ground.
It was still alive, but a kick to its side followed by a hit to the head finished the thing off for good when the warhammer smashed the thing's head so hard it made it explode into large gory chunks as bits of skull and brain scattered all over the snow.
Breathing heavily, the Nord winced in pain while he used his weapon as a sort of crutch to help him walk in the tower. He had to get the healing potions from his knapsack and drink them down before the wound on his shoulder got worse. He wouldn't dare touch any of Jordan's things since that stuff should've been buried with him or sent to his family in Hammerfell—unless he really had to use something the mage brought with him, otherwise he wouldn't take anything from his pack.
This truly was one of the worst days in Arren's whole life. First it appears as if there's going to be a major snowstorm, then Jordan dies to leave him all alone in the middle of the wilderness, and finally he gets injured by a horrifying monster like the one that killed the mage. Things really weren't looking up for him.
Of course, things were going to get worse just as he expected. After all, he didn't know how many of these things were around him right now, but he was sure there were more of them than just the two that showed up—and that they could be much worse than their predecessors. Arren had to be prepared for anything thrown at him in this perilous situation, which was why he was pulling back to the tower so he could fight any foes in the narrow confines of the fallen structure. There, he could fight more effectively since confined spaces meant the only avenue of escape from his warhammer's reach was to back away. Hopefully he'd scared off the rest of these things should they approach.
Though in actuality, it seemed the Divines weren't smiling down on him anymore, for just as he had entered the ruined building and made his way towards the knapsack by his bedroll, the wall above him collapsed all of a sudden. Arren was violently shoved backwards so hard that he went flying in the air just as the warhammer fell from his grip. Feeling very much like a ragdoll himself, the warrior tumbled down the short hill and nearly fell over the side of the rocky cliff behind him.
"What the bloody hell just happened?!" he thought to himself during a fit of coughing which brought blood and nasty bile up through his throat. "Could it be that these things are stronger than they appear to be?!"
Spitting out whatever fluids hung around in his mouth, Arren struggled to stand up so he could face the new attacker standing yards across from him. He couldn't see what this one looked like, though the waning moonlight revealed what its weapon of choice was—a double edged Deadric battleaxe—and his ears discerned what sounded like old dwarven machinery coming from the creature's left shoulder.
Looking up at whatever stars that weren't covered by the clouds dropping flakes of snow to the ground, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath before turning his gaze back on his adversary.
"Everyone…Ma, Pa, and the rest of you…and Jordan…I'll be coming to see you all soon…very soon."
And with those final words, Arren let loose a mighty battle cry as he charged into what would be the last fight of his entire life.
Elenwen glanced up from the latest register of prisoners to eye the Nord in front of her, an unconscious, rough shaven man possibly in his early thirties with gray hair and a gag tied around his mouth. Cocking her head to the side, she bit her lip as she looked him over from head to toe. "This is Thorald Gray-Mane, is he not?" she asked suspiciously, to which one of the two Thalmor warriors restraining the prisoner nodded in response.
"That's correct ma'am. We caught him over in Whiterun during the middle of the night. He was on his way back home after leaving the local inn when we nabbed him."
"And what crime has he committed, pray tell?" Elenwen inquired, averting her gaze back to the register. "Worshipping Talos? Plotting to assassinate one of our higher ups, or steal important documents from our Embassy?"
"He has done nothing so far, ma'am," the second warrior spoke up, "His family still believes in old traditions and such, which is why we made the decision to take him away for questioning in the event we are ordered to move against the Gray-Manes."
Sighing in frustration, Elenwen closed her eyes and pressed her hand to her temple. "Did it not occur to you that this action against the Gray-Manes will rile them up?" Her tone of voice was almost venomous with each word she spat out. "Have you not thought about what Jarl Balgruuf will do once he's thought over this? By now the Gray-Manes are all worried sick and are possibly calling on him for aid. If the Jarl demands to know why one of his citizens was arrested on charges not raised towards him, what am I supposed to say to him?"
The two warriors looked at each other in confusion before they faced their superior again. "I don't know," the one on the left shrugged, "say we discovered evidence to prove our claims."
"And where is this supposed 'evidence'?" Elenwen made quotation marks with her index and middle fingers just as she sarcastically spit out the word "evidence". "Have you actually found any of this "evidence" to support your justification, or did you pull it out of your asses to make up some outrageous tale?"
"Um…" the one on the right tipped his head down for a moment in deep thought, "we made it up."
"Damned imbeciles!" their superior swore under her breath, throwing the register at them in anger. "Do you even realize what you've done?! How do you think we're going to clean up the mess you made?! The Dominion already agreed to grant the Nords permission to freely worship Talos! Arresting him for worshipping Talos when he's allowed to is an invalid reason! I don't need you idiots causing an unnecessary skirmish that could blow over and turn into a full scaled war! What do you suppose Jarl Balgruuf is going to do if and when the Gray-Manes raise a fuss over this?!"
