Harald shielded his eyes from the blizzard, he could see at best, three feet at once, even with his enhanced eyes. He had encountered nothing, and navigated only by stumbling about in the snow, three times he had fallen down crevasses, unhurt but annoyed he struggled on.
He was not cold, far from it, he had unconsciously deployed a heating charm on himself and was quite warm, but the metal plates of his armour had no such protection and if he touched them his skin stuck and it was vexing to pull off. He was however growing hungry, and hoped to find an inn or some such reasonably soon. The years in Saarthal as a spirit had given him rudimentary knowledge of the land, and he knew to make north in search of the prosperous city there, but that was several miles away at least, and he had no idea how far he had travelled, his circling footsteps and the deep snow had thrown his reckoning off completely.
Without warning Harald's foot came down on thin air, he had walked off another cliff. Harald sighed and loosened his muscles in preparation for the landing. However, it was soft; he landed in a snow drift rather than on rocks. He flailed about for a few seconds, trying to reach the bottom so he could dig his way out. This was swiftly accomplished, and Harald stepped out onto a road.
The Wizard grinned, now he was getting somewhere.
He jogged along, following the road for an hour in the general direction he had been going and the blizzard lessened. The sky was white, the ground as white, and the mountains on his right were grey, but, he had to admit, he did seem further north than before, hopefully if he followed the roast east when he reached it he would get to the city. A short time later he heard hooves beating away at the flagstones, he turned to see a troop of cavalry, around a dozen, bearing down on him. Harald unslung his shield and brought his axe out, but held it at his side, in a fairly non-threatening manner.
The head of the pack, an armoured man with a flag showing a grey star rode up and hailed him. Harald realised with a start that he did not actually speak Nordic, only read it along with Atmoran. Though, if he was keeping with his cover story, he wouldn't be expected to, given that he was from the continent far across the northern sea.
"Good Day to you." He called back, raising a hand; he took off his helmet and replaced his weapons now that the men didn't show any overt hostility.
The leader questioned him again, pointing with his spear and tapping the tip on his scavenged breastplate.
"This?" Harald replied, "I got it from a tomb, but that doesn't matter, since you can't understand a word I'm saying anyway." He was hoping the man took him somewhere civilised, if he heard enough of the language his superior brain would be able to understand it in record time. He might get a headache though.
The horseman was frowning at him.
"Harald." He told the man, indicating himself. "I'm from Atmora." He said, pointing north. The leader recognised that name, "I came here by ship, but it crashed further down the coast." He mimed rowing at an oar, then flew his hand through the air, bobbing it up and down like a boat, then running it into his other hand, made into a fist to symbolise a boat being crashed.
"Atmora?" the man asked from his horse, the repeated the same boat crashing motions, then pointed to Harald.
"Yes, Atmora." Harald said, indicating himself once again. He pointed to the cavalry, "Skyrim." Then himself, "Atmora."
The leader nodded then pointed to the back of his horse and held out a hand. Harald understood and slung himself up on the back of the animal, not using the proffered hand as much as he would have in case he pulled the man off with his strength. The rider called out a command and the troop canted off down the road. Harald found it slightly awkward to hold on, as he was obliged to cling on as best he could around the man's waist, but coped well.
Soon they crossed around the spur of the mountains, to their left was the long coast of Skyrim and Harald could see the blue-green waves washing over small islands and rocky stacks out to sea, gulls flew and cried on the air above them. Soon they would reach the city up ahead, but the landscape was not how Harald remembered it from his years using the Eye of Magnus to scry out the land.
After another hour of riding in silence the troop reached the city, however, it was certainly not as Harald remembered it, he recognised only one structure, a large castle set at the furthest point of the city on a large spur or rock, however, the castle was now literally standing alone, they rode around the edge of a precipice and Harald saw the chasm that opened up between the decimated town and the castle. He wondered what had happened here.
The troop rode into the town, now only a town, perhaps a hundred houses scattered on the slopes of one of the outliers of the mountains. They came to a stop outside a longhouse. Harald was actually quite excited to see one of these 'in the flesh' or rather the 'wood'. True, he had lived in a castle for the cast majority of his life, but it was more of a manor house, with many additions built on over the years, this was the real thing.
The man in front of him tapped his knee and pointed at the ground. Harald slid off the horse, then looked around him. Several of the riders were calling out to the townsfolk in Nordic, and small children came up to take the reins of the horses. Apparently the troop of horsemen was a regular appearance in the town, as most people seemed to recognise them. The same people pointed and whispered behind their hands at his outlandish appearance, and the leader of the troop motioned for him to follow inside the larger house.
