LotS: Frost Moon, Prologue

  • Breaker of Rings



    Only the Greybeards of High Hrothgar could call together a Moot. That was fine. He didn’t need a Moot. Not yet. Scarcely had the rope burns begun to heal and the smell of cinders and scorched earth lift from his clothes, when the Jarl of Windhelm called upon the old families of Eastmarch.

    The table stretched nearly the full length of the great room, and rather than take his place upon the granite throne behind him, Ulfric Stormcloak took position at the head of the table. A grizzled veteran of war, long in the tooth and adorned with a bearskin mantle, made a slow approach from the leftmost side.

    “What’s taking so long?” asked the would-be king.

    “Patience, Ulfric. They’re still sharp of mind, but they’ve seen many seasons.” Galmar’s gaze, flinty like the hard expression on his war-ravaged face, settled on the doors.

    They opened, and a company of four men and one woman entered, bringing with them the bite of frost and the vainglorious days of yesteryear. Days when weaklings like Deadking Torygg did not ascend the throne, and elves did not seep into Skyrim like a plague. Days where such a war council were not necessary.

    “Shor’s Bones, Ulfric. Least you could do was stoke some damned fires. It’s colder than a witch’s teat in here.”
    Ashur Shatter-Shield was a heavily-bearded man with hair as white as snow, and a temper as sharp as winter steel. He pulled back his hood, shaking clumps of snow from a dampened wolf’s fur cloak onto the Palace floors, sniffing with a hint of disdain. “Not as decadent as I remember, Ulfric. Your father had a little more taste.”

    “I think your family’s prosperity has spoiled you, Ashur.” Ulfric’s tone was cool and contained, the Jarl unmoving from his spot.

    Ulfric’s steward, Jorleif, made an awkward attempt at situating the old vet, who shrugged him off with a look of vehemence.
    “I’m old, not decrepit. Begone with you!”

    Kai Wet-Pommel chuckled as he took a seat at the longtable beside Ashur. “And not toothless either. Careful Steward, he bites like an old wolf.”

    The faint clink of metal sounded nearby. Lavish silver beads jangled in meticulously braided gray hair as Matron Cruel-Sea ignored a seat beside her cantankerous companion to instead greet Galmar with a hearty clasp of the arm. Old as she was, there was strength in her grip when she took Galmar’s forearm.

    “Glad to see the House of Stone-Fist has yet to die out. Pity what happened to your brother, Galmar.”

    Galmar met her greeting with a solemn eye and a stalwart posture. “Aye, but we’ll see him in Sovngarde when the time comes.”

    She released him, and Galmar nodded courteously as Matron Cruel-Sea moved on.

    “Hopefully not too soon,” said Frorkmar Banner-Torn, the candlelight hitting his sharp cheekbones as he leaned in to make his voice heard. “I want to kill more Imperials first.”

    Ashur sneered. “You’ll have plenty of chances, young Banner-Torn. Everywhere you step these days, you’re either tripping over elves or bumping into the Empire’s dogs.”

    This produced a round of chuckles and grimaces alike, the unrest in their hearts shared by all—but they knew to laugh at their present misfortunes. Laugh, because they would soon be corrected in the way Skyrim always fixed its problems; with blood and steel. Ulfric, however, did not join in. Instead, he looked along the table at the aged war veterans, his mouth turning down at the corners.
    Drinking from silver goblets, were seven Houses of Windhelm leftover from the days of legend: House Cruel-Sea, House Shatter-Shield, House Banner-Torn, House Wet-Pommel, House Stone-Fist, and his own proud bloodline. Ulfric looked again to the doors, wondering if against his suspicions one final old warrior might walk through those doors.

    “And what of the snow bear?” Matron Cruel-Sea leaned in, her eyes glinting like beetle carapaces.

    Galmar shook his head.
    “Hidden in the mountains. Dead. Who knows? I sent word to Solstheim, but so far nothing.”

    Matron Cruel-Sea clucked her tongue.
    “Shame what's befallen a once great house.”

    Ashur Shatter-Shield’s lip curled.
    “Petty old fool. There’s no honor left in the House of White-Paw, not since his father’s time. There’s no room here for traitors like White-Paw. Why you even thought to invite him, Ulfric, I’ll be damned if I can find a good reason.” Ashur took pause to draw noisily from the tankard the steward brought him—slamming it down and smacking his lips.
    “Good riddance, I say.”