"I can answer that," a Thalmor wizard sauntered over, holding a torch in one hand and the register in the other after using a telekinesis spell to catch it before the slip of paper hit the ground. "The Battle-Borns side with the Imperials and agree with their decisions. They and the Jarl of Whiterun are already well aware Mr. Gray-Mane here has already been captured for being one of the Stormcloaks as a missive was sent to them some time after we took him."
"I see," Elenwen nodded, accepting the register when the wizard handed it to her. "Then why were these two unaware of this charge when I asked them about it in the first place?"
"They are new recruits who've been assigned here just a day before we left for Whiterun. Arresting Mr. Gray-Mane was their first assignment, and I must commend them on doing a splendid job. They do need to remember the charges on which they base their accusations, but as I've informed them of this particular charge against Mr. Gray-Mane only once before we entered the city, I've decided to let it slide. It is just their first offense, after all."
Looking back at the two warriors who silently mouthed their thanks to their commanding officer, Elenwen sighed again as she wiped any snow off the register and touched the tip of the quill she was holding to her chin. "Very well, you are forgiven and may proceed to the holding cells."
"Yes, ma'am," the warriors saluted her before heading inside with Thorald Gray-Mane in tow, followed by the wizard.
Watching them go, she turned to the register after they had closed the door and checked to see if there were any other prisoners on her list. Luckily for her she was finished with this little chore meant for a justicar like the one she spoke with a couple minutes ago. However, many of them were out patrolling the roads throughout Skyrim, stopping in every city and town to do a quick, routine check on any suspicious citizens. That left just two at Northwatch Keep, a warden and a torturer, though there should've been more to tend to administrative duties such as this one. There were already enough guards to defend the keep from bandits and anything deadly from the wilderness, so it shouldn't be too hard to send more justicars up here for management.
She'd write an order to do just that when she returned to the Embassy, or send word to the Dominion in the Summerset Isles requesting to have additional justicars sent to Skyrim for that purpose.
Folding the register in half and pocketing it within the folds of her robe, Elenwen turned to head in herself for a hot bottle of Alto wine when a sudden commotion from one of the watchtowers captured her attention.
"By the Eight Divines, what the hell's that?!"
"It's coming this way!"
"Quick, get down!"
"What the hell is this?!" Elenwen shouted in her rush towards the Thalmor archers who dove off the watchtower and landed on the ground below. "What's going on?! Are we under attack?!"
"N-No, there's a—" one of the archers tried to finish her sentence, but couldn't.
She never had the time to because the watchtower's platform suddenly exploded, sending bits of broken logs, splinters, and rope all over the vicinity.
If Elenwen hadn't raised her arm and summoned the magicka within her to create a ward in her hand while bracing herself, she might've been critically injured by debris flying everywhere. As it was, she got out of it safe and sound, and the archers were fine too since they were decked out in Elven armor for protection.
Blowing the dust away with her arm, Elenwen started to cough so she could clear some dust from her throat and exhale it through her mouth. "Are you both alright?" she asked the archers as they coughed too, "You're not hurt, are you?"
"We're fine," the male archer stated as some other guards ran over and began to clear away the rubble. "Didn't expect something like that to come shooting towards us, though."
"What was it?" Elenwen demanded, "What crashed into the watchtower?"
"Ma'am, I think you'd better take a look at this," one of the Thalmor spellswords called out to her, tossing one of the broken logs aside as she came over to him.
"What is…it…" Elenwen started to say, but then her voice trailed off and died away as she stared down at a fresh Nord corpse. Clearing away little bits and pieces of the damage caused by this lone body, she carefully stepped over the bigger brunt of the debris and crouched down to examine the cadaver.
From the looks of it, it appeared that something big had been shoved into his chest—a battleaxe, most likely; the hole left behind was too tall and slightly wider than a war axe, or an axe used for chopping wood for that matter. A more detailed autopsy would have to be performed later to try and discern anything else, but for now it was safe to declare this man dead.
Turning to the two archers, Elenwen maneuvered out of the rubble and approached them while dusting herself off. "Where did this corpse come from? In what direction did it originate?"
"From the north," the female archer answered, pointing in that direction, "It came flying over Rimerock Burrow from somewhere past that cave."
"Then the only place nearby that's past the cave would be the ruined remains of Pinefrost Tower," Elenwen stated as she looked up towards the rocks and the hill beyond them before turning back to the archers to give an order. "Gather a team of three more men and lead them up to the tower. Investigate the area and report back to me on anything you've uncovered there."
"Yes, ma'am!" the archers saluted her and then went off to the barracks.
Turning to the direction in which Pinefrost Tower was, Elenwen scowled and bit her lip, vowing to get to the bottom of this.