Harald did so; the inside was fairly standard for what he had expected, a dark smoky interior with a high ceiling, several torches spluttering in sconces and lamps of whale oil. Standing about were various tall rough looking men, some dressed in furs and some in other clothes. The cavalry leader told him to stop, and went to talk to one of the men. The two walked back and Harald was introduced to 'Jarl Kjark'. Harald knew a Jarl was an old term for a king, so bowed appropriately.
The Kjark questioned him without success for a few minutes, then Harald got bored. He picked up a spoon and used it to write a message in the packed dirt of the floor.
I am Harald of Atmora, son of Jarl Beowulf of Götaland. He wrote. Passing himself off as royalty seemed a good idea, it might make them like him faster and treat him better, and at that time the only vaguely Danish sounding name he could think of was Beowulf. He recalled that they didn't have surnames at this point in time, rather identifying themselves via lineage or place of birth.
Greetings, wrote the Jarl back in an uncertain hand, as if he didn't have a reason to write very much, Fredrick tells me you came by ship and they found you wandering on the west road, what brings you to WInterhold?
Harald assumed Fredrick was the cavalryman with the star. I was making for the first landing place in Skyrim in the old times, as Ysgramor did, my ship crashed onto rocks and I swam ashore, what happened to the city? I heard it was a large one.
The Great Collapse wrote back the Jarl, five years ago storms covered the entire Cape, waves eroded the land and it fell into the Sea of Ghosts, only the College and a handful of homes are left
Harald controlled his reactions, five years was approximately the time he had materialised, his arrival may have indirectly caused this 'Collapse'. College? He asked after a moment's thought.
The College of Winterhold, wizards, have you not heard of them?
Harald thought it most fortuitous that he materialised so close to a school of wizards, perhaps he could join them, he'd have to do it carefully though, Viking types tended to distrust magic as a rule, he better ingratiate himself with them.
We use honest steel Atmora
Kjark laughed and related the joke to his people, there were murmurs of agreement. Then he walked off, leaving Harald squatting in the dirt with a spoon.
After the Jarl had left, Fredrick gave him a tour around the town, some of the buildings had an obvious function, there was a blacksmith, a logging station and a small dock with several boats moored. Various people were butchering a whale they had brought it. Then there was a tavern. Of course there was a tavern, they were Vikings.
Frederick also showed him a separate quarter of the town; built into burrows in the mountains were a series of smaller houses, these were inhabited by the polar opposite of Snow Elves. Instead of the white skin and hair and blue eyes they had almost black skin, the colour of volcanic soil, dark hair of various shades, red and black being predominant, and glowing red eyes.
Harald asked Frederick through writing in the snow about the Dark Elves, he learnt that they were refugees from Morrowind and were called 'Dunmer' and had received visions from a higher power to come to Winterhold. Harald absorbed this information and asked more via snow writing, he uncovered much of the history of the world, and was eventually visited by the local blacksmith, who asked by proxy to trade Harald's scavenged armour for a more modern set, as the man wanted to examine it. Harald agreed, after all, there was a whole armoury back in Saarthal, and as out of the men in Skyrim only he could move the boulder he had put in the entrance he was not worried about anyone stealing his things.
Frederick also invited him to join up as a cavalryman, he explained that raiders were prevalent in that area, some making their way south from Solstheim and attacking the port cities of Skyrim. Solitude was fine, given its sheltered harbour, but Dawnstar and Winterhold were vulnerable, Dawnstar more so.
"Why you away Dawnstar?" Harald asked him as they patrolled along the road, he had picked up quite a few words as he lived and worked with the Nords, and could hold a passable conversation on most subjects. There had been reasonable curiosity toward him, but most people had asked their questions then seeing that he couldn't answer in detail they wandered off to get on with their lives.
"Curribiach" replied Fredrick.
Harald articulated his puzzlement.
"Holds, Jarls, together but apart."
"Politics? You're here because of political reasons?" Harald guessed hesitantly.
"Aye." Replied Frederick, slowing to a trot as they rounded a promontory of rock, "Dawnstar has no use for cavalry, yet many harousser, so they sent us out to be houvelin to Winterhold."
"I assume harousser means horse?" Harald asked him, tapping the neck of his mount.
"Aye," said Frederick again, "Harousser."