    This earned a ‘hear hear’ from Frorkmar, Kai and Galmar, but Matron Cruel-Sea merely narrowed her eyes and said nothing.

    Ulfric came to a decision. There was no use waiting for a man who would never appear.
    “Then let’s get started. Clans Shatter-Shield, Wet-Pommel, Banner-Torn, Stone-Fist and Cruel-Sea. It is my right as Jarl of Windhelm to declare this a Council of War.” He glanced to the Steward. “Jorleif, the rings.”

    The rings were not brought before the table on a silken pillow, but in a small wooden box, the Steward moving from person to person as they each took a ring for their own.

    “That ring symbolizes your loyalty to my cause, and not just to Windhelm, but to Skyrim herself. What say you, House Shatter-Shield?”

    Ashur slipped the engraved silver band onto a gnarled finger beside several gaudier golden rings.
    “In case my granddaughter wasn’t making it clear enough, House Shatter-Shield stands beside Ulfric Stormcloak, rightful High King of Skyrim.”

    Ulfric looked to his left. “And House Cruel-Sea?”

    Matron Cruel-Sea did likewise, voice firm. “I and my kin stand with Ulfric Stormcloak, rightful High King of Skyrim.”

    “So does Banner-Torn.”

    “And Clan Wet-Pommel.”

    Ulfric turned to his oldest friend in the room.

    Galmar nodded once, curtly.
    “I’d follow you to the depths of Oblivion. Clan Stone-Fist stands with you.”

    “Then we are agreed.” Ulfric straightened, dragonfire burning in his eyes. “The fate of Skyrim is in our hands now. This will not be easy, my friends, but it must be done. The future of all Nords depends on it.”

    “And what of the other Jarls? Balgruuf, for example.” Matron Cruel-Sea squinted, as if looking at an image of the Jarl of Whiterun she’d conjured from the depths of her memory.

    “Balgruuf won’t give us a straight answer.” Galmar came closer to the table to speak; his chair went unused. He was not the kind of man to sit idly, even at a council meeting. "We've intercepted couriers from Solitude. The Empire's putting a great deal of pressure on Whiterun.”

    Matron Cruel-Sea sighed, her lips creasing into a thin line. “I miss the old days, Ulfric. When Skyrim wasn’t so full of weakbloods and a Nord knew what side he should stand on. He should have made up his mind long ago.”

    “If he's not with us, he's against us.” Ashur tapped impatient fingers against his emptied tankard.

    "He knows that. They all know that." Ulfric was certain of this. If the death of High King Torygg hadn’t sent a strong enough message, then the Jarls in Skyrim were choosing to be deaf and blind, so they could lap up more of the Empire’s gold.

    Kai and Frorkmar, being the youngest of the company, held their tongues. They were of a mutual understanding that to lend Ulfric their strength, their talents were best suited to the battlefields. With the promise of promotion to officers, they stuck to shifty-eyed observations of the elders. It would have been difficult to get word in edgewise, without being pushy; as it were, the combined presence of the remaining council members and their extensive histories demanded a respectful audience.

    Matron Cruel-Sea did not stand like Galmar, but there was something of a predatory shrewdness about her that mimicked Galmar’s—or stemmed from the same place. "How long are you going to wait?"

    The hard, expectant look of each Councilor at the table was clear as crystal. Ulfric splayed his hands over the table. "You think I need to send Balgruuf a stronger message."

    Galmar growled. "If by message you mean shoving a sword through his gullet.”

    Even before he’d been carted to his own scheduled execution, Whiterun had been at the forefront of Ulfric’s thoughts. He would march into Whiterun himself if that’s what it took to secure the city, to overtake another stepping stone on the path to kingship. Not only were Whiterun’s resources of interest (the prosperous farms of the hold would do well to provide for a growing army), but strategically, they could better intercept Imperial trade routes and missives, among many other reasons.

    “Taking his city and leaving him in disgrace would make a more powerful statement, don't you think?” said the Jarl.

    “Damn right,” said Ashur, the brusque mouthpiece to their collective thoughts. “Something must be done.”

    “So we're ready to start this war in earnest then? Or are these rings just tokens? It’s no secret that Riften and Dawnstar stand with us.” Matron Cruel-Sea twisted the silver ring around her finger, highlighting the intricate knot-work making up the band.

    The would-be king fell silent. Things hinged on Whiterun. If we can take the city without bloodshed all the better. But if not...