And there you have it. That's the prologue of this (hopefully) epic Fanfiction.
In case anyone is wondering why I chose to take the Alik'r side over Saadia (her real name is Iman) in the quest, In My Time of Need, it's because they're actually the ones telling the truth. When I checked the Elder Scrolls wikia, it states that her version of the story is inconsistent. She claims to be unaware of the Alik'r in the city, yet she knows one of them is in Dragonsreach Dungeon. Furthermore, the book entitled The Great War states that Hammerfell's great houses actually united against the Aldmeri Dominion with the Province having been at full scale war with the Dominion up until the Second Treaty of Stros M'Kai was signed. Hammerfell's success at resisting the Dominion means that Saadia/Iman is in fact lying to the Dragonborn when she shares her version of the tale.
As for the Civil War, I decided to pick the Imperials over the Stormcloaks because I decided to fight for them in my first playthrough of the game, but also because I think Ulfric Stormcloak is more of an antagonist than a hero to his people.
For instance, several citizens throughout Skyrim will mention they believe Ulfric only cares about himself and that's likely to be more true than false as his actions seem to imply that. I think this is proven when Galmar Stone-Fist tells the Dragonborn a rumor that Jarl Igmund's uncle and steward, Raerek, still worships Talos despite being aligned to the Imperials. When confronting Raerek, he says that his loyalty to them comes before his own beliefs. This could mean that Ulfric and the Stormcloaks will punish anybody for siding with the Empire, regardless of the individual's beliefs—whether they worship Talos or not.
Furthermore, at the end of the Battle for Solitude quest when General Tullius reveals that the Thalmor wanted to cause the Civil War, Ulfric states that the war has become more than a rebellion. This may imply that Ulfric may be out to not just win the war and fight another one against the Thalmor as he suspects after the quest, but also to invade the other Provinces of Tamriel so he can conquer them and then declare himself the new Emperor. I know this bit may be pure speculation on my part, but Ulfric's actions seem to be more communistic and dictatorial in my opinion. I say this because I think Ulfric might use the other races of Tamriel as slave labor while the Nords settle on their land, like what the Nazis planned to do with the Soviets, Poles, and Ukrainians if they won World War II.
Another thing that can be said about the Stormcloaks' cause is that they and Ulfric forget that the Emperor had no choice but to agree to the Aldmeri Dominion's demands for Skyrim's sake. Since the Empire was pretty much on the verge of losing the Great War, the Emperor had to sign the White Gold Concordat to save the Provinces of the Empire from the Dominion. This meant he had to do things he didn't want to do in order to keep the Dominion from fully invading the other Provinces.
One other thing about Ulfric that bothers me is that he's not helping the Dunmer who live in the Gray Quarter of Windhelm. They're not aligned to the Thalmor, but he keeps them in horrible living conditions and refuses to provide any aid to them. Ulfric could care less if the Nords in the city head into the Gray Quarter and interrogate the Dunmer through the use of torture.
In fact, Ulfric doesn't care about the Argonians living in the city either, nor will he aid anyone who isn't a Nord. This is revealed when Brunwulf Free-Winter asks the player to slay a group of bandits. Brunwulf states that Ulfric would help Nords when they're assaulted by bandits, but not anybody else because they aren't Nords. If Ulfric is to try and win support from others—specifically people who aren't Nords—who oppose the Empire's decision to sign the White Gold Concordat, I think he should actually do his job as the Jarl and assist anyone in need of help, whether they're Nords or not.
In regards to General Tullius seeking to win back the Nords' right to worship Talos through diplomatic means, I think this is something he would do considering how he says that he's come to respect the Nords after the quest, Battle for Windhelm. This is why Elenwen is irritated with the two Thalmor holding Thorald Gray-Many. I'm also looking to improve upon this later on in the story.
Speaking of Thorald Gray-Mane, since this story takes place two years after the Civil War, I decided to have him get arrested for being a Stormcloak soldier. Because the Gray-Manes support the Stormcloaks, I thought it'd be a good idea to provide a more valid reason as to why he was arrested, so I naturally thought of him being a Stormcloak soldier as he (and his brother, Avulstein, if he travels to Northwatch Keep with the player) later joins up with them at the end of the quest, Missing in Action. I did this because I believe simply supporting the Stormcloaks is just a matter of personal opinion/beliefs and nobody should be punished for that, whereas being in the Stormcloak army as a soldier could be cause for punishment.
Anyway, that's all I have to say. Feel free to comment on my speculation of events, locations, and characters of Skyrim if you want. If you have any questions about all this, or wish to comment on my speculation, feel free to ask and I'll reply in the author's notes of the second chapter. As I have already completed the prologue and chapter one, I won't be able to answer any questions until I get to the second chapter.
I hope you enjoy reading this story as I enjoyed writing it.