Chapter 1

4E 202

As with many things, the realms of nature and civilization were greatly entwined. From the stout Redguards of Hammerfell, living on the fringes of great wastes and barren wilds, to the peculiar and solitudinous Wood Elves of the Valenwood, who's woodwork cities clung to the treetops like desperate flowers, thirsting for the light. To such lengths were the bonds of wild and wisemen that the Argonians of the Black Marsh worshipped the forests like gods amongst men. A truly difficult idea to grasp.

However, no more was there and example of this synthesis than in the northernmost province of Tamriel, the windswept tundra and snow-capped peaks of Skyrim. However, the Nords, its inhabitants, were not peoples for desert scavenging, nor canopy abodes in the light, and most certainly were they not as deranged as to worship the trees in the same light as their ancestral deities.

Rather, in place of living in nature's fold, they lived in nature's wrath.

The wild was at constant odds with the race of hardy men that prevailed this land. For every tree felled by daring woodmen, there came the death of some unfortunate hunter at the paws of a mighty bear. The balance of Kyne and Shor was uncertain, traversing a thin line at all times, with great pits on both sides. Veneration of the nature Divine was widespread here in the north, to sate timeless appetites and ward against some great misfortune.

However, there came times when Isen wanted to tell Kyne to piss off.

This was reinforced by a gust of air from his left, breaking through the treeline with an ear-rending wail. Isen raised his hand to guard himself from the pressing tempest. His armor clattered and his fur cloak fluttered in the flurry, as if screaming to be let loose. He would have acquiesced to the desire had it been any other day, as the damnable thing had bothered to be caught on every twig and branch and rock in The Rift, slowing him down beyond measure. However, the operating words was "any other day", as the the winter cold had set in the region and the winds reached a fever pitch of frost.

Isen Storm-Rider knew he could not bicker about his conditions. He was still a young Nord,with meat on tall and thick frame, more ready to resist the searing cold of his homeland. Though his armor, a set of banded iron armor set over leather and chainmail, was cold to the touch and sticking to his skin, it was swaddled in three bear's-worth of furs. Nothing but pockmarks of unkempt stubble and short lengths of raven hair defended his bare face and skull, but a woolen scarf remedied that as well as the furs. Isen knew the Old Man could combat this cold with more tenacity than he with but simple rags and a hunting knife.

Such (assumed) hyperbole aside, he truly could not complain. His position, while certainly repeated across the Nine Realms, was beyond measure in its details. While the cold stung at him, a warmth unlike any other burned in his chest and boiled his blood. More beast was he than man, with foreign blood in his veins and a power beyond all measure at his call. Isen was more than just a man, a Nord. He was Dovahkiin.

Dragonborn.

It was first learned when he had slain the dovah, the dragon, at the ruined stronghold on the fringes of Whiterun's domain. As the corpse of the great beast fell to the earth like thunder, and its body began to burn, Isen's truth was made evident as his foe's very soul was absorbed into his being. Power beyond measure, a single word with the potential to shatter any foe. And now it was Isen's task to save the world.

Just his luck, too.

Isen felt the assault of the wind subside, and took this brief respite to move quickly amongst the trees. The clatter of his armor drowned out the melodic whispers of the nesting jays and the babbling of a nearby brook. Another night's rest may in quaint Shor's Stone would have been the wiser gambit, but with the storm clouds rolling down from the north like the daedra, Isen had departed south through the thick birch with all due haste. Be it snow or rain, a day and night spent in a wild amidst a storm is a fool's lodgings.

Of course, this resurfaces the main theme of nature in this chronicle. The birch trees were not known as a den of bears, for they were no doubt in the midsts of hibernation, but a fair few packs of wild dogs and wolves had been sighted in this land many times. To the Dovahkiin, this caused little alarm. He was amply protected, with an iron shield slung to his travelling pack like a bauble, which could not be said for the travelers whose remains Isen had stumbled upon earlier. Also in Isen's possession was a weapon: Relentless, a longsword of straight double-edged steel with a scarred crossguard over a worn leather handle in black. It's pommel, a tarnished sheen of metal, depicted in all its stoic grace the head of the Septimic dragon, crest of the Empire and a token from his father's yester-years.

Though it hardly pleased the old soldier to see it, in those days.

After a good eighty paces, Isen felt his armor weigh down upon his frame, and took rest by a thicket of uprooted birch. With a grime-layered hand, he picked at his wait before retrieving his waterskin and taking a swig of the cool water. A trip to Riften was the Nord's mission at the current time. Provisions had run low in Shor's Stone after a particularly large and rambunctious wedding feast, so he had been pointed south down the causeway in hopes of a roadside trader or a local farmer ready to give aid. Unfortunately, it was at about this same time that the tempest had begun to roll in , so Isen had decided to just book it to Riften for warm food and homely lodgings. A horse would have been a boon for the trip, but Isen still had his own concerns with the creatures.

Besides, a horse should not be able to climb like that.

In the thicket, Isen heard a snap draw his attention back to reality. The waterskin down in heartbeat, a hand to his blade within moments. His stance was widened and his shield, now drawn more by reflex than fighting initiative, in a loose legion guard. More sounds pervaded from the tight patch of brush before him, a tangle of bushes and wild hedge that stood at height equal to a well-nourished charger.

A business of wolves or a small herd of wild goat or deer was Isen's first assumption, but muffled speech brought up more sinister possibilities. While necromancy was a practice more common in the vast cemeteries of Falkreath, it was known that some contingents of the perverted cultists would bleed into The Rift when the fat asses of the Falkreath Guard were kicked into gear by their Imperial attaches and a culling was ordered. However, these fools would be far from the safety of old Fort Greenwall, and the idea of bandits was brought to mind.

The Rift's Guardsmen, unlike its lazy brothers to the west, were stout and determined men and women, venturing to greater lengths (both literally and figuratively) to crack down on the skooma trade in the region. As such, the amateur bootleggers and career smuggler alike were forced to greater feats of coin-flashing and fast wit to get their contraband into Skyrim. These snake paths through the woods were a likely spot for prospecting bandits and mercenaries hired by these sellers to move their trade.

Bandits were easy enough to bypass, however. A simple change in the route would take Isen far and away from these vagabonds. However, a nagging thought came to his voice came to his head. Would he simply pass by these vandals for a quicker trip? Every bandit loose meant another innocent passerby or unawares guard (if such a thing could apply to Riften's Finest) could be victim to their bludgeons and knives. Isen was a proud son of Storm-Rider, and Storm-Riders don't cut corners in the face of a fight.

Besides, think of the useless loot he'd find!

With a valiant grin and new purpose in his heart, Isen soundly advanced through the brush, ready to meet his foes in righteous battle.

Of course, he wasn't expecting the actual sight before him.

'By the Nine, is her hair pink?!'