    As if reading his thoughts, Galmar spoke up. "The people are behind you."

    Ulfric paced. "Many I fear still need convincing."

    Galmar spared it little more than a scoff. "Then let them die with their false kings." For old hard-edged warriors such as Galmar and Ashur, this answer was sufficient enough.

    Ulfric was not above reason. "We've been soldiers a long time. We know the price of freedom. The people are still weighing things in their hearts."

    Ashur snorted. "What's left of Skyrim to wager?"

    Matron Cruel-Sea’s hair beads jangled as she shook her head.  "They have families to think of."

    Galmar looked to Kai and Frorkmar as he spoke. "How many of their sons and daughters follow your banner? We are their families. Every last one of us."

    "Well put, friend. But there are still many who think I seek only to gain power.” Ulfric Stormcloak stopped pacing and turned to put his back to the throne and his eyes on the distant past, pensive. “But I’ll tell you why I fight. I fight for the men I've held in my arms, dying on foreign soil. I fight for their wives and children, who's names I heard whispered in their last breaths. I fight for we few who did come home, only to find our country full of strangers wearing familiar faces. I fight for my people impoverished to pay the debts of an Empire too weak to rule them, yet brands them criminals for wanting to rule themselves! I fight so that all the fighting I've already done hasn't been for nothing. I fight... because I must."

    Ashur Shatter-Shield raised his mug. “Spoken like a true Nord. Your father would be damned proud of you, boy.”

    Galmar’s eyes glinted intensely in the candlelight. “Your words give voice to what we all feel, Ulfric. And that's why you will be High King. But the day words are enough, will be the day when soldiers like us are no longer needed."

    "I would gladly retire from the world were such a day to dawn." Ulfric again thought of Helgen. This dragon problem was another thing that would need solving in the coming months. Perhaps the damned things could do him a favor and devour a few legions while they were at it. This would be a long campaign, if the obstinacy of the other Jarls persisted.

    "Aye.” Said Matron Cruel-Sea, speaking for every Nord at the table. “But in the meantime, we have a war to plan.”



    So it begins! Chapter 1 will be posted on the 1st of January. If the dialog sounds familiar to anyone of you, it is a reworked conversation held between Galmar and Ulfric during the Civil War Questline.






17 Comments   |   Valric and 2 others like this.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  March 10, 2019
    So, I'm going to reread this from the beginning now that I can binge all the way to the end :)
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  July 2, 2017
    Please tell me I read this at some point........
    On the old site... Thank Hircine for that......
  • Tim
    Tim   ·  June 10, 2016
    I'm excited to start reading this series Spottedfawn! I like how you added a bunch of old grumpy people to Windhelm
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  June 10, 2016
    Clever use of familiar dialogue given a fresh lease of life, really sets the tone of this war council. A humorous metaphor here and an atmospheric description there, accompanied with the mystery of the absent snow bear, have made this prologue a gripping ...  more
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 20, 2016
    Thank you, DizzieDee! I'm afraid I haven't seen Spartacus, xD haha, but I take it Ashur's a villain in that show? Ashur was the most fun to write, in that chapter!
  • SpookyBorn2021
    SpookyBorn2021   ·  January 6, 2016
    This seems pretty awesome so far, I definitely like the tone you've set with that meeting, it really sets an interesting tone for the Civil War. I look forward to reading the rest Spotted, especially since we're getting the Skaal 
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 5, 2016
    Thanks Karver! There will be a bit more Skaal for the next 3 or 4 chapters, don't worry! But every good hero's journey has the hero leaving their peaceful little village for an epic adventure!
    And I'll tell you a secret! Nords and Stormcloaks aren't...  more
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  January 5, 2016
    Damn Stormcloaks. Nords just leave a bad taste in my mouth. I came here for Skaal!
    Just kidding. While I don´t really like Nords and especially Stormcloaks, this is really good. The dialogue seems so familiar and new at the same time, making it very...  more
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  January 3, 2016
    Thanks so much Exuro! It was fun figuring out how to make the dialog all flow together, since the majority of it came from the actual game. I agree, there's a lot of Imperial-sided stories on here, and one of the main reasons I wanted to write about the ...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 3, 2016
    Get ur Stormcloak propaganda outa here sunny! Jk, Glad you shared this! There's a lot of Imperial milk drinkers on this site; it's good to see the other side.

    The conversations were fluid and you managed to stuff in a lot of character develop...